first lambs away

As I write this post early this morning the first lambs, and a few pigs are on their way to the abattoir as we start to sell some of this year’s livestock ‘crops’.

We have taken the opportunity at the same time to wean the lambs – to take them away from their mothers – and give the ewes time to recover before the breeding season starts again for us in November.  Next week we will sort through all the lambs again, send any more that are ready away to the abattoir, because like fresh seasonal plums lambs do not keep well once matured. The remaining 300+  will be given a dose of wormer and put onto fresh grazing and then weighed again in a fortnight..

The ewes will have 2 weeks to dry up their udders and then they will be carefully sorted through and any really old girls will be taken from the flock to spend a well earned retirement on some conservation grazing. Last year’s oldies will go away on their final journey soon but we have a customer looking for old bloodlines amongst our pedigree flock and he will come and pick some first.

The rest of the flock will be checked carefully for their condition: too fat or too thin [and their diet adjusted accordingly], their udders to see it is still in full working order [no good a ewe having 2 lambs and only one side of her udder working] and finally their mouths to see they still have a full set of working teeth [ no dentures here]. The whole flock will then be sorted and treated accordingly: extra grass, less grass or a red splash on the back of the head which is their one way ticket to join the ‘old girls’. A shepherd’s year starts in Autumn and once you understand the process I find the work has an enjoyable rythmn to it, well it would only be fair to say that I have  worked with sheep for many, many years!!

The harvest is almost done, we are just waiting for the oats which were simply too green last week to cut. However we seem to have hit a sudden rainy patch so Jethro’s idea of going to the Great Dorset Steam Fair next weekend may not happen. It is absolute heaven to him to spend a day amongst the soot and the fumes watching others tinker with old machines. A few years ago he had the same idea as harvest seemed to be progressing well and guess what it rained then too. We only need 2 clear days when the oats are ready but I am not planning anything until it is all in the barn.

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8 Comments

Filed under Country Life, food and farming, rural musings, Food, Life

8 responses to “first lambs away

  1. Tiggywinkle

    Have really got the hang of “the sheep year” Aa. There is an enormous amount of work involved all year round. Thank you for the lessons which fascinate me as usual.

  2. Cait O'Connor

    My SIL is a Welsh hill sheep and cattle farmer so I know all about how busy you farmers are. Good luck with it.

  3. I love coming here because it reminds me so much of my own farm. We sold some lambs this week too.

    CJ xx

  4. mutteringsfromthemoor

    I just stumbled upon your blog and have been interested to read about your sheep. We have been foster-parents to an abandoned 10 day old lamb now for 8 days and its been a huge learning curve. She has needed lots of love and attention but is doing ok. She does have an infection in her leg joints though and is on antibiotics. I’d appreciate any advice on how to help her get better as we are determined that she will live a long and happy life after such an awful start. Thanks.

    • Hi
      Thanks for your comment. I presume that if you have antibiotics for this lamb then you have seen a vet. They will be best able to advise on suitable medication, and may even offer the lamb something additional for pain and swelling. Does she have a fever?

      Lambs of that age need feeds at least 4 x day. The best suggestion is to go to your local agricultural merchants and buy a bag of lamb replacer milk, or if they have none then calf replacer will do at a pinch.
      The instructions as to how much to feed and how often are on the bag of lamb milk. This is a tried and tested method. We do this every year but teach the lambs to drink themselves as soon as they can on a self feed system with teats, tubes and non-return valves.

      A sad but true fact is that one pet lamb does less well than 2 together as the company is better for them. We have used old teddy bears or hot water bottles for singletons to give comfort, until another lamb comes along however this is not the usual time of year for lambs.

      Best of luck and do keep us posted, best wishes AA

      • mutteringsfromthemoor

        Thank you. Yes we have seen the vet and he said go back again Friday if she’s still hobbling. She has a slight temperature but he wasn’t overly worried.

        She drinks just under half a pint of lamb milk every 4 hours, 5 times a day (we gave up the night feed as she wasn’t really interested in it!). This has increased from about a quarter of a pint each feed so she has a good appetite and is putting on weight.

        I realise she is late in the year, the farmer said he wasn’t aware the ewe was pregnant. Sadly for our lamb, she couldn’t latch on to her mother like her twin could, and the farmer couldn’t be bothered to come and look at her even though he was notified several times that she was in a lot of distress, so she was rescued by my friend.

        For the time being she is being kept in our house so is nice and warm, and is quite often to be found cuddled up to my feet under the desk. I’ll try the teddy bear/hot water bottle idea at night though.

        Thanks for your advice. Abby

  5. That is good to hear.
    Just be careful you do not give her too much milk as it will lead to an upset tum and an awful mess in the house and can be very serious for the lamb leading to dehydration. There is a maximum reccomended amount, again written on the bag.
    It was probably a young sheep, a first timer, it happens.

    You also need to offer fresh water, in a bucket or bowl from now on, and soon introduce lamb pellets ad lib, just a few pellets at first. Then add hay to get the rumen going. Cleanliness of milk bottles is also important as milk powder is a haven for bacteria.. and further upset tums.

    What have you called her?
    We always sell our pet lambs to smallholders after we have had our summer open days.

    Best of luck

    • mutteringsfromthemoor

      I’ve checked the bag and it says max 2 pints so I that’s probably about right when you take into consideration the bit she leaves in the bottom of the bottle.

      Tonight she has seemed quite warm, her nose and feet feel hotter and she is breathing more rapidly than normal. I have phoned the vet and on his recommendation given her some anti-inflammatory which I had in the house from when our duck hurt her leg. I may take her to see him in the morning if she hasn’t improved. Sadly he is obviously of the opinion that she isn’t worth the effort, but myself and my friend who rescued her (plus our children and husbands) feel she deserves every effort before we give up. She’s still happy and that must be worth considering.

      She’s called Annie, by the way. And because of my blog, she now has fans all over the world!

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