Riddlesden Jacobs

A site about a West Yorkshire flock of Jacob Sheep


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Waiting For Lambs

I don’t like this bit. I don’t like the waiting. I get restless and anxious. I always feel better once the first lambs are safely with us. For now though, we wait.

The ewes are fed up. They slowly waddle their way over at feeding time and only move once they are absolutely sure we are actually going to feed them and haven’t just popped by the field for something else. They spend some time grazing, moving slowly and deliberately and if you watch closely you can see the lambs kicking inside them. A lot of the time they simply lie down, chewing the cud, but mostly just being fed up.

Today was the first possible lambing day. It is however quite likely that the first one was a miss and she’ll actually be last in which case Tuesday is the first lambing day. Our number 6 – the ewe with the prolapse is doing fine. While the prolapse seemed to be popping back itself each time, it was happening quite a lot so in the end we made a harness out of baling twine and that seems to have done the trick. I was a little worried that it wasn’t tight enough but it seems to be working. You can’t even see it on her really – not unless you know it’s there anyway. She’s one of 2 ewes due Tuesday.

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We’re ready, well as ready as we can be. We’ve had a bag with towels, colostrum replacer and bottles in the car for a couple of weeks now and flasks of hot water as well as hot water bottles to hand when we’ve done the early morning and late evening checks. We’ve got a box in the car with glucose and calcium for the ewes if they should struggle, we also have antibiotics and painkillers for the ewes just in case. More bottles, lamb macs in case the weather turns nasty (yep, little raincoats for lambs; we were a bit embarrassed when we first bought them but were assured that we weren’t being soft and that many farmers round her do use them) and other bits and pieces that we might need are all there ready to go. We used to have a bag for all this with useful dividers and pockets so you could find things quickly but the strap broke. We’ve just ordered a backpack which should arrive tomorrow and most of the stuff should fit in there. Easier to just have one go to bag that you can grab while still half a sleep – it also means we have everything even if we’re not in the car.

We’re also ready at home. More bottles, more colostrum replacer and powdered milk – just in case. We are of course hoping we won’t need any of it but sod’s law dictates that if we don’t get it ready we’ll need it and it will all be stressful and a bit of a panic.

And now we wait.


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Learning about prolapse

We’re not far off lambing now. Our first ewe is due in a week. We’ve been watching our ewes carefully and all seemed fine. We had a bit of a scare last Monday. Kath’s mum spotted something not quite right with our number 6. She appeared to be starting to lamb and something which looked like it might be the birth sack popped out. By the time we got there, Number 6 was up and absolutely fine. We spoke to our vet and took the ewe down to the surgery to be examined. She was absolutely fine (if a little annoyed at being bundled into the trailer). There were no signs of her lambing or of anything being wrong. The vet just advised to give her more time.

We kept her in over night and for much of the next day but there was no sign of anything being wrong so we let her out again and she joined the rest of the flock quite happily. Then yesterday while Kath was out for a run she saw Number 6 lying on her side straining again and a roughly mango sized pink fleshy thing coming out. However, it quickly popped back in – in just a few minutes. We realised that actually this was a vaginal prolapse that was popping back in itself. We phoned the vet for advice – there is so much information online that by the time we’d spent half an hour reading  some of it, we didn’t know whether to harness the ewe up to support the prolapse, use a prolapse spoon thingy or what. Anyway, the vet said that given that it was popping back in itself very quickly it was best just to leave the ewe to it but to expect it to happen again – several times possibly – before she actually lambs.

We’ve had no experience with prolapse. None of our ewes have suffered with it before and it was not something prevalent in the flock from which our sheep come either. I suppose that’s a good thing but it did make us feel a little lost and a little silly. We should have realised that this was happening and we could have spared us all a lot of stress on Monday! Now  of course we know! We have a set of 3 prolapse spoon/ retainer thingies that Malcolm gave us when he dissolved his flock but I’m really not sure about them! They make me cross my legs tight and make pelvic floor exercises seem strangely attractive.

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Prolapse Retainers – Hm!

There are also harnesses and instructions on how to make your own and it seems that basically you parcel the ewe up like a Christmas present! There’s a lot of info online and if we need to, I think we’ll be able to make a harness but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. We may however buy an adjustable  harness next time we’re in a shop or ordering stuff online anyway – we’ve got it then. In fact, I am wondering if the random contraption that we decided wasn’t anything or was missing the key bits, may in fact have been a harness. Oh well, that’s gone.

We are hoping to get some time to update and sort out the blog and website tomorrow so it’s all ready for the lambing updates. We meant to have done this already but we’ve been busy and I (Jess) have been down with flu/migraine and therefore nowhere near screens for a week.


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A Ram Lamb called Gravy

There once was a lamb called Gravy…. and there still is. Although by all accounts there shouldn’t be. This is his story.

Gravy was born on 6th April 2015 as one of triplets. He was tiny, really tiny and when they were born we looked at each other with that knowing look. ‘He won’t make it’ we thought. But he survived and him and his 2 sisters were soon out in the field with their mum, who couldn’t really count. She often forgot about Gravy and Gravy often wandered off. He wasn’t really getting bigger. ‘He won’t make it’ we thought. But he did.

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Triplet ram

Eventually Gravy even grew a little. Just a little mind. Then he put all of his effort into growing his horns, because a small little ram needs BIG horns, obviously. That’s not all he grew. As spring turned into summer, Gravy tried hard to grow in size and catch up with the other ram lambs born that year but it didn’t really work, he stayed smaller than most of the ewe lambs. When we moved all the ram lambs out and away from the ewes he bore the brunt of the others’ frustrations. Easy to pick on the little one. The boys grew nicely, Gravy didn’t.

Then just before Christmas we got a call, a call no sheep owner wants to get. Kath’s mum had been looking for Gravy for over an hour. He wasn’t in the field with the others and she couldn’t find him anywhere. There was wool though, a big chunk of it. We raced on and eventually found Gravy, he was nearly dead in a stream with awful wounds to his back leg. We wrote about the dog attack here. We looked at each other, the same look we’d given each other when he was born. ‘He’s not going to make it’ we thought. But he did. We wrote a little about his recovery here.

Brough and Triplet 2

Once fully recovered Gravy put more effort into growing his horns and his testicles. Nothing else grew much at all. As we stood watching over the gate one evening Kath remarked ‘Don’t think we’d even get gravy off that triplet’ and that’s how Gravy got his name. His ‘brothers’ went away to be turned into chops but Gravy wasn’t even worth the gravy we might have got. He was however invincible. He squared up to Brough, his Dad and would not be bullied off food. He thought he was top dog even when one of Brough’s nudges made him fly ten feet through the air. Gravy was a superhero.

Gravy’s superhero status was briefly threatened when we bought Dino. Gravy clearly took exception to this posh boy coming in. We put them in a field together once we took Dino out of the field with the ewes. Gravy ran at Dino from 20 yards. We looked at each other. ‘They’ll figure’ we thought. They didn’t. We had to separate them. Gravy wasn’t giving up his patch. Gravy is a superhero.

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Two weeks ago our superhero’s time was up. We had orders for 4 lambs. 3 of the 2016 born rams and Gravy were due to go. Gravy, usually quite content to stand next to us at the feeding through, took one look at us and bolted. We tried to round him up and funnel him into the catching pen but he wasn’t having any of it. In the end we had to cancel two of the half lamb orders (or rather postpone them) and just take the other three. Gravy had escaped death again – but not for long. The next batch of lamb would be ready soon and we’d just take him then.

But that’s not how Gravy’s story ends because last weekend we got a message on preloved where we had advertised the rams ages ago and where I’d just let the ad running  – mainly because I forgot. Someone was interested in buying a ram. I responded a little apologetically explaining that we only had the rather small 2015 born one left really but he was welcome to come and see him. I attached a photo and wasn’t expecting much really but ,Gravy being Gravy, he impressed. He was picked up earlier today and is going to a nice new home in Bradford where he will, for the first time ever, be able to admire (and more) some ewes from the correct side of the fence and all that effort into growing horns and testicles will have been worth it after all.

Good luck Gravy, our Number 29 and very much our super sheep!

 

 

 


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Checking sheep and thunderstorms

If you were in Riddlesden last night you will have been treated to a spectacular thunderstorm. The lightning created quite a light show in the sky and the thunder was deafening – and rumbled on for a very long time.

img_1335Over the last few days we have been checking all our sheep. Obviously this is something we need to do regularly. We see them almost every day anyway and keep an eye on them so we’d spot any urgent problems. However, every so often we bring them all in and have a look at all of them properly. We try and coincide this with worming or any other regular treatment they might need. This round of routine maintenance showed again how important it is to know your sheep and keep an eye on them. We got all the rams into the shed (they follow a bucket – makes life so much easier) and a couple just had slightly mucky back ends. One of them though was behaving a little oddly. He was more nervous around us than usual and just laid down in the corner of the shed while we were looking at another one. We couldn’t immediately see a problem though when we got hold of him. He was a little mucky but didn’t seem to be scouring badly at all. Because he had been a bit weird we took our time, turned him over and had a really good look and then we spotted it – just a few little maggots on the inside of his back leg. Nothing dramatic but definitely the start of something potentially very nasty.img_1337

We sorted him out, treated the little wound with antiseptic spray and also sprayed him with fly and maggot killer. We so easily could have missed that but we both just felt he wasn’t quite right. We checked him the next day and he’s fine. Then we wormed all the boys. Given that we have a half marathon coming up shortly and neither of us bends or bounces like we used to, we left the girls for another day. Better not to do our backs in!

Last night we planned to check the girls, worm them and then sit with them and have a little BBQ.img_1360 The girls were a little spooked and getting them penned up wasn’t as straight forward as usual. They came into the big pen fine but it took as a couple of goes to get them into the smaller pen so we could work. Some of our calmest ewes were clearly anxious about something. The girls were all fine and we worked through worming them quite quickly. It was hot and muggy and they were panting away so we were keen to get them out again.

When we were done we were looking forward to a little sit down and some food and we turned round and were treated to this view of the sky getting darker and darker:

The sky was getting more and more menacing every minute and we (wisely, it turned out) decided to abandon the BBQ and head home. Just as well really because just about 15 minutes after we got home the sky at the back of our house looked like this:

The storm at least explains why the sheep were anxious, they could probably sense it coming and didn’t want to be penned up in a small space. I can sympathise with that. I’d love know where they sheltered and how they deal with a thunderstorm but I wasn’t about to head out and check!


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Stealing Babies

Catch up Blog 3. I mentioned the dark faced ewe (Number 1) behaving a bit oddly on Thursday. Well she went totally weird yesterday (Saturday). We had been trying to keep an eye on our oldest and most experienced two horn ewe, Number 12. She had been looking thoroughly fed up for days and was just huge. I’d noticed the black faced one going to her quite a bit on Friday but on Saturday she just wouldn’t leave her alone.

We got a call from Kath’s mum around 8.30am saying that Number 12 was off on her own standing and staring. We went to the field. She wasn’t obviously in labour and she was with the black faced ewe. We went and had a cup fo tea and then came back. The black faced ewe was now glued to Number 12. Whenever Number 12 took a step so did she. Number 12 was clearly getting agitated by her but she wouldn’t leave her alone. We made two unsuccessful attempts at seperating them but we were risking stressing Number 12 even further. We just watched from a distance.

After an hour or so the ewes all settled down again and Number 1 left number 12 alone so we went and had lunch and then came back just to see the two ewes glued together again with Number 12 trying to walk away from Number 1. We were  debating what to do and wondering if we needed to try again to separate them. Number 12 didn’t look like she was in active labour but she did stop frequently and went crouched a little as if to pee – she didn’t seem to be straining at all though. In the middle of that conversation Kath looked up and said ‘ She’s just popped out a lamb’ – and she had. Just like that.

Both Number 12 and Number 1 were  licking the lamb. Kath approached but backed off because both ewes backed away from the lamb as she got close. They both continued washing it.  Number 1 was so frantic she actually rolled the lamb down the hill and Number 12 was getting increasingly agitated. We had to do something. We walked towards them cautiously – we didn’t want both of them to abandon the lamb. Kath tried to get hold of Number 1 but couldn’t hold her so we decided to take them in. Kath picked the lamb up and both ewes followed bleating and trying to get to the lamb and lick it. I followed behind. We got Number 12 into the shed and penned and Number 1 continued to bleat and try and get to the lamb. She seemed really upset that Kath had taken her baby off her eventhough it wasn’t her lamb.

Has anyone else experienced this? Number 1 had twins last year both of which died and she spent a week or so walking the field bleating for them so we wondered whether her hormones and instincts were just in overdrive.

 

 


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17 hours and counting

The wait is over. At about 5.06am this morning my mobile rang and woke me up – Kath had gone to check the field early and our shearling 4 horn, we call her Stumpy because she broke off both her side horns when she was a lamb, had just had twins. They were apparently fine. I jumped up and threw some clothes on and made a flask of tea and headed off. I think I was nearly at the field before I really realised what was happening.

When I got there Kath had become concerned about one of the lambs. The ewe wasn’t really licking them and one in particular looked very cold. We decided they needed to come in. The ewe followed Kath carrying the lambs into the shed with only one little incident where she nearly ran off. My fault, I got too close just as she was going into the shed. Eventually lambs and ewe were safely penned though and we rubbed the lambs down with straw and towels. The ewe hadn’t really licked them enough and they were still very wet.

We were struggling to get them warm and by 6.15 I went to Anne’s for a hot water bottle. It was also clear that the poor ewe was bewildered and very very sore. She didn’t want the lambs to drink and kicked us away as we tried to help, too. The lambs were going downhill and we just couldn’t get them warm. We made up a bottle of volostrum – artificial colostrum and I tried to get them to drink some of that while Kath went for more hot water bottles and a box. Once we got the lambs into the makeshift lamb warming box and I managed to get a bit of volostrum in them the lambs came round a bit. We gave the ewe a shot of antibiotics to give her system a boost

We left the lambs in the box and went home for breakfast. We’d done all we could for now and hoped that some time just left alone would allow her to bond with the lambs. I called the vet to ask for some painkiller for the ewe because she really wasn’t keen to let the lambs drink. I went back to see the ewe and the lambs were warm and dry and I took them out of the box and put them with her. They wanted to be with her and she nuzzled them. Then I went to pick up my mum and the painkiller from the vet. When I got back to the field the ewe and the lambs were on their feet and judging by their bellies the lambs had had some milk. I injected the painkiller and watched the little ram lamb latch onto the ewe.

As the day went on we kept popping back to check on the lambs and we did try and top them up with the volostrum and then later with the powdered milk stuff but they are clearly getting milk from the ewe and her instincts are slowly kicking in. We’ve seen them both up and about (and the ram lamb was now piddled on his sister twice – you can see him standing over her in the picture above) and we’ve seen both drink from the ewe. I am about to go and do the last evening check and then Kath will do early morning again. We’re not there yet but I’m hopeful – the lambs have survived at least 17 hours now, I am willing them to make it.


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Not a good start

Lambing season 2016 started with heartbreak. Last week I arrived at the field to see ewe 17 off on her own. I was immediately worried because she wasn’t due to lamb for another 16 days. As I walked over to her I could see her water sack hanging out. I watched for a while but there was no sign of anything happening. I called our friend Malcolm for a second opinion and help and we managed to catch the sheep and then get her penned in the shed. I left number 17 for a little while while I raced home, got changed, grabbed our kit and rang the vet. When I got back to her there was still no sign of anything.

The vet from Aireworth vets came and she was brilliant. She confirmed my suspicions that the ewe was aborting rather than actually lambing and it took 90 minutes to get the three lambs out of the ewe. The first two were dead, the third took a few breaths before slipping away. Number 17 licked it briefly and nuzzled it and we all stepped away to give it and her a chance but by the time I came back from taking the vet up to her car a few minutes later the lamb was dead.

Number 17 seemed OK. She had been given antibiotics and we kept her in th shed. The next day I checked her and she seemed OK but not quite right and I decided to keep her in another day until Kath was back from a work trip. That also meant I could give her another shot of antibiotics. The next day we walked her and our tame ewe Edith to the other field to keep her away from the other pregnant ewes just in case the cause of the triplets dying was something contagious. The vet said it was more likely to be a problem with the ewe given that she also lost triplets last year but better to be safe.

Number 17 was obviously a little sore but moved ok. She seemed OK on Saturday too but had perhaps got a little more stiff.  On Sunday thought Kath found her barely alive at the bottom of the field. She got Bernard with his quad bike and little trailer and took her back onto the shed and got stronger antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory from the vet. Unfortunately number 17 didn’t improve. On Monday morning Kath took her to the vet to have her put down.

Rest in peace our gorgeous girl.image