Spring lambs

Despite the extended cold spell, we can at last see signs of Spring. The daffodils are in bud and starting to flower and in the fields the pickers are busily gathering cut flowers for market.

Our old ram joined our flock permanently in the New Year, having previously been on loan. We have named him George; he is 7 years old and did what he is supposed to do, leaving his mark on all three of the ewes. The ewes were scanned by the vet in February, when two were found to be in lamb. The third, Bella is either too big to bear young; or more likely did not allow George to get close enough – she head butted him on more than one occasion. Blue dye mixed with grease was rubbed onto the chest of George and by monitoring the ewes we were to see on what date they were tupped. The gestation period for ewes is around 145 days and therefore we were able to estimate the dates of birth, being late March and early April. Our estimates were pretty accurate, Allie was 2 days earlier than expected and Sheila one day.

Allie gave birth first, on March 27th, at 11pm. As it was her first born, she only had a single lamb, a ram lamb we have named Harold. On birth Allie needed help to clear the mucus from his mouth, and even then Harold was slow to respond and it was not until 2 pm that he was able to stand and take milk from his mother. Fortunately Ian’s daughter – Zoe, a qualified vet, visited us at the end of the week and realised that all was not as it should be. She pointed out that Harold had an in-turned eye lid, but more concerning that he was under nourished and not suckling properly. There was also the added worry that he might not have taken sufficient colostrum (thick milk containing antibodies, produced in the hours following birth). It was vital in these early days of life that he has sufficient milk, around 10% of his body weight each day. Without it he would weaken and die. He wasn’t strong enough to suckle, so milk was expressed from Allie, and a bottle prepared, but Harold didn’t even have a strong enough suck action to take milk from the bottle. The only option was to tube feed him with milk directly to his stomach. We didn’t have a stomach tube, but Zoe improvised and used a plastic tube used to administer wormer. Initially 150 mls was given to Harold, and the effect was immediate, Harold ceased to lie down in the straw but began to stand. Feeds were given every 4 hours with a larger feed in late evening and Harold could be seen to be getting stronger. His eye had been rectified but his eye still had a discharge from where the eye lid had rubbed against the eye. And there was also the risk that he had not sufficient antibodies to fight off infection. On Easter Saturday Zoe contacted the local vet and collected a stomach tube, antibiotics and eye ointment. Harold continued to improve, and by Monday was bottle feeding and by Tuesday was suckling from Allie. Antibiotics were given for 5 days as was the eye ointment, but he was well on the way to recovery. There is a fine line between life and death, at such a tender age, and without Zoe, Harold would most probably have died. Due to his eye condition we cannot breed from him, so he was castrated – he will be a pet and will stay with the ewes.  Below is a picture of Harold with his mum, Allie.

Allie & Harold 2013

On April 9th at 8pm Sheila gave birth to two ewe lambs. We have named them Primrose and Daisy. Both are doing well, and neither appears to be suffering from Harold’s afflictions. Today (13th) with the warmer weather we let them out of the sheep shelter into the Spring sunshine. Mother is always very attentive and never lets them roam too far away. A picture of the two girls with a proud Sheila; is below (Primrose is the darker of the two and on the right).

Sheila, Primrose & Daisy 2013

The ewes, rams and the December lambs (Lily and Arthur) recently had their vaccinations (the lambs had a second inoculation). The ewes and rams also had their annual blood tests to ensure that they are not infected with Maedi Visna. They have been dosed with wormer, and their hooves trimmed. The next task will be for the ewes and rams to be sheared, but due to the cold start to the year, the shearing has been delayed until warmer days. Hopefully they are around the corner. Then when the fleece starts to grow back, we will apply the pour on spray to guard against blow fly strikes and that should complete the farm management tasks until the summer.

Ian then needs to learn how to prepare the lambs and the tups for showing, and most importantly to halter train them. He is off on a sheep showing course at the end of the month, run by the Hampshire Down Sheep Breeders Association! Hopefully he will be in a position to show, he’ll start with the smaller local Norfolk shows at Aylsham and Watton.

We look forward to warmer days and sunnier skies for the guests of our cottages and caravan site.