Sheep farming

#Lambing16: Key Stories From The Season (Part 2)

Hello all and welcome back to the Livestock Farming blog. This post is the second part of our 3-part series about #Lambing16. Sharing their experiences, we have Jodi, James, Gillian & Ian, and Rachel & Shaun. This week’s post is a rollercoaster of emotions with the shepherds and shepherdesses sharing their best and worst moments of #Lambing16.

Qu: What were your best & worst moments of #Lambing16?

Rachel & Shaun (R&S): The best moment – so far, as we've still about two weeks to go – has been Shaun delivering his first lamb, unaided.  The lamb was presenting normally but had one leg bent back, so Shaun had to help the ewe to deliver the lamb and both ewe and lamb are now doing really well.

The worst moment was losing Pollux.  One of our ewes, Moonbeam, had twin boys on a really clear and starry night so we called them Castor and Pollux.  Castor thrived but Pollux wouldn't suckle.  We tubed him with colostrum and kept him in with mum but bottle fed him.  He would take about 50ml but then cough and sneeze and milk would come out of his nose.  We sought help and one of our neighbours advised us that he had a cleft palate and, as such, simply couldn't survive. Sadly, Pollux died and, although that was really sad, the worst and hardest thing to accept was knowing that there was nothing we could do to save him.

Jodi (JF): We’ll start with the worst and get the over and done with, there are two occasions that spring to mind…

I have a ewe who is very affectionate, until that is, you come to have to do something with her. She prolapsed in the later period of pregnancy and developed mild stress related twin lamb syndrome shortly after... When she started to lamb she pushed the prolapse out again and when I eventually caught her up and into a pen (After several scenic walks around the whole field at 5am) and replaced the offending prolapse, I was dismayed to find she had ring womb, just to top it all off!

Now when I say ring womb, I don’t mean a mild case, I mean three tight unforgiving rings. It took me an hour to manually manipulate these into giving ways enough to get a rather large ram lamb out, whilst having to contend with her kicking me in the face and stomach.

Then there was Ivan, a big name for a little man, he was born as a twin but clearly shouldn’t have been! He was minute, a full 3kgs lighter than his sibling. The ewe was down as a single but decided to give me twins instead. He became very weak, very quickly after birth and had little to no sucking reflex. I immediately milked 100mls of colostrum off his dam and gave it to him via a stomach tube.

I repeated this every 2hrs, including through the night and was amazed to find him up and about of his own accord the following morning. He remained a little aloof but took himself to his dam to feed, I thought we were set to continue progressing in this way, but sadly it was not to be and I lost him a few days later.

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Now the best!

I think the best moment of this season has to be when Tilly the sock lamb was adopted by Nancy the ewe! Tilly was an orphan lamb from a friend of mine’s farm, she was nearly a week old and very much used to being bottle fed by a being with two legs, not four!

As Nancy had her ram lamb, I tied Tilly’s legs together so she couldn’t run off after me and emptied the contents of what was left of the sack the ram had been born in, there wasn’t much so I also placed the sack membrane around her rear and rubbed as much fluid over her head and body as I could.

I left the pen, then hid watching through a crack in the boarding, I held my breath as Nancy approached her, sniffing the membrane, then going back to the ram and finally back to Tilly, she then began to ‘clean’ her. I was so pleased! But we weren’t out of the woods yet, even if Nancy accepted Tilly as her own, would Tilly accept her?

Tilly being the monkey she is, slipped out of the string I used to stop her from walking off. She got up and walked away from Nancy, I began to get a sinking feeling... but all of a sudden Tilly turned and went straight to Nancy and began to suckle, totally incredible when, as far as I am aware, she hasn’t once suckled from a ewe. They are now completely happy as mother and daughter and continue to show how string a bond they have. Success!

Gillian & Ian (G&I): Best: Reviving a lamb who appeared dead. I check the lambing shed hourly during the day and discovered a ewe who had got on quickly with her lambing and pushed out her first twin as a complete breech, with tail coming first and both rear legs folded back under. I would never have believed it possible had I not found her struggling with the final pushes. Once I realised what presentation I was seeing, there was no way I could push it back in to realign the rear legs, so had to help her pull it off as presented. It came surprisingly easily but was lifeless. I tried all the usual straw up the nose, rubbing vigorously, pinching the ear.

After 5 minutes with no change I was about to give up, defeated and upset at myself for not being there sooner, when I noticed a tiny pulse throbbing in its neck. I continued and a first breath, then another. I'd won! It took about an hour before it tried to stand but head up took colostrum offered from bottle. She is now 3 months old and you'd never know she had such a traumatic start in life.

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Worst: Frustration more than anything. We had our ewes scanned by our usual chap, were expecting the usual mix of twins and singles with 2 lots of triplets. Obligingly the triplets arrived at the same time as singles so quick text-book adoptions were made. However, we had another couple of sets of triplets born that we were not expecting, (hadn't fed the ewes for triplets) and I duly adopted them on to ewes scanned for singles, only for the foster mums to promptly lay down and push out a second of their own, I did curse the scanner after the second time it happened! The poor lambs each had 3 mums by the time they finally were matched up. 

James (JR): Best would have to be meeting James (AKA @solwayshepherd) on the farm he was working and learning from James and the other guys there and getting stuck in. I've been back a few times since then and have learnt more each time I went. I'm more confident and have the skills to deliver lambs, along with tubing and knowing signs of various illnesses.

Worst part would be having a lamb die in my hands that had had its navel pecked at by crows and left it with its insides hanging out. I expected having to deal with dead stock, but not like that. It didn't make me sad, but more a downer with a sense of "OK, I didn't expect this, now how can I / we prevent this for next time?"

Well I think it’s fair to say the drama experienced by our guests is far more real and gritty than that portrayed on the Archers! With success there was also heartbreak for each of our farmers. This about wraps our penultimate post of our 3-part series, be sure to check back next time where we ask the farmers what they will be looking to implement for #Lambing17.

Have any comments about this post? Comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this post and what you’d like to see. Otherwise, please do tweet and follow us at @Sheep_Farmers for the latest news affecting UK sheep farmers today.

To learn more about our guest authors, click on their image below to go to their Twitter pages.

Lambing16 Key Stories From the Season Part 2 JodiLambing16 Key Stories From the Season Part 2 JamesLambing16 Key Stories From the Season Part 2 Gillian IanLambing16 Key Stories From the Season Part 2 Rachel Shaun

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