Riddlesden Jacobs

A site about a West Yorkshire flock of Jacob Sheep

Lambing season nightmares

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So of course we are behind with the blogging and haven’t been all that active on Facebook either. Things just haven’t gone very well and it’s hard to post the bad news and it’s hard to pick ourselves up and keep going. It’s hard not quite understanding what the problems are and how to deal with them. It’s hard to be this tired and emotionally drained and still
function. We are working in shifts but are still both operating on far too little sleep but that’s not a problem when you don’t have the emotional roller coaster to deal with as well. Lambs dying in your arms or finding dead lambs in the field kicks you in the stomach and takes your breath away in a way which is hard to explain. It makes you doubt everything you’ve ever known and done and it makes you feel like you are letting the flock, the ewes and their babies down.

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Snuffles in our kitchen

So after Kevin and Snuffles were rejected and came to live in our house, they came round really well, thrived and are now spending their second night on at the field in the shed. We have barricaded them in because both turned out to be proper little escape artists. They are still doing really well and getting them to the field was the right thing to do. They are a week old now.

Then on 22nd March we lost twins. Sometime between 6am and 7am our Number 15 gave birth to twin lambs. Kath had checked at 6am and went to check again just before 7am and found the lambs. Both were licked but were lying in really odd positions and the ewe had walked away. It was bizarre and upsetting. The weather was shocking but they shouldn’t have gone downhill that fast.

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Number 2 and her twins

The 2 horn ewe we’ve called ‘triplet mum’ all year was showing signs and was being decidedly odd and wandering round the field randomly. We wondered about whether we could get her in and a couple of times she went into the shed on her own and the second time I managed to shut her in. We penned her and she had twins that evening. They seemed fine but the ewe was doing very little to mother them and her behaviour seemed tentative and reluctant when compared to how she dealt with the triplets last year

The day after Kath walked the field at 4.30am and the shearling ewe was laying down looking as though she was asleep. Behind her, about 2 metres away was a lamb just laid out. Kath got to it and it was alive. The shearling wasn’t interested in the lamb at all. It was well licked but the ewe showed no reaction even when it bleated. We couldn’t get the ewe in – she wouldn’t follow the lamb and kept running off. We took the lamb home and it seemed to be doing well. It was big and solid. She had some colostrum replacer and warmed up well. Then she seemed to have a little fit, went all floppy and stopped breathing and died in my arms.

Yesterday number 12 lambed outside. She is the last of a group of 2 horn ewes we call

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Number 12 and Dewey shortly after birth

super-mums because that’s what they always have been. Kath was there when he was born and called him Dewey because it was a beautiful spring morning with the light playing with the dew drops on the grass. He seemed to be going strong and number 12 was licking him dry. Then he also seemed to go downhill and Number 12 lost interest and nearly walked away. We managed to bring them in and after having him in a lamb box and warming him up and giving him some colostrum replacer we decided, reluctantly, to force the issue and leave him with Number 12. It worked, he’s still a little weaker than we’d like but he’s come round and today we let them out. Number 12 is much happier outside and little Dewey has been getting stronger.

We now have 2 left to lamb and we are concerned. There is something going on with the flock. The ewes are all behaving differently to previous years, the ewes aren’t mothering the lambs and the lambs seem a bit unresponsive for the first 24 hours or so. We have sought advice and read as much as we’ve had time to but there is lots of conflicting advice out there. Some suggest it has something to do with our tup but that doesn’t make much sense to us. Dino is a good tup with a good and unrelated bloodline so there should be no issues. Others have suggested it’s just the weather and we were unlucky which might be true for Number 15 but doesn’t explain the others. Other possibilities include the ewes’ condition before tupping and the feed etc throughout pregnancy but that’s been no different to other years. The most logical explanation so far is a possible mineral deficiency. We feed ewe nuts and other feed which is enriched with minerals and we have had an energy lick bucket which also contains minerals in the field since December but maybe that’s not enough. We’ve now added a mineral lick bucket which contains high levels of selenium and vitamin E. We’ll do some research on a mineral drench for next year.

More detailed updates on the new lambs to follow but let’s end on a happy picture – the triplets playing in the sun earlier today.

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Author: Jess Guth

Dr Jess Guth is a Senior Lecturer in Law. She blogs at jessguth.com She also doesn't really run - reallynotarunner.com

One thought on “Lambing season nightmares

  1. Pingback: Stumpy’s twin girls | Riddlesden Jacobs

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