Sheep scanner…

I booked Gillian from Booscan to scan our sheep as soon as the tup we’d borrowed arrived, as last year I was so late in doing so that Gillian arrived AFTER I’d started lambing….kind of defeats the purpose of getting them scanned!

Our two volunteers (George & Alessandro) helped erect a couple of large pens in the pig shed and once we go the girls all indoors we set about tagging last years lambs and giving them all a dose of wormer & flukicide and with perfect timing Gillian arrived.

She remembered that our girls are a “bit reluctant” (huge understatement) to go in to the holding crate she uses, so this year she ventured in to the pen with her cattle probe and fancy space age glasses that displays the scan and rattled through them all in a matter of minutes. We were a well oiled machine, Alessandro caught and held the sheep, David was carrying some of Gillian’s kit, I sprayed their backs with one, two or three dots depending on how many lambs they were having and George….observed!!!

It wasn’t a bad result, as expected last years lambs were empty…..except for one, who will now be the cause of many sleepless nights as the wee thing has got knocked up with twins!!! Eight others are having twins, nine are having single lambs and one lucky lady is having triplets! So now I’m armed with this information we can feed them appropriately and at lambing we’ll know exactly what to expect….so no need to rumage about feeling for a twin that isn’t there!

Sheep are back out in the field – a good days work!

Naughty pet lambs…

Honestly, I turned my back for a minute and Pete, Dud and Art (my three pet/ orphan lambs) were raiding about in everyone else’s feed buckets. Heads buried in to bags they were oblivious to me standing behind them filming….well apart from Dud who brazzenly turned and chewed staring right at me – the cheek!!! 🙂

Then it was off for a game of ‘Tag’ around the pig shed…

Catch up!

Wow, I don’t know where the time is going! Days, weeks and months are just flying past. It only seems like last week when our first lamb arrived when in fact it’s been 2 months!

The weather has been absolutely horrible and I’ve been shocked to see on the news how other farmers (and their livestock – see picture above) have suffered with the snow….it’s so, so sad! We’ve been so lucky to be able to bring all but our largest pigs indoors and we managed to convert part of the pig barn to accommodate the sheep too. We were on hand to catch all ewes and lambs as they lambed and bring them straight indoors – most stayed inside for over a week allowing us to make sure the lambs were feeding well and strong enough for the elements. It also gave us the opportunity to give the ewes an ‘MOT’ and pedicure 🙂 and make sure all was well with them. Once back outside they have had full access to their large straw filled field shelter and at nights they all (sensibly) pack inside. Their bales of hay, energy licks and troughs for feed were all in this area, right beside a field gate making checking and feeding them each day much easier for us.

We have tried and failed to adopt Stinky Pete (a triplet who’s mother rejected it) on to other sheep so after a few weeks at home with us he now lives in the pig shed being pampered!!!

The outside pigs have all stayed within their straw filled arks most of the time, sometimes even being fed in there. All of the piglets have thrived apart from one little runt we’ve called Crusty. We realised early on that Crusty was losing condition and took her home for some TLC where we realised she was unable to suckle….a bit of training later and she was finishing her bottles of warm goats milk with ease and is now back with the rest of her family. She escapes daily when she hears us arrive so we give her some mashed banana and pig nuts in the shed where she can get a bit of piece to eat (her siblings are all four times larger than her!) and this is followed with a warm bottle and a cuddle….she’s quite a character! Most of these piglets have now been reserved for other smallholders who will rear them during the nicer months and kill them before the weather gets horrible in the Winter.

Our ducklings and Hubbard chicks are now around 2 months old and will soon be ready to kill. The ducklings are such characters, noisily quacking to us every time we walk past them. The Hubbards are (as they often do) getting a little aggressive towards us which is fine….there’ll be no tears shed when we take them to the poultry abattoir 😉

Moss our puppy is now over 1 year old and seems to have tired of eating her way through all of our vehicles….the damage she has cost makes her one of our most expensive purchases according to David!

The chickens and older ducks (the keepers) are all back in to the swing of laying eggs daily following the long dark winter with short days and now that the clocks have changed the days are lighter and longer and, dare I say it, I think Spring has arrived!

There will be plenty of updates this year as we get in to our second proper year of trading professionally. We’ll be trying new things at the farm. And of course the house will be getting built which will mean we can do even more hear at the farm!

Busy day (what’s new!)…

Decided not to take pigs to the abattoir today as the restaurants are all having a slow month and we have a list of jobs to do the length of our arm!!! So two lucky pigs got a week’s repreive! We managed with relative ease (that’s a first) to swap the pigs in with Muffin our boar with three new ladies. The pigs who were with him and stayed with him over winter when we tend not to have any pigs farrow….but that was also the majority of their gestation period, so with less than two weeks to go these ladies seemed happy to be back in the big girls pen. We’ll need to prepare three of the arks for farrowing and separate them all with some electric tape (a job for another day!)

After our surprise arrival of lambs on Friday we make a start at preparing the ground inside the sheep’s shelter for it’s new flooring…Kubota decided this was a good time to get a puncture so work continued (for a while) with spades and wheelbarrows!!!

The two tups began showing an interest in the five remaining female lambs of 2012 so enough was enough and with the help of some sheep mix they were sent to the small field next to the pigs with their heads in a bucket 🙂

Realising we’ve had a bumper hatch rate of ducklings and chicks I have advertised some for sale… the ducklings are massive and are deafening me with a corus which sounds like 100 dog toys squeaking at once!!! The chicks are tiny yellow and cute, just as they should be!!! 😀

We also had to make the weekly trip to the butcher to collect last week’s pork. Jim the manager is leaving this week to open his own butcher’s in Bridge of Allan….we wish him lots of luck! x

Busy busy busy!!!

Shearing!…

Craig Harrower from Craigievern Farm came this evening to shear our sheep.   Our friend Peter also turned up to help us round them up. What followed was the fastest, most stress free shearing we have experienced. Maybe it was because we have scaled down the size of our flock…maybe it was because our ewes are now a lot more chilled out and don’t see the sheep shearer as the grim reeper anymore? All I know is that sheep were all wormed, checked and sheared within 30 minutes….amazing!!!

Thanks Craig!

Ewe with bloat…

I was gripped by terror when we arrived at the farm this evening as there on the top of a hill was a ewe, very still, with all four legs straight up in the air (the image above, although not ours, gives you a pretty good idea of what I saw). Not only did it appear to be dead but it looked as though the crows might have attacked it. So it was with great apprehension that I made my way over a fence and across the field to it (hoping was that it wasn’t Abby or Allice – my ‘pet sheep’). It wasn’t until I was almost at the sheep that I realised the ‘blood’I thought I’d seen was just the remnants of its red spray number….and to my delight it blinked!!!

I could have cried, happy that the ewe was ok and that no lambs had been left orphaned but my next concern was her sheer size. Her belly was absolutely huge and rock hard to the touch and trying to roll her over was proving near impossible. Eventually I managed to get her on to her swollen belly and she released a huge mouthful of gas. She tried in vein to struggle to get away but was too weak to do anything. David reached us and agreed that she seemed to have ‘bloat’ which up until now we had thought was caused by something the sheep ate. A phone call to the vet was made and he explained it would have been caused by the way she was lying (probably on too steep a slope) which had displaced her stomach and prevented the essential release of gas from the rumen during the fermentation process of food…apparently sheep burp around every minute to release these gases. It could to a lesser extent have been brought on by the recent rain and allowing the sheep in to a fresh field with lush grass – a serious case of over eating would have been involved!!!

The vet asked if we had a large needle to use to puncture her stomach and release some of the gas (we didn’t have one large enough), he went on to explain that once a sheep is back on it’s feet nature takes over and usually rights the problem by itself. So, we penned her near where we found her as she simply didn’t have the strength to walk far, offered her some food and water and then watched her for half an hour for signs of recovery (and ‘burps’!). The vet was right, and within half an hour she was very mobile (and vocal) and extremely keen to be reunited with her twin lambs.

Must buy a large needle to add to our sheep kit (just in case)!

Sheep and lambs MOT’d…

Our friend Peter came to help us round up the sheep and give them a thorough check. Having cracked ribs meant I really needed some help with the bulk of sheep handling (or wrestling in my case!) and as Peter used to be a stockman overseeing the care of thousands of sheep, who better to call for help?

I had already built a pen and  gathered together everything we’d need and Peter suggested adding the livestock trailer to the end of the pen to use as the main treatment point allowing us to herd in a batch of sheep at a time then letting them out the jockey door at the other end.

We got through the ewes and tups pretty quickly…they all had their feet and teeth checked and a foot trim if necessary…they were drenched with wormer….Spot On was drizzled on the back of their neck as we had spotted a tick on one lamb and several on poor Emma…dirty bottoms were tidied up with the dagging shears…and that was them – done! I had a look at ‘Alice’ (one of our pet sheep) who had taken ill after having her lamb and, as the vet had anticipated, she has now lost her malfunctioning teat – so with only one leat left we either don’t breed from her again or hope we can find a surrogate should she have twins.

Peter was pretty impressed with the condition of our ewes and guessed they weighed around the 100kg mark! I don’t think they’ve ever been that heavy before…maybe it’s time to phase out the ‘Sheep Crunch’ I’m still feeding them???

The lambs, although jumpy and pretty vocal at being separated from their mums, were pretty straight forward too. Each was wormed and given “Spot On”. A couple of them were a little lame so a clean up of their feet, a bath in disinfectant and a generous amount of “blue foot spray” resulted in them happily kicking their heels as they lept out of the jockey door! There were two lambs I wanted to give some special attention to….Abby’s lambs (the late arrivals who appeared almost a month after all the others!!!) who appeared to have some irrataton in both eyes. I fetched some Opticlox ointment from our vet a few days ago but hadn’t been unable to catch the lambs alone. On examining their eyes the lids were pretty red and ever so slightly turned in which was just enough to cause some of their eyelashes to rub against the actual eye making it inflamed! 🙁 A generous amount of ointment was applied which also allowed the lashes to be ‘glued’ out of the way) so hopefully that will improve things…I’ll need to really try and catch them again tomorrow to see if more ointment is necessary.

We have the friendliest sheep on the planet with most of them baahing acknowledgement to their own names!!! Orders for our lamb are coming in thick and fast….and Peter asked if he could make us an offer on the female lambs as he wants to “get back in to a bit of farming”

So, that was a good job done. I’ll round them up again in a few days and administer the covexcin they should have had today…but the bottle leaked all over the box I was carrying all the equipment in! I’ll also need to  dig out the sheep tags and tag the lambs….another couple of things to add to my loooooooong to-do list!

Get the sun cream out…

The sun has been out over the last few days….and boy is it hot! The outdoor pigs are tipping  water troughs and making wallows. Heavily pregnant Pip and Stumpy are pretty uncomfortable and slightly off their food….they just want to have tummy rubs and sleep a lot. They both still have only a tiny show of milk in their teats, so piglets could still be another week away.

It wouldn’t be the first time our pigs were sprayed in Lancome suncare products bought at discount (and in bulk) through my work! The poor things big floppy ears can get rather red and they do insist on baking outside! At least they don’t have wooly coats to deal with unlike our poor, panting sheep who were making good use of the shade and cool breeze inside their large field shelter!

My arms and shoulders are burned which makes a change from my usual ‘farmer’s tan’ which only colours my hands and head 😀 Both dogs are lying in the sun but with lots of water and shade. I shouldn’t really complain as weather like this is so rare in Scotland but it does make you so sleepy and prevent you from getting on with things like the garden and fencing

Rather than just sleep, we took a little break from the farm and headed to Milngavie for a little lunch al fresco ( a lovely rare treat for us!). We also managed a visit to Strathblane’s new village allotments where we were put to shame by the hard work of all the new plot holders trying to make progress on this ‘virgin soil’. It has all been fenced and plots marked out, but the contractors had managed to compact the soil in the process so a visit from a man with a rotovator was on the cards. Some plot holders had already gone ahead and planted some potatoes and everyone was excitedly awaiting the delivery of the sheds and greenhouses. Spurred on by their enthusiasm we eventually managed some work in our own veg patch (it was a little cooler in the late afternoon). So we did do SOME work! 😉

Soil samples…

Another job done! I’ve been keen to have the sheep fields fertilised to give the grass a real push in the growing department! 🙂 We took what fertiliser our local farmer had as it was he who was going to spread it. This time though we thought we should find out exactly what (if anything) our fields needed.

A quick call to the SAC (Scottish Agricultural College) office in Stirling and we were armed with instructions on how and where to take some samples to have analysed. So, this morning, equipped with two buckets, a long handled tool we use to make holes to plant bulbs and potatoes, and a stick (it’s technical!), off I went zig zagging across each field collecting samples of soil. The ‘long handled tool’ created lovely, satisfying tubes of soil which were then released from the tool using….yes, the stick (told you it was technical!!). Once I had a bucket of grass topped tubes for each field it was back to the barn to prepare it to SAC standards.

Grassy tops were removed and soil was broken down, then thoroughly mixed. A 2 kilo sample was taken for each field, then bagged and labelled. These will be dropped off later on our way to collect our pork and for the pricely sum of ÂŁ17 + vat per sample we’ll have the SAC’s recommendations in 7-10 days time…I’m actually genuinely interested to see what information comes back – am I turning in to a soil nerd??? 😉

At long long last!…

Hallelujah! Abby has, at last, had her lambs and she managed it all by herself when we weren’t looking!

She gave me a bit of a fright when I arrived at the farm tonight for the evening feed as all I could see was a large, fluffy, white, very still mass on it’s side!!! I was almost too scared to go and look, worried that she had gotten in to difficulty when we weren’t there and….well, died! I sent David over to take a look and waited for the update with my hands partly covering my eyes!! As David approached the ‘mass’ it jumped to it’s feet and split in to three!!! 😀 Oh, I was so happy, she’d only gone and had gorgeous twin male lambs who looked just like her, right down to their massive floppy ears!!! When Abby was a lamb we would call to her from across the field and she would come running towards us with her huge ears flapping up and down – we always half expected her to take off!!! 😀

Here they are…

So that’s it – lambing 2012 is now officially over!!! Phew!