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Witchy’s story

Witchy and Selene reunited

Hi.  I’m Witchy and I have logged in here to tell you my story.  I was born on Friday 25th March into a glorious, sunny spring day.  I followed my brother out and landed on a towel thoughtfully placed for me by the humans.  My mother, Selene, quickly bonded with me and started to lick me dry.  What a great start to life in this strange new world.

The humans also gave me some food to drink.  That helped me feel warm inside and I was soon on my feet.  While the human’s milk was OK, what I really wanted was some of mum’s milk, so I started trying to find her teats.  This was not easy.  The humans helped by clearing some of the wool, but whoever designed us sheep did not think about us poor wee new born lambs.  The teat pokes right into mum’s leg and is very low.  And I have such long legs!

You can just see us right at the back next to the fence
You can just see us right at the back next to the fence

On top of that, mum kept moving about, eating the green stuff that seemed to be everywhere.

Still, the sum was warm and it seemed a nice place.

However, I soon began to feel tired.  It was all a bit overwhelming.  So I lay down for a rest and watched mum and my brother move off.  Ok, I thought, it’s my chance to fulfil my life ambition and move quickly onto the next world.

Well, fat chance.  Before I knew it the female human had scooped me up and taken me into a building, a house I think they call it.  She tried to get me to drink some of that milk.  I wasn’t having that.  Well, I’d had had a sniff at realising my life’s ambition and I wasn’t going to give that up easily.  And besides, this world didn’t look that much fun anyway.

So, I nibbled away at the bottle, but I cleverly didn’t swallow.

But, the female human was wise to this and before I knew it she, with the help of the male human, had a tube down my throat and suddenly my tummy was full.

This felt good, but I wasn’t going to let on.  I was at peace and ready to move on to the next world.

But still, the humans wouldn’t let me go.  For the next day or so they continued not only to pump milk into me, but also some strange green liquid that looked like wee.  And not only that, in the middle of the night the human female stuck a needle into my leg muscle and injected something into it.  The cheek!

However, by Sunday, I felt strangely better.  I got up and wandered around.  I realised I had been sharing my pen with two other lambs.  Their mother had rejected them at birth they told me.  The humans had been caring for them and they loved the humans.  It wasn’t their mother’s fault, the vet hadn’t understood the importance of placing the new born lamb under the mother’s head straight away.  he had been too concerned on helping them get out.  Their poor mother had panicked and despite the humans’ best efforts, their mother never accepted them.

Anyway, after breakfast (which I drank yum yum), the female human took all three of us outside for a walk.  And then I heard her, my mum calling to me.  I answered back “muuum it’s me”.  We had only been together a few hours on Friday, but we remembered each other.

Me suckling at last
Me suckling at last

The human female was smart and quickly put me in with her.  But, you know, we sheep are strange creatures.  While mum recognised my voice, my smell was all wrong.  I had been eating milk from a bottle and was covered in human smells.  My mum wasn’t sure and when I tried to suckle, she pushed me away.

But the human was smart and she took me out and we went for a play in the field.  All the time, I could her mum crying out “where are you? Where are you?”

This attracted the attention of the human male.  He said something to the female and next thing I was having my mother’s milk rubbed all over me.  And this time, when I went back into the pen, she let me suckle.

You know, life in this world doesn’t seem so bad after all, maybe I’ll stick around a bit longer!

Me reunited with mum (Selene) and brother (Warlock)
Me reunited with mum (Selene) and brother (Warlock)
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Easter Surprise

happy lambs

It’s Easter Saturday and I type this in a state of tiredness such that I can hardly think straight. To say I have a new found respect for sheep farmers would be an understatement. There’s a saying in this world that a sheep’s ambition is to die and it spends it’s life looking to do this as fast as possible. It even came up in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series (Granny Aching). I think Terry Pratchett must have known something about sheep!

lambs in field Good Friday
lambs in field on Good Friday

Good Friday started with a miracle. For once, it was sunny and warm (you might think so, but that’s not the miracle). I was sitting at my computer and keeping one eye on the paddock with the lambs. I noticed one of the ewes was chasing our dog, George, all round the field. In case you’re wondering, George is a natural at guarding livestock, it’s what his breed are for. And a George in the field will certainly keep foxes away as well as next door’s dogs.

Anyway, I went down to investigate. The sheep all know George and are highly tolerant of him. This was unusual behaviour. What was even more unusual was that Selene was chasing him. Selene is one of the most serene of our sheep. By then Nicole had joined me and we put George out of the field. The energy was not helped by next door’s yappy mutt barking at the sheep, so I chased it away and turned to see what was what.

Now, you have to understand that we believed Selene was not pregnant. There had been no raddle mark, she had not seemed to fatten up and there were no physical signs. So, when we saw a burst water bag hanging from her behind, we were somewhat puzzled. It took quite a few moments for us to realise that not only was Selene pregnant, but that she was about to give birth.

Selene with Warlock and Witchy
Selene with Warlock and Witchy just after giving birth to them

Now, having been “not pregnant”, Selene had been turned out a while back and so had not had the supplement given to pregnant ewes. Overfeeding sheep nuts helps sheep to achieve their life ambition, so you have to be really careful.
Having not had this supplement, Selene popped out two lambs in quick succession. The lambs were smaller due to the lack of extra feed.

This was our miracle and we were elated.

This is just the beginning of the story.  At first all seemed great.  Selene was super attentive and both lambs were showing a good and strong instinct to feed.  The weather was warm.  All was great.  So we sat and took a moment to enjoy our good fortune.  Given the seemingly immaculate conception and it being Easter, we named them Witchy and Warlock.

Later that day, Nicole noticed that Witchy was looking a bit lethargic.  We took her inside.  She would not feed.  In fact, she showed a remarkable lack of will to live (see sheep’s life ambition above).  Well, we had already lost Wicca earlier in the week to an infection (Watery Mouth).  This had affected us both deeply.  We did not want to lose another one.

Nevertheless, despite multiple tube feeds, lamb pick me up and life aid being administered, Witchy continued to remain lethargic.  All through the night Nicole nursed her.  I have to say I am in awe of Nicole.  I was so tired I stayed in bed.  I was awake and ready to help, but Nicole never asked.  I don’t know how she did it.  At 5am, I told her I’d take over and left her to sleep.

Witchy was hanging in there, but at best I was giving here 50/50.

lambs in shed during storm
lambs in shed during storm

Of course, a storm was approaching so we had decided to bring the lambs into the shed.  That caused something of an uproar in the flock.  Nicole had been halter training them, but they knew was something was up and did all they could not to become ensnared.  However, one by one, Nicole dragged them in from the field while I ran ahead my arms full of wriggling lambs.  One ewe lost the plot and it took ages before we managed to lead her in; by placing her lamb in front of her nose.

Of course, once in the shed, they realised they were out of the crap weather and they were so happy.  In fact, the atmosphere in there today has been really great.

Adrian warming Warlock
Adrian warming Warlock

Except in one corner where Selene lay with Warlock (Witchy was still inside with us).  Selene was ill.  Having not fed her up, we had overcompensated and given her too many sheep nuts (they need the nuts to hep milk production).  Now she had tummy ache.  This is life threatening for sheep (see sheep’s life ambition above).  Nicole rang the vet and the vet talked her through a plan of action.  Life aid (basically electrolytes) was administered and painkillers and antibiotics injected.  In the meantime, Warlock was now cold and so he came in for a warm up.  I may not be great at staying up all night, but I can warm a lamb up quickly as I generate a lot of heat (we have an emergency lamb warming box, but I prefer the body heat method).

To our huge relief, Selene recovered quickly and they were soon reunited.

In the meantime, Witchy slowly seems to be improving.  She is still reluctant to feed, but is taking some in.  We keep telling her she must drink or it will be the tube, but she doesn’t listen.  Thankfully, she’s taking in around 50ml a feed and she needs around 100ml every 4 hours, so there’s hope yet.

I never thought lambing could be this hard!

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Lambing Update

Bluemli and Wart just born

I can’t believe how tough lambing is turning out to be.  We have been doing 4 hourly checks for what seems like forever, but is in fact just 3 or 4 weeks.  On top of that, every ewe that has lambed so far has presented with problems of one sort or another.  Mainly, they just can’t seem to get the poor wee lambs out.

We have had amazing support from our friends who have come over at each birth and helped rescue the situation.  Of the 7 ewes that were expecting, 4 have now produced lambs.

Bluemli and Wart day one
Bluemli and Wart day one

Our best surprise was Bluemli.  She’s our youngest and is a first time mum.  We were expecting problems (you can do just a little too much reading you know).  Well, last night she did have trouble squeezing her lamb out, but with a little help, out popped a very cute ram lamb.  And Bluemli was licking it straight away, the first of our ewes to do so.  In fact, she’s besotted with her little lamb and talks to it constantly.  Having learned that this year, the RFBS deems names to start with ‘W’, we have named him Wart.  And this is not after those annoying little growths we sometimes get.  It’s after the nickname given to the the young King Arthur (before he was king) in T.H. White’s classic novel.

The best part of this is that we had Bluemli’s due date completely wrong, sometime in mid April).  Crafty Ginge, the ram, had obviously managed to have his way without leaving a mark a bit earlier than we had realised.

Sky and Winnie
Sky and Winnie

And then today, around lunchtime, Sky went into labour.  Now, Sky had been behaving a little strangely and truth be told, I had a strange feeling all was not well. She had been headbutting Bluemli while Bluemli was giving birth and then seemed fixated with her lamb – we had to put her in a pen  for a while.  Sadly, my fears turned out to be true.  The first lamb was still born and it seemed he had been dead before she went into labour.  We suspect that Sky was aware of this and hence the odd behaviour.

Thankfully, she was having twins and out popped a beautiful baby ewe lamb.  She has been named Winifred (after Nicole’s aunt) and is already Winnie (for short).

In the meantime we discovered a great device for feeding our orphan lambs.  As they grow, they are getting more and more frantic at feeds.  We now have a rack into which we can put their bottles and they can help themselves as and when they like.  Of course, the first attempt didn’t go too well, not helped by my not hanging it correctly and Larry (or wlarry as must his name must start with ‘W’ :)) kept butting it.  But, this evening they have got the hang of it and are starting to take smaller feeds on demand which is just great.

larry and lisa with bottle rack
larry and lisa with bottle rack
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More Little Lambs

Florence with Shelby and Camille

After the introduction to the deep end of lambing on Thursday, we spent Saturday waiting for Shelby to give birth.  We were hopeful it would not be a repeat of Thursday.  I mean, we love hand rearing the first two, but ideally they should be raised by their mother.

Well, around 7pm Nicole spotted that Shelby was in trouble.  We called a friend who also breeds coloured ryelands and asked for advice.  He had been quite “vocal” in telling us not to ring the vet if there was a problem, but to ring him.  Despite having 22 ewes of his own, he and his wife came round to help.  If Scarlett’s experience was traumatic, then I don’t really know what word to use to describe what Shelby went through.  Her cervix was even tighter.

Camille Shelby FlorenceIt took some effort to get the first lamb out.  And then, well over an hour, nearer two, to bring out the second.  Working in such a tight, constricted and slippery place, it was proving almost impossible to get both front legs and head lined up correctly.  But he carried on and with the help of Nicole and some baler twine, finally we had number two.

To be honest, I couldn’t believe she was alive, but she was.  The best part of it all was the totally calm atmosphere throughout.  Shelby didn’t struggle, she just lay there as if she knew we were helping.  The other sheep kept a respectful distance.  Both lambs were presented to Shelby and despite being exhausted, and sore I bet, she immediately bonded with them.

But, she was so was so exhausted she just lay down.  We constructed a pen around her and the lambs where she lay so as she would not have to move.  Then we withdrew and left them in peace for an hour.  In the meantime, I drove over to our friend’s house to get some antibiotics and a decent syringe.  We have a huge lambing kit, but we had no antibiotics – typical!  When I got back, we gave Shelby a jab.  I say we, but Nicole actually did the injection, she is much braver than me.

Then we checked the lambs and decided to give them some feed by bottle.  We were able to milk Shelby to get some of her colostrum and then topped it up with some we made up.  Bottle feeding newly born lambs is not that easy, they don’t expect a rubber teat!  One of them just wouldn’t even try.  I popped her under my jacket and Nicole warmed up some towels on the aga.  Soon, she warmed up and began to wriggle and we were able to feed her too.  Then, once again we were up every two hours checking and giving them supplementary feed.  We were also really worried about Shelby.

Nicole Shelby Camille and Florence
Nicole with the newborn lambs and Shelby

But, the good news is that all three survived their ordeal and seem in good health.  Nicole has been training the young lambs (Camille and Florence) to use their mother’s teats to feed.  And they are learning, though still getting the odd top up.  And Shelby is proving to be a wonderful mother, she’s a joy to watch.

So today, being a lovely sunny day, we turned them out into the paddock.  The other ewes were curious and Peaches seemed a little put out and tried to head butt one of them (we couldn’t tell which one as they are virtually identical).  Before Shelby could intervene, the young lamb went head to head with Peaches and sent her scurrying backwards.

Checking later, they are all happy in the spring sunshine.

And Larry and Lisa continue to grow stronger every day.  I have taken a bit of time off work so will build them an outdoor pen in the paddock tomorrow so they can be outside among the others but safe.  Of course, we’ll be bringing them in at night into their luxury indoor bed :).

Camille Shelby Florence

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Our First Lambs

coloured ryeland lambs

We have been on lamb alert for almost two weeks now.  We started 4 hourly checks  a week before we thought the first ones were due.  They finally arrived 6 days after the due date, on Thursday evening.  It was, however, not plain sailing.

lambs lisa and larry in field for first timeIn our first year of lambing, we have done everything we can to learn as much as we can about what we need to do.  Nicole has researched all the ins and outs and prepared laminated sheets and instructions.  We have both been out making sure everything was ready, lambing shed, pasture, emergency heating box and so on.  I only just finished the emergency heating box Thursday afternoon.

Later that Thursday, as I headed out to one of my Maths students, Scarlett’s waters broke.  Nicole had it all under control, so I headed off, after all I was only away for an hour or so.  When I got back, nothing had happened and the vet had been called.

larry in dogs bedsIt turned out that Scarlett had a very tight cervix and this was stopping the lambs from coming.  The vet duly delivered both lambs, but in the process, the whole bonding process was shattered.  And so, Scarlett would not accept her lambs.  The vet just shrugged and disappeared, but we kept watch.  An hour later with the lambs not getting any feed and just being pushed away, we tried to help.  We managed to get both to suckle for a short period, but Scarlett just would not accept them.

We took them indoors, made some emergency colostrum and bottle fed them.  We felt it was too risky to leave them with Scarlett, there was every chance she might accidentally crush them.  So we set up a pen in the living room, found a comfy quilt, turned on the under floor heating and set our alarm clocks for 2 hour intervals.  I was on 11pm, 1am and 5am bottle feeding duty!

adrian and lisa in fieldWell, today, still not yet 2 whole days old, the lambs are prospering.  We tried many times to repair their bond with Scarlett but in the end we have decided to hand rear them.  And we have both bonded with them rather strongly it should be said.  They are a little ewe and a little ram, called Lisa and Larry respectively.

Today we built them safe quarters in the lambing shed where we will put them in daylight hours – it will be good for them to be among the sheep.  We also took them for a walk in the paddock.  Like all living creatures, they love the outdoors and need to feel the sun on their backs.  We had a lovely time and they were already skipping about.

Then after the 5 o’clock feed, we all fell asleep on the couch, myself and Nicole each with a sleeping lamb on our chests.  It really is quite magical.

Adrian with Lisa and Larry