A particularly dramatic start today as I was greeted by the farmers wife (I'll call her Tina) who said that the farmer was at market for the day and we needed to go and sort out a couple of ewes in one of the fields. She rode the quad bike and I perched on the side. It makes me laugh that quad bikes have signs on them about the dangers of carrying passengers and stuff. Often there are three of us, a dog and perhaps a few bags of feed on the bike. Anyway, today there were only two of us, with a trailer on the back with a dog in. We zoom off down the track to a field about 1/4 of a mile away, and I wished I'd brought a woolly hat with me because even though the sun is shining the wind chill was pretty impressive. We drove slowly across a field full of mules (that's a kind of commercial hybrid sheep) looking for one having trouble lambing and one with a prolapse. Eventually she spotted one lying down straining and as she slowly drew the bike alongside I leapt* off and sunk my hands into the wool on the ewes shoulders and leaned on her so she was almost rolled onto her side, this meant that I both had a firm grip and was effectively pinning her down so she couldn't leap to her feet and run off. Mules are big rangy sheep, and if she had leapt up and been a feisty one she may well have knocked me over into the mud and got away from me. It turned out she was the one with the prolapse. Tina proceeded to stuff the large pink mass back inside the ewe. This one was about the size of two grapefruits, so took a bit of getting back in. No messing about with disinfectants, lubricants and all that textbook stuff, just shove it back in. Then the ewe gets to wear a harness that (most of the time) stops it coming out again. The harness is designed to allow the lambs to come out when their time is due, but sometimes they get caught up and strangled. So, drama one was sorted and the ewe tottered off and was able to have a pee. By now we had spotted another ewe over by the hedge looking a likely suspect for the lambing trouble. We repeated the sneaking up on the bike and me jumping off procedure, tho it wasn't really necessary as she'd been trying to lamb for several hours and was utterly exhausted. The lamb had a head and one foot out. Tina found the other leg, so it was a normal presentation, just a big lamb, pulled it out, laid it by the ewes nose put her arm inside and pulled the other one out. Both lambs were alive and fine. Normally a ewe will immediately start licking her lamb when it's put by her head, this ewe was too tired to care. We put the lambs in the trailer and manhandled/dragged the ewe into the trailer, she was certainly too tired to stand. On our way back across the field we spotted another ewe who had one lamb out and was pushing the next one. For the third time that morning I jumped off the bike and grabbed a ewe. As I did so I spotted another lamb already out, so it was triplets. Tina quickly pulled the last lamb out and stacked them together. We turned the ewe round so her nose was on them, and when she'd started licking them we let her go. If you let the ewes go and they are facing away from their lambs they will often just run away, they are not the brightest of animals. We couldn't fit another ewe with triplets in the trailer, partly because we had a dog in there, but also because it's very important not to mix up the lambs because they all look the same to us, but ewes have a strong sense of smell and will always reject a lamb that doesn't smell like hers. If you get the lambs mixed up it can be a terrible job sorting them out as the ewes will often take some time to decide that it's not her lamb! The dog ended up just coming along for the ride as we didn't need her help. If I had failed to catch any of the ewes we may have had to round up the whole lot in one corner and then dive in and grab the one we wanted. Not unlike playing rugby I guess, not that I've ever played rugby.
So, dramas over we went back to the farmyard and put the tired ewe and her lambs into a pen. Luckily she was just about up to standing by then so we pushed and shoved her in and didn't have to carry her bodily. In the pen she has a deep bed of clean straw, a bucket of water and a rack of hay. All the ewes with two or more lambs are put into individual pens.She will be left in there for a few days until she has bonded with the lambs and the lambs are both looking strong and healthy, then the lambs will be 'ringed' on their tails and testicles to make them all fall off. All three will then have the same number sprayed on them so they can be matched up if there are problems, and they will go back out into smaller paddocks where they can be closely monitored. Tina went back to the field to pick up the ewe with triplets, who will probably follow when her lambs are carried into the trailer and then into a pen
suffolks in. Suffolks are a pure breed that have short legs and black faces. They all seemed much more interested in the fact that I might have come to feed them than in lambing, so that was all my duties done for the first day, with an exciting start.
During the morning it's mayhem in the yard. Grandad (the farmers dad) is in and out in his jeep, the new farm lad is zooming about with bags of feed on the quad bike, someone has come to service the farm quad bike so it's out of use for the rest of the morning and I have to use the sons quad, which is much posher and less abused than the farm one. The son is also in and out of the yard with tractors moving feed hither and thither for cattle. Peaceful it is not. From mid morning onwards the sheep in the pens start shouting at you whenever you go in as they think it might be feeding time. It's much too noisy to be able to hold a conversation on the phone for example!
This took me ages to type and edit. So, although I am full of good intentions it may be unrealistic for me to post every day. Perhaps I can just do a 'what I did today' list on some days? Ho hum, off to bed now.'
* the spell check didn't like this word, anyone got any suggestions?!