Category Archives: sheep

Lambing 2014

Lambing is all but over now and feels like one that should be noted as a success, with a few hiccups along the way the commons around our little safe-hold are green and lush with spring grass and ewes with lambs at foot finding their way around their new bright world.

Sophie and her lamb's first trip out after being kept in together to form a 'mother and daughter' bond ~ 9th ‎March ‎2014

Sophie and her lamb’s first trip out after being kept in together to form a ‘mother and daughter’ bond ~ 9th ‎March ‎2014

Lambing started again sadly with Sophie giving birth to another dead lamb on the 4th of March. This is the third year she has had a stillborn lamb and the last that we will put her through. No more ‘one off’s’ or ‘terrible lambing year’ after three times we think it is fair to say that there is something that is causing her to be unable to deliver a healthy lamb and it is not fair to keep putting her through the heart ache. After over a day of searching both by us and a grieving ewe we found a farmer with a set of triplets and bought the extra lamb home for Sophie who, in spite of the many words of warning that it had been too long and she was unlikely to take to her new charge, adores her bundle of joy and took to her straight away.

The next part of lambing past by more or less uneventfully and happily enough with three sets of twins and three singles arriving, mostly on days when I was at work!

Common of ewes and lambs ~ April 2014

Common of ewes and lambs ~ April 2014

My main lambing day was the 19th of March when I was ‘it’ whilst mother was on a course and sister was busy with my niece for the day, thankfully I had help from a friend as the day was busy; it started before I arrived back from work after a sleep-in with a text to say that Pixies’ water bag had appeared but there was still no sign of any lambs and could I get home as quickly as possible*. When I arrived back and checked her over there were no real signs that she was lambing or that something was wrong as there should have been that long after producing a water bag. So after checking the pen over to see that she hadn’t given birth to a stillborn lamb and walked off and left it we took her to the vets who diagnosed ring womb. After a short time our vet delivered a limp and bright yellow ewe lamb, lambs come out yellow when they have become stressed during labour. For a minute or so it was unclear if the lamb was dead or alive but a heartbeat was found and the lamb coaxed into life and then another, seemingly unstressed at all ewe lamb was delivered by the vet. Pixie was very good and did what she could to clean the lambs up in the space she had before we took her home and put her in a shed. The first lamb to be born was notably weaker than the first and Pixie was tired, sore and didn’t have any milk.

Maizie's-white-faced-lamb with her one day old lamb ~ March 2014

Maizie’s-white-faced-lamb with her one day old lamb ~ March 2014

I was on the phone sorting out what would be the best feed to give them when I spotted Nesta, one of our older and experienced ewes, lay down in the hedge line and begin pushing. The problem of Pixies’ lambs first feed was sorted and so we stopped and watched whilst Nesta delivered a white ewe lamb. Nesta began the job of cleaning up her new change but was quickly interrupted by a yearling (known as ‘maizies white faced lamb’) whose water bag bust as she ran up to inspect the new-born. It was clear she thought that taking on this lamb would be a much better idea than going through the ordeal of giving birth to her own and I can understand why as when we stepped in to deliver her own lamb I thought its head would never come out it was that big! My friend managed to deliver a very large ram lamb whilst I went off to fetch a more experienced shepherd neighbour.

During this time Nesta delivered another ewe lamb, this time the first and to date the only coloured lamb of the year, with little fuss or strain. We moved both ewes as far apart along the green as we dared as the yearling was still very interested in the first ewe lamb to be born and allowed them both to clean up and feed their charges before moving them to the lambing sheds and pen. Once their I used Nesta to give Pixies’ lambs a first feed, much to her disgust but then she knows her humans have funny ideas sometimes. I later topped them up with a feed of powdered colostrum and Pixie took over feeding them after a day or so of topping them up with bottles until her milk came through.

Days totals: 4 ewe lambs, 1 very large ram lamb, 2 happy ewes and 1 tired and sore ewe.

All went quiet for a week or so until Lucy gave birth to a ram lamb on the 9th of April. Lucy is always a ewe we watch closely especially at ‘stressful’ times of the year. Lucy was born within our flock and when she was around six months old was run over and broke her leg which we nursed her through and put her back out with the flock again only to be hit by a car and break another leg!! I can’t remember if it was a front leg that was broken first or the back but she recovered well and most of the time you would never tell she has ever had anything wrong with her but sometimes when she is heavily pregnant or shearing is due she will limp and become unsteady on her back end.

Later that day a yearling also lambed; a very large ewe lamb that had to be helped out. The size of the lambs we have had for the last few years has made us question replacing our ram with a smaller breed. Bailey is a lovely boy and stunning as far as a sheep can be but Cotswolds are a large breed which doesn’t seem to make such a difference when a ewe has twins but the single lambs are very large and this seems to effect the first time mothers most of all.

Yearling with her lamb at about 10minutes old ~ April 2014

Yearling with her lamb at about 10minutes old ~ April 2014

When a ewe has problems lambing it can cause problems with them bonding with their off-spring which is not a trait we want to encourage. With this last ewe she walked off as soon as the lamb had been pulled out and didn’t take any notice of her lamb until it was placed in front of her much further down the green. With the yearling on the 19th of March we also had to intervene to ensure her lamb got the attention it needed after it was delivered.

It is also harder to spot problems with first time lambers. We know our flock both as a whole and individually; we know each ewes family history, where they are likely to lamb (normally as close to where they were born as they can get), in roughly what order they lamb in (Sophie has been first to lamb for the last three years, the year before that it was her half sister Charlotte. We know ewes in that line normally lamb early in the year) and what problems they have and what to watch for (Lucy becomes unsteady on her feet when she is close to lambing, Lily had a funny shaped pelvis which meant the left leg of her lambs had to be pulled first when she was giving birth).

An educated guess can be made for some of these things but others are completely unknown and so problems that effect yearlings are more pressing. Changing to a smaller ram may tweak this problem and mean less intervention on our part.

We have found Sophie and her lamb, named Saddy by her new keeper, a new home with a pet flock belonging to a friend who keeps them for their fleece and to manage the land she has. Her flock are not bred from and so there is no worry that Sophie will keep having still borns year after year and will still have a useful and productive life a head of her.

Saddy bought in an eye infection with her that we have had to treat and has meant some ewes have had to stay in off the grass longer than normal until their sight has returned to being 100%. Thankfully this doesn’t seem to have had to much of an impact on the condition of the ewes or the growth of the lambs although we have had to keep Lupin in for over a week now as she still doesn’t seem able to see clearly. Lupin is still one of the few ewes we are still waiting on to lamb and then it will be another phase of the year complete.

*This is why wise sheppardess name the sheep in their flock, so as it is easier to communicate what is going on. Oh how we are laughed at and seen as ‘soft woman’ by many for this but I would never give up the knowledge of knowing each sheep personally even if they are destined for the dinner table 

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Tuesday, 23rd April 2013

Am: Am early start this morning as my house-mates car is in the garage for it’s MOT and I have said I will take him into work and collect him again later. After dropping him off I take a hot drink back to bed and knit for about am hour. I am making a baby hat for my new niece which is going to look amazing when it is done but seems to be building up so very slowly. After I get up again I go and start the days chores of feeding and checking on everyone and between me and mother we get most things done in a reasonable time. I spend an hour or so cleaning out one of the goat sheds which is not currently being used. The weather is glorious, it has to be the hottest day of the year so far and it is bright sunshine. The bees are making the most of it and are out flying busily.

Lunch time: At about mid-day I go back to my house to have some lunch and spend the afternoon in my garden.

Afternoon: It’s still really warm out and it is lovely working outside. I sort out bits and piece and start planting out potatoes in old flower buckets. This year I haven’t bought seed potatoes but have some bags that were sprouting and reduced in the supermarket (Shetland Blacks and Exquisa) and I’ve added a few others from the veg shop to these (Benji and Maris Piper) and have been sent some free Rocket and Piccolo Star. I only manage to plant half of the Shetland Black’s and maybe a third of the Exquisa but it is a good start. Then I carry on into the back garden and plant out the garlic I have had growing on in pots, the blackbirds here seem to love garlic and onion sets to I have taken to planting them in pots with a cover over and then planting them out when they have got going enough for the birds not to be interested.

Late afternoon/evening: After collecting my house-mate from work I go back to finish off the goats for the day. My sister is there when I get back with her baby, it’s the first time she has walked home since the baby was born and we spend some time in the kitchen before having to go off and look for some sheep that have been reported out in the next village. It’s almost 100% certain they’re not any of ours as ours are all in as there has been an outbreak of Scab mite and the free roaming animals have all had to be brought in for treatment. Ours have all been treated and we are just waiting for everyone else to before ours can get back out on some grass. There’s no sign of the sheep so after half an hour or so of driving around we go back and I finish the goats for the day and go home.

At home the Green Party candidate for the council elections drops some leaflets off as I’ve said I’ll post some through letterboxes locally. It’s still really warm outside so I carry on pottering in the garden and then sit out whilst the sun goes down and watch the bats as they start flying in the dusk

Saturday, March 30th 2012

Many years ago, when I was being made redundant from my first job which was in a community radio station, a colleague suggested that I should made an audio diary of my day-to-day life. I’ve always liked the idea but as the project folded and I became busy with other work and just general life took over I’ve never gotten around to it but it has remained an idea I’ve liked. I thought I would revive the idea here with a monthly post of what has happened during the day…

Morning: Woke up early as normal but made myself go back to sleep for a while. Yesterday I started a new job (HURRAY!) back working with young people, the shifts are long but not that much longer than I have been doing and fewer each week. When I wake up again I stay in bed for a while watching the end of an episode of A Touch of Frost I started watching the night before and ‘surfing’ (facebook/email and wherever those take me). Outside there is still some snow left but it is only really around the edge of the fields and where trees throw shade over the ground. It looks nice enough but still cold. I get up and go over to mothers spotting a ewe and her lambs we have been trying to get back from the edge of our run (the area of common our sheep roam over), the patch of grass she is on is long enough for her to stay for a while so I carry on back and collect mother to make bring her back easier. We bring her back and check the others. At the bottom of the pen is what looks like a dead sheep but lucky it is a ewe who has cast herself (when a sheep rolls onto their side, normally with their legs up hill and can’t get back up) When I reach her I found a MASSIVE lamb cuddled up behind her. I stand the ewe up, she is very wobbly on her back end not really surprisingly given the size of the lamb. I check the lamb over; he is fine but has only been half cleaned and the ewe (a first time mum) goes straight off to join the others without a backward look. We bring them both back to the house and put them in a pen, he gets a bottle and she gets a bucket of feed and some hay. We carry on with the other bottles, Enchantments and we have three lambs too. Then phone our feed merchant to check what time they are closing today it being Easter weekend. There is time to have a hot drink and hay and water the goats before we have to leave to collect the weeks feed.

Lunch time: We collect feed and a van full of hay and go back home for home made chips and butter bean curry.

Afternoon: It’s still cold and not at all conducive for working outside even though there are plenty of jobs to be done and stopping to eat lunch has made me realise how tired I am, so me and mother agree not to try with any of the extras today. We take hay and water to the ponies. At the moment my brother is fitting a kitchen and we have no outside tap, even if we did I would have thought it would have been frozen, so watering everyone involves filling our collection of 5 gallon water containers with an old plastic milk bottle from the kitchen tap. On the way home we stop by at a neighbours to drop off some feed and have a chat. Everyone is feed up of this weather; the frozen water buckets, the lack of grass, the driving wind that goes right through everything and all the extra jobs it makes. Back home I finish the goats, more bottles and I collect some eggs to take home. We open the bees and place some more fondant in with them, it isn’t really warm enough to open the hive but there was an alert go out the other day about feeding because of the cold weather and when we open the hive to add more they are out so good job we did. The sun comes out and the wind dies down and they start to fly for about ten minutes whilst it lasts. I feed the donkeys and call in on my sister on the way home to drop some bits off and cuddle the baby then home.

Late afternoon/evening: Back at home I get a second wind and can’t sit still for long so occupy myself with cleaning and starting an over due sort out whilst watching more A Touch of Frost. I have too much stuff; too many bags of things saved for craft project I’ve never even started, too many piles of paper work that needs filing and too many bags of ‘recycling’ so as I don’t have to put too much into the landfill bin. I think maybe next month I might try to de-clutter one thing each day; take one item I know I will never use again to the charity shop, put the bag of batteries out for collection, offer the pile of used jiffy bags on freecycle and tick off one of those sort of little jobs to stop hoarding so much of it. I find lots more packets of seeds and fill a bag of egg boxes and borrowed clothes to return to my sister. I stop at some point for some fried egg butties for dinner. It’s light until just gone seven pm and all of the snow seems to have gone from the fields, not so at mothers which still has a layer of white anywhere that is not in the open. I go to bed just after nine pm

Lambing 2013

We started lambing a week ago today. It was not a happy start; Sophie had a very large ram lamb who was positioned badly with one leg back, he took a lot of pulling to deliver and didn’t make it.

Lambing continued on Saturday after a few days rest with a much happier result; Ivy delivered twins on her own just before 8am. I was there when the second one arrived and within a minute or so it was up and looking for its first feed.

Ivy with her lambs - February 2013

Ivy with her lambs – February 2013

She had one of each: the ewe lamb was born first

Ivy's ewe lamb - February 2013

Ivy’s ewe lamb – February 2013

Followed by a ram lamb who I arrived just in time to see landing

Ivy's ram lamb - February 2013

Ivy’s ram lamb – February 2013

Since Thursday we have had much nicer weather so they have arrived with good timing (watch the weather change now) and lambing continued this morning with Clarry having two ram lambs, one large and one slightly smaller. I haven’t yet seem them as started back at work first thing this morning.

Countryfile

A bit of a hectic end to last week and a busy time at work has meant this is not the post I was hoping it to be but the excitement had to be shared whilst there is still time to…

A few weeks ago me, my sister and mother caused a little bit of a stir in our rain swept village when the Countryfile film crew came to record a piece with us about our sheep and how we graze and manage our flock, which is following the local tradition of grazing them out on the common waste land of the area;

Countryfile: Free roaming sheep in The Forest of Dean

This link should take you straight to BBC iplayer and to the right piece of the programme and will be there until this Sunday (16/12/2012)

Free roaming sheep are something of a marmite issue, either you love them or hate them. I am bias and think that they are a local tradition predating any of the open plan drives in the area and the tradition of keeping sheep on forest waste land saved many a starving miner when times were hard. And that is before I start on the subject of the way they help shape and manage the area or anything about our flock.

Little poser

On Saturday I stopped to take a photo of one of the lambs in one of the grit bins near to our house;

Lupin's lamb in the grit bin - 16th of April 2011

Lupins lamb in the grit bin - 16th of April 2011

Lupin’s lamb was one of the lambs born on ‘my watch’ and was a tiny little thing, so small in fact that we spent the day waiting for the next to arrive but there is just her; small and prefect.

Flat Lambs Daughter and Six were also on the green near by and so I turned to snap a few piccys of them grazing in the sun:

Flat Lambs Daughter & Six grazing in the sun - 16th April 2011

Flat Lambs Daughter & Six grazing in the sun - 16th April 2011

As soon as Six realised I was taking photos he pricked up his ears and started towards me as if to say “Ohh, photographs of me? Make sure you get my good side” which is very unusual behaviour for him as he has sadly taken on his mothers mistrust of us.

He is such a little bruiser of a lamb, and I was only to happy to oblige:

Take my picture! - 16th April 2011

Take my picture! - 16th April 2011

Full circle

This is a post I have been trying to find time to write since Thursday evening, sunny weather seems to take up so much time…

Lambing was delightful, with almost all of it done and dusted in a week. Why can’t every year be that simple and straight forward? There was a few hiccups and lambs that were too big and so needed help but a week is so less tiring than three weeks.

Flat Lamb with her lambs - 28th March 2010

Flat Lamb with her lambs - 28th March 2010

There are still a handful of ewes who may or may not lamb this year but are showing no signs of being due any time soon, one of these being Flat Lamb’s daughter from last year and on Thursday afternoon she lambed!

She is still only a yearling and so it is not ideal that she was in lamb but as the whole flock run together on the common all year round it happens.

I got a phone call to say that she was lambing from MYS as she is my sheep. She had chosen a cool spot on the edge of the woods, not somewhere any of our ewes normally lamb but as it was so hot it made sence that she would choose a cooler place than on any of the greens.

I arrived shortly after 2pm and after about half an hour it became clear that she was having problems and was going to need help but even though she was straining she was still not happy about us catching her.

Most of our sheep will at least let themselves be caught if there is something wrong even if they don’t go a bundle on us the rest of the time but we have two sheep who are completely wild; Flat Lambs Daughter being one of them. She has every reason to hate us though – we were there when her mum was hurt and then took her away, we then had to chase them all around the village whilst they panicked as she wasn’t there and after we caught them we shut them in a shed (something that they had never been in before) where her mum died and since then she has completely mistrusted us in spite of the fact that both her mum and twin brother are overly friendly.

After a few failed attends to creep up on her whilst she was laid down staining we had to round her up with some of the other ewes and lambs before being able to catch her – all this time the clock was counting down to when me and MYS had to leave for work.

Once we’d caught her mother delivered the lamb who wasn’t breathing and had to be swung around before he sputtered into life; then there was a very worrying moment when it seemed Flat Lambs Daughter was going to turn her nose up and reject the lamb but after one lick it was clear she thought he was the most wonderful thing in the world and she even walked, instead of being dragged, into a shed to finish cleaning him up.

A few minutes old - 7th of April 2011

A few minutes old - 7th of April 2011

Flat Lamb's Daughter and lamb Six - 7th April 2011

Flat Lamb's Daughter and lamb Six - 7th April 2011

The lamb, now named ‘Six’ is a big lad, which is why she had such a problem delivering him, and in spite of the fact he was born not breathing was struggling to his feet before even being cleaned.

Up and about at breakfast time - 10th April 2011

Up and about at breakfast time - 10th April 2011

All this left less than 5 minutes to give her some water, change and get to work on time!!

Lambs

After a few weeks of waiting for lambing to start it finally has and few the last few days they have been arriving thick and fast and the count now stands at two singles and four sets of twins.

Ivy and her newly born twins - 4th March 2011

Ivy and her newly born twins - 4th March 2011

I haven’t had much of a chance to take many photos of them but below are the lambs I am most pleased with as about a month we had to take Cotswold to the vets with a miscarriage and we were very worried we would lose her with toxic shock (she smelt really bad which meant that the infection must have been bad) and didn’t think she would lamb at all this year but she did and they are MASSIVE lambs

Cotswold cleaning up her new born lambs - 3rd March 2011

Cotswold cleaning up her new-born lambs - 3rd March 2011

Getting ready to come home - 3rd March 2011

Getting ready to come home - 3rd March 2011

Spring is on its way…

One of our lambs - March 2010

One of our lambs - March 2010

Today me and mother saw our first lambs of the year. There were three all sat in a heap in the sun whilst two ewes grazed near by.

We still have at least another month before lambing starts but it will be here all too soon

Autumn tasks

We took three lambs down for meat this morning, with another two booked in for next week. We have too many lambs for our own freezer this year, which is still full of mutton, pork and possible even some beef, so I have been busy on forums and local food groups finding buyers for this years meat.

We have bought a new ram this year, a Cotswold. Our old ram is, well, getting very old now.

Our new ram - 5th of October 2010

He has fitted in well with the other sheep and settled down straight away to being on a common. He is very much looks like one of this years Cotswold cross lambs and has joined one of the ‘gangs’ of lambs.

At the weekend we also sorted the goats out and moved them around so as they are all with the right males for next years kidding. A few weeks ago we got a call from the couple we sold the Jelly Bean Babies to a few years ago as because of an accident they were no longer able to keep them and so we have had them back.

Knightshade out on the green before moving him in with 'his girls' - 17th of October 2010

After getting the Jelly Beans they bought a lovely Anglo Nubian called Lilah who we are putting in kid as well. We are putting the Jelly Beans in kid as well and then finding them a new home together as we really don’t have room for them and I would like to keep ‘my pure breeds’, they will make someone very nice milkers.

Everything is very much feeling like autumn now, and starting to be about planning for next year.