Thursday, 3 November 2011

From baaaad to worse

There's a chalkboard in my kitchen where I make notes to remind myself of things that I tell myself I will remember, but never do. Which is everything. I limit this board to notes about the farm: outputs like eggs sold per month, and bales of hay used, and also inputs such as medications given. One look at the board reveals the state of things. A full board is a bad sign -

Less Blackberry, More blackboard-y

Another wave of disease has ripped through this year's crop of lambs: coccidiosis. It's a parasite that attacks the intestinal tract. The first you know about it is a weak animal usually with diarrhea. Megalamb was the first lamb to show symptoms and the only one to succumb to its effects. Because I have a great vet, and I happened to recognise the distinct smell associated with coccidiosis from dealing with infected pheasants, we identified the wretched single-celled culprits immediately (he used a microscope - more scientific than my sense of smell). We treated all the lambs and 72 hours later, they're still alive. Except Megalamb, who is now Megadeath.

Now we are seven. That's a lambing percentage about 85%. This is an appalling result. Last year was a 200%. (True, there were only two ewes lambing then.)

With lambs, our total flock numbers 19. I moved mothers and lambs from the maternity paddock to fresh grazing. The ewes walked quietly into their trailer. The lambs had to travel separately from ewes, in the back of the Land Rover, to prevent being inadvertently squashed in transit.  The lambs are now fast-moving and very wriggly, and I had to catch and load them one at a time. I have no photos of the process because I had no help, either to take pictures or manhandle sheep. Shoot season is in full swing so Mike, who I usually press-gang into helping, has problems of his own to manage. I fear lambing will be a tiring, lonely time of year.

I made a little video yesterday when I did my morning check and feed of the sheep, so you can see how the flock is getting on. I have a few more ear tags to put in, and the lambs need a course of vaccine soon, but now my focus must shift to game: pheasant and partridge shoots on the estate, and culling deer. There is staff to feed, and dogs to work, and deer to put in the larder (or money in the bank). The blog topics will shift accordingly, and I promise to update more regularly, with photos.


Kate said...

I like your blackboard. I should put one of those in our kitchen somewhere. I have the feeling ours would soon be just as crowded with notes and reminders as yours is. Sorry to hear about Megadeath.

Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

Great video! It is nice to hear a voice to your words! Sorry about Megadeath err.. Megalamb. I think I now need a chalkboard, I use a clipboard but am always losing/ignoring it- maybe I need something more in my face. Your pasture looks so fresh and green- everything here is slowly turning grey. Good luck with the shoot- can't wait to see the results.


Paula said...

Sorry about Magalamb, but try to take some comfort in the fact that your stats are waaaay better'n mine.

And besides- you're new at this- no one's an Einstein the first time out.

Poppy Cottage said...

That's a bummer with Megalamb.

Just ring if you need a hand sheep moving. have got to visit the new wool shop that has opened up in South Street Bridport (just buy St Mary's Church) - it is amazing. Knit nights on Tuesdays cc

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Bah, bah, bad sheep! Well, not bad exactly, but frustrating and disconcertingly fragile.

I'm sorry about Megadeath, but now that he's gone to the great sheep pen in the sky, maybe you can reach him on the Megaphone.

Your remaining flock looks lovely, and each lambing season makes you better prepared for the next one. Just think, if you get 200% a couple years running, that British Wool Board will have to sit up and take notice.

me said...

beautiful sheep, beautiful grounds, beautiful life, i'm so jealous i could spit.

Mimi and Anna said...

So sorry to hear about Megalamb. It's always something, isn't it? Everyone else is looking healthy and happy, as they should be with your amazing pasture! I'm jealous - we grow rocks and sand with a little grass on top!