Thursday, 30 April 2015

This Year's Crop of Bedding Plants...

is underneath this year's crop of lambs -

Eh, it makes a change from the chickens scratching up the flower beds..

Friday, 17 April 2015

A Good News-Bad News Kind of Week

Ewe 2841 lambed healthy, if smallish, triplets with only a little assistance on the last one. But, with no one to hold her head for me, the ewe got up while I had half my arm inside her. My shouting "Stop moving, I'm TRYING to HELP" at her had little effect, so I just followed her around the garden and manipulated the stuck lamb on the move. One of the triplets will join our lamb orphanage.  There are already four lambs in there.

Which brings me to my bad news.

Matilda died. She wasn't sick, or off colour, she just...went. It looked like a seizure. My first thought after "Oh god, what killed her?" was "How am I going to break the news to blog reader Hazel and her family?!" She is the mother of ewes in my flock, so her memory and her DNA will live on. I hope that is some consolation. Still I had to break the news to her lambs. I told them Jesus wanted her for a sunbeam, and taught them to drink from a bottle.

On the good news front, Spud doesn't have cancer. I found a tumor on her last week; both the vet and I thought it would turn out to be a sarcoma, but it was a benign tumor. Phew. Flatcoats are prone to sarcomas, so it was a worrying week waiting for the histology report to come back. Pip took first shift to keep Spud company while her stitches heal -

Then Molly sprained her wrist, so now she's on bed rest with Spud. They share a large crate in the living room and pass the time eviscerating old pillows I put in the crate for them to sleep on. Injured or no, their energy levels are totally unaffected. There are few things worse than a clever gun dog on enforced rest.

There is only one more ewe to lamb, not two. Ewe 0005 was marked as pregnant by our scanner guy, but I'm sure she's not. As she's never conceived or lambed successfully, it looks like I will be putting some mutton in the freezer next month.

All the ewes with lambs at foot have gone across the road to fresh woodland pasture and the lambs are growing on quickly. That commercial ram has put some meat on those lambs, but my heart is with the Dorsets so I will be heading for the big ram sale in May to find a ram of my own.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Turkeys are Tasty, but....

...they are not great at Hide & Seek.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The End is Nigh

In the past 36 hours I think the ewes have lambed every few hours without much break in between. It's all I can do to process each delivery, like some manic disorganised lambing wholesaler. Pen, squirt, squirt, dip, jab, worm, spray, water, mark. Exhale. NEXT!

Not all the deliveries were straightforward but we didn't lose any. In fact we gained one: the scanner told me Matilda was having twins, which she deftly produced, then a few hours later on night check Mike found a third. So triplets for her. Or, realistically, another bottle-fed baby for the kennels.

Of course the bottle fed lambs are in the kennels, between the spaniels and the feed storage. (Turkeys are still in the end kennel). The sheep trailer still acts as bad weather shelter when it's not transporting moms and new lambs from field to orchard.

So, there would be more pictures but I could hardly keep up with the actual work, and there are no documentary photographers locally to help out. Mike is up to his ears in pheasants' eggs and moving the rearing sheds to fresh ground. Good weather means cramming in as much work in as possible, For the expectant ewes as well!

newly delivered, pre processing!

There are only 3 ewes left to lamb: 2 singles and a triplet. Then I'll start grading out the oldest lambs to move to new fields (and new grass) with moms.

2841 - my triple still waiting to lamb and in no hurry at all!

I won't mind a spot of rain when lambing's over. Not only will it slow my work load a bit, but it will wash the sheep shit into the orchard soil. Shit has become a hazard when hanging out laundry or walking in crocs. Still, walking in sheep shit, then walking on loose straw and gravel paths has given me an insight into why wattle and daub building techniques were in use for nearly 6,000 years. That is some durable composite material! I should build them a sheep shed out of their own poo and straw.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Ladies who Lamb

Lambing is going well. We had two sets of twins born on Easter, one set before a big family lunch and one set after. Mums and babes are all thriving. The weather's been so warm, the ewes are seeking shade for their afternoon siestas.

There were no lambs to deliver the next two mornings, not at our place anyway. I had a dawn phone call Monday and Tuesday morning from Margaret (she who kept the Queen's goat). She's lambing Jacob sheep, and because Margaret gives them such exceptional care, most are having triplets and quadruplets. BIG ones.

I delivered triplets for her Monday morning, simply a case of a big head in a small birth canal. This morning was the hardest presentation I've ever worked on: the first lamb coming out backwards, back legs forward and its hips stuck fast blocking the birth canal:

Image from

The ewe was heavy, and the lambs were big so there wasn't much room to work in there.

I managed to get the hind legs pointing towards the birth canal and worked the hips free, but the lamb was born dead. The ewe had twin lamb's disease - basically no energy - and stopped pushing. I lined up the other lambs, and pulled them out as the ewe couldn't even push to load them in the birth canal. It's what I call an "armpit delivery" because you have your arm in as far as it can go searching for the lambs. I pleased to say both those were alive and strong, all things considered. So 5 out of 6. Not too bad.

We joked over a postpartum cup of coffee that, instead of Ladies who Lunch, we're Ladies who Lamb. Not quite as glamorous, and you have to wash your clothes a lot more often,

Another of my ewes lambed just now, a sensible afternoon lambing from the shepherdess point of view as it still leaves me enough time to cook supper and do my evening chores before sunset. We're over halfway there, only nine more ewes to lamb!

This evening's birth: Ewe 00021, a proud-looking first time mum and her ewe lamb

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Another Day at the Office

No lambs were born last night. Ewe 0009 had twins the night before, in a heavy rain storm, and when I checked on her at 5 a.m. one lamb was dead and the other was cold but alive. I torture myself with "what if" scenarios where I came out earlier, or it wasn't raining, and the twin lived. Alas, that's lambing for you. And ewe.

But the low pressure system has pushed off, and it's set dry and warm for the next week. And there are more healthy live lambs than the dead kind, so we're doing something right. The view from my bedroom window looks like this -

Don't think just because I'm lambing that my other jobs take a back seat. All the animals still need feeding, Kitty needs riding out, the dogs need their training sessions and walks, and I'm still on call for jobs like goose retrieval. Quincy is doing the hard work though -

There were two out in the middle of the lake to retrieve -

Now that the trout pond has refilled, the Canada geese are trying to take up residence. The gamekeepers have to disturb (ie shoot) them to keep them from breeding on the fishing lake. When the guys shoot one, I get a call to come and pick it up. Quincy loves this job. Spud too. They're both big enough to tackle a dead goose. Now I have three geese to breast out and cook up for the dogs' dinners. The rest of the carcases I will put in the crow and magpie traps to feed the call birds.

When I got the "goose call", I was finishing an application for a part time library job in Hereford. I miss library work, and we could sure use the income. Now that's sent off (fingers and toes crossed!) I will deal with the geese, bottle feed Gregor's lambs, feed the other ewes and Kitty, and organise the Easter egg hunt for the family's children and guests tomorrow. We hide chocolate Easter eggs in the pheasant pens so the children can help "collect" them. Later in the year, the children visit us on a hatch day to see the chicks.  Except for the chocolate egg hunt, I'm freed from egg collecting duties while I have lamb delivering duties.

I do my admin in between farm jobs. On top of everything, my income taxes are due this week. As I sit at the computer, I have two wet circles on my right thigh where a lamb peed on me when I tubed him, and sticky patches of colostrum on my other leg, plus a slash of red marking spray (I've been numbering the lambs). I'm about to add goose blood to the mix.

An office job sounds pretty good, don't you think?


Just after I put up this post, I saw Ewe 00026 with a little ewe lamb at foot. I gave her some time to deliver the twin, but when nothing appeared, I investigated -

A big ram lamb was coming out backwards so I pulled it out and tried to revive it -

Sadly, he was dead before I pulled him out. I never stop being upset when this happens. 

After I moved ewe 00026 and her remaining lamb to the orchard (and the Land Rover broke down again) I poured myself a conciliatory glass of wine. No more admin tonight. I will watch and appreciate this new little life making friends instead -

"Oh Hi, You must be new here. I've got kids around your age!"