Riddlesden Jacobs

A site about a West Yorkshire flock of Jacob Sheep


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Stumpy’s twin girls

This afternoon our ewe Stumpy (Number 14) had twin gimmer lambs. She is a remarkable ewe. She took herself into the shed and effectively lambed in a made up lambing pen. All we had to do was shut the pen once we found her. We also of course tidied up the pen and removed all the wet and dirty straw. It was really quite something. I wonder if she remembers the shed as a safe space. We do feed in there sometimes and we used to use it for catching them and doing their feet and injections etc but have stopped doing that because we want to ewes to use it as a safe place for themselves and their lambs. Maybe she remembers being taken in there after lambing last year, maybe she even remembers being a lamb in there herself. If only they were all that easy!

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Our problems continue though. The lambs again appear weak and shivery. They are not as responsive as usual and Stumpy – who was pretty close to supermum status last year appears a bit unsure of what to do with these two. We have checked on them several times over the course of the afternoon and evening and they seem warm. We have seen one of them drink off Stumpy but not the other (but it might have done) and we have topped them both up with some colostrum replacer just in case. All we can do now is keep checking and wait. It will either play out like it did for little Dewey and Number 12 or it will be horrendous and go more like it did for little Guzzle. I will see if I can top both of them up with some more colostrum replacer when I check later and feed Kevin and Snuffles and then we just have to keep our fingers crossed that they make it through the night. If they do I think they’ll be ok.

They both look like big strong healthy lambs so it’s a bit of a mystery. One of them is really fluffy – you can sort of see on the picture. I really do hope they make it. Part of me just wants to take them home and try and protect them but the best thing for them is to be with their mother and quite honestly – I’m not sure I have another week of lambs in our utility room in me.

I have today also finally managed to finish the blog posts on all of the recent events briefly outlined in the last blog – they are now all scheduled to post in the next half hour – hopefully in the order that events unfolded. As things are a little calmer now we will try and stay a bit more on top of the blog and also on Facebook.

Just a shearling to go!

Happy reading.

 


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Lambing season nightmares

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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What goes in must come out

Lambs pee a lot! I forget just how much from bottle fed lamb to bottle fed lamb. How is it

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Snuffles aged about 30 hours

possible that when you put 150ml in, gallons come out. I have been at work (ok ok, I’ve been in a hotel bar in Leeds having productive conversations with a lovely colleague) for a lot of the day today while Kath has looked after the lambs. But even in the time I have been here I have had several pee incidents. Kevin peed on my foot, twice; Snuffles peed down my leg and she’s got a good aim because she also managed to pee straight into my jacket pocket as I was carrying her out the door to make her run up and down our drive for a bit. The car keys seem to have survived but my train pass looks a bit worse for wear. I’ve also stood in several puddles.

Anyway, updates. The weather is horrible and I am once again worried sick but all ewes are fine and not showing any signs of lambing imminently. The next two should be due on Wednesday/Thursday but there are two unknowns. We are continuing the frequent checks. I’ll be going on in a little while – in the middle of a thunder storm by the sound of things out there. The weather forecast just now mentioned the possibility of snow. Great.

IMG_3752The triplets are thriving and it was lovely to see them bouncing about and playing around the shed door when we went to feed the ewes earlier. Number 6 is struggling a little. She has a bit of a smelly backend and possibly a little bit of a discharge. We have given her some more antibiotics and the vet confirmed the ones we have are the best ones and advised another dose in 3 day’s time. If that doesn’t sort it, we might have to take her down to the vet’s just to make sure there isn’t any internal damage from the prolapse and tricky birth. She seems ok in herself and it clearly feeding and looking after the triplets. We’ll keep an eye on her.

Kevin and Snuffles have decided to embrace life. They look and behave like different lambs to the ones we brought home on Saturday and even the difference between yesterday and this morning is huge. We took them with us to Kath’s mum’s for Sunday lunch yesterday and they spent most of the time asleep with one or two little wobbly 30 second run arounds. Watching them develop is phenomenal. Snuffles seems to have grown into her skin and isn’t quite as wrinkly as she was. Her horns are also pushing through and she keeps trying to scratch her head with her back leg. This morning she kept falling over, this evening she can do it. Kevin’s horns are also pushing on and he IMG_3745has, in the last 24 hours, developed some sharp little teeth which he has taken to sinking into my toes. When I put them to bed last night, bottle feeding was a bit tricky. They weren’t entirely confident with the bottle and needed to be held on my knee and then have their head held and the bottle held in place. This morning they woke up seemingly having learned how to latch onto a bottle and suck the hell out of it.

Kath has spent a lot of time playing with them today and they are much more confident on their feet. They have been bouncing around our house and this afternoon have had a little outing into the garden and onto the drive. We seem to have exhausted them and they have been asleep for the last 4 hours. This is a really good sign. They are now able to take on enough milk to keep them going for quite a while. Yesterday they managed 30-50ml max, this evening Kevin would have guzzled a 450 ml bottle in one go if we’d let him (we stopped him – we don’t want him to get bloated). Snuffles, who is much smaller, had 200ml earlier.

Snuffles and Kevin will stay with us at home until all the other lambs have arrived in case we need the shed for a maternity unit. By the time we’re ready to take them on to the shed they should be on pretty regular and relatively large feeds which means they’ll be able to go through the night quite well. Right, I’m going to get ready to wake them and feed them.  Somehow I’m going to have to do both at once – otherwise the one not on the bottle will scream the place down and wake Kath. Wish me luck.


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Meet Kevin and Snuffles

Today has been one of those roller coaster lambing days. I am writing this with a little ram lamb (Kevin) on my knee. Some time between just after midnight and just after 4am black faced ewe had twins. When Kath got there the little girl was laid out and the ram lamb was cold and shivering. She brought them into the shed. The ewe had just been standing staring at them. She had obviously licked them dry a little but not that much. Kath used our home made lamb box (hot water bottle under straw and a towel over the top) to bring them round. Both has some colostrum replacer with the little girl having most of it and they seemed to come round. Both were up and both has a little drink off the ewe. Kath came away to let them settle.

 

She went back  an hour later and they seemed to be ok although the ewe wasn’t being very attentive. We then went on together about 9am ish and again the lambs seemed to be doing ok but the ewe was mostly just staring at them. We had hoped to get lambmacs on them and then get them out but they were clearly not yet ready for that. We needed to nip into town and buy sheep food and we thought we’d pick up some more colostrum
replacer too, just in case. Glad we did! We decided we’d see what the lambs were like again on the way back.

When we got back, the gimmer lamb has gone downhill rapidly and the ewe wasn’t interested. We got a hot water bottle on the lamb and made another bottle of volostrum up and tried to get her to take some. She had a few tiny little sips. The ram lamb was shivering. It was clear that the ewe had given up on or rejected the gimmer lamb so we decided to take her home.  The ewe was protective over the ram lamb so we thought maybe if she could focus on him, she’d mother him more. We took her home and tried to get her warm and some life into her. There didn’t seem to be much fight. Kath then went back to check if black faced ewe had made any atIMG_3664 (640x480)tempt to get the ram lamb up and drinking while mum and I sat rubbing the gimmer lamb and sort of waiting for her to die. The ram  was bleating at the ewe and she was just staring at him. Kath brought him home. Mum and I then sat with a lamb each on our knees rubbing them and keeping them warm and I think we were both fairly convinced they would die. Kath made us some lunch and we just kept trying to get lambs warmed through and worried about them not drinking at all.

Slowly slowly slowly thought they warmed up a little. Once there was a little bit of warmth in them we wondered if we dare hope. Then the gimmer found her voice and then she peed all over me. Sings of life. The ram lamb was still going downhill. He’d seemed stronger when we got him home but now he couldn’t hold his own head up. But our lamb box, a fire and the sun through the window did the job. The lambs warmed up and once properly warmed though tried more food. They finished the volostrum we’d made for them and had a little normal lamb milk. It felt like they might come round and they could even both stand and take a few steps. Then the gimmer lamb just collapsed again. Just standing for a minute or so had exhausted her completely.

When it started to look like the lambs might make it, they needed names. Bottle fed lambs get names, even the ones like Lily the year before last who aren’t with us very long. We were joking about silly names and just as Mum suggested Kevin the ram lamb stretched and moved his head so it looked like he was smiling and approved. The name has stuck – the poor thing is now called Kevin. We couldn’t think of anything that fitted for the girl. All suggestions somehow didn’t feel right. Then Kath said that she’s cute how she snuffles all the time and we knew we had her name: Snuffles.

To try and preserve our own sanity and make sure we also look after ourselves and each other as well as the lambs, Kath took a break and went for a run. She was going to feed our rams and last year’s ewe lambs and see if the pregnant ewes were ready for food yet on her way. She rang me from the field. She’d been able to hear black faced ewe bleating from a long way away. I drove on leaving both lambs tucked up in the lamb box and we milked the ewe. We got about 400ml before it obviously started being painful for her. Then we let her out. We should have engaged our brains at this point but this is what tiredness can do. Black face was a bit of a baby thief last year. We should have taken her straight on to the field where the non pregnant ewes are.

Black faced ewe trotted over to the rest of the flock and immediately started bothering the other ewes getting up close and personal with them so they kept running away from her and she kept following. Then it suddenly looked like she’d settled but only for a second because she did a 180 degree turn and trotted straight back to the shed where Number 6 had her triplets. We took the chance, ran after her, slammed the door shut (with Number 6 outside and her lambs inside so far from ideal) and grabbed black faced ewe. Then we walked her on to the other field where she settled down a bit. This way she has company and can work through whatever hormones and emotions without causing stress to the other ewes.

We got home and the lambs weren’t in the lamb box anymore. They were keen to drink the IMG_3702 (640x480)milk we got from their mum and between them finished it in a few goes. They seem to be getting stronger. Both can now stand up on their own and both nudge with quite some force when they want feeding. We keep popping tea towels under them when they pee but there are inevitable puddles on the carpet which we keep mopping up – we’ll have it cleaned after lambing! There’s also been poo – preceded by quite a bleat so at least there’s warning for that to get the paper towel ready! While the bought milk clearly doesn’t taste as good as the real thing both lambs are taking the bottle – in what seems tiny tiny bits but both are consistently drinking now and both are staying warm. They seem more content but they are still weak. We are hopeful without being hugely confident. We know better than to be confident – they are sheep, you just never know! As you can see, Einstein the cat is very skeptical. The other two cats are dismayed.

So for the next little while these little ones will live in the shower room. It’s easy to clean and it’s easy to keep warm without overheating the rest of the house (we’ve turned all radiators off or down and moved the thermostat into there). It’s lined with newspaper and padded with straw. I am building up to moving them from in front of the fire and having them with me. I actually thing they’ll sleep but somehow I like having them right here with me.  I’ll do my midnight check as usual and then feed them and then Kath will feed when she gets up to do the early morning feed. It’s worked in the past, let’s just hope that the routine is acceptable to Kevin and Snuffles.

Update on the others: We are keeping a close eye on one of the shearlings  who was lying on her own for much of today but not hugely far away from the flock – she possibly just couldn’t be bothered to move. Our Number 12, our lovely older ewe was just beginning to bag up maybe, no sign of anything with the others. The triplets are thriving. We’re all amazed at how relaxed Number 6 is and how far she lets them wander but also how well she is doing. She’s taken them out to the flock for some of the time but keeps taking them back to the shed. She’s coming to feed which is great and the lambs certainly have lots of energy. There is already a little video clip on our Facebook page and I’ll see about adding some more but for now enjoy this:

 

 

 

 


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Triplet Update and Waiting

20170316_075744 (640x480)I am sitting on our sofa waiting to head out for the late check listening to the wind howling and the rain hitting the windows and I am trying (and failing) not to worry myself sick about the triplets and any lambs that might be born into this. It’s lamb killer weather. The rain and the wind felt particularly cold as we went for a little run earlier and I am hoping that our lambing chart continues to be wrong and no lambs are born over night tonight. There have been no signs at all during the day today – if there had we would have brought the relevant ewes in. You might be wondering why we haven’t done that anyway, well the ewes don’t tend to do very well shut in. They do much better outside where they can be with the flock and move as they wish and graze. So we need to minimise the time they might have to spend indoors. Also actually getting them in can be a bit stressful for them so if we don’t need to, we won’t. This does mean frequent checking and Kath’s mum Anne is helping. She lives closer than we do and is doing the evening checking a lot of the time so we can both get a bit of additional rest. Then I do midnight and Kath does about 4am. Usually it seems lambs arrive dawn/early morning or dusk and overnight is usually quiet but it’s just not worth sitting here worrying so we will go check every couple of hours or so.

So, triplet update. We kept them in over night just to make sure that everything was ok 20170316_073750 (640x480)and then Kath opened up the pen early in the morning and Number 6 took her triplets out into world. Kath put little lambmacs on them – little rain coats for lambs  – to keep the worst of the weather off. They have worked well. Number 6 had a good first day out with the lambs on Thursday and took them back to the shed overnight. Presumably for most of the night because she was there for the evening and the midnight checks and the early morning one. At midnight I tried to check without disturbing her so just quickly felt the lambs and they were all warm and had full bellies. Number 6 is doing a great job.

They have had another good day today but the ram lamb keeps unhooking his leg from the20170317_172316 (640x480) lambmac and then tearing it so while his sisters are in the original one, he is on mac number 3. Boys! You can maybe just see how it’s flapping about in the picture with them by the food trough. We were so relieved to see Number 6 bring her lambs over with the rest of the flock to come and feed. She stayed back a little but then went to get some food and her lambs went with her. The other ewes almost immediately moved to the other end and gave her space. It really was good to see her eat. The ewe with triplets last year was so nervous around everything and everyone that she wouldn’t come to feed and would run off if we tried to bring food to her.

Because number 6 is pretty relaxed around us, her lambs are quite tame and they do seem to enjoy a bit of a fuss!

 

 


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And we’re off…

I remember from last year how it is so easy to get behind with blogging about lambing. Lambing is exciting and nerve wracking and busy. We take lots of picture – many of them rubbish but they need sorting through… Anyway, last year I kept thinking I’d sort out the photos and then do a blog post but it just doesn’t work like that so this year I am less concerned about selecting the best pictures and more interested in keeping you up to date.

And on that note: We have triplets. The wait is finally over and our first lambs have

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First 2017 lamb minutes old

arrived. The last few days have been an anxious wait. Our first ewe due according to our chart must have been a miss and must actually have been tupped a bit later – she was showing no sign of anything really. A couple of times we wondered but it turned out she just had an awkward itch on her back.

The next two due were our Number 6 – the ewe with the prolapse issues – and one of our shearlings. We were anxious about Number 6. Our home made harness was doing its job and she seemed more settled with it on and there’d been no signs of prolapse but at some point the harness would need to come off! While everything we’d read suggested that ewes can lamb with a harness on, the logistics baffled me a bit and it can’t be comfortable even if possible. However in taking the harness off too early  we’d risk prolapse and disaster.

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2nd born 2017 lamb minute old

When we arrived at the field yesterday evening Number 6 had taken herself into the shed. The rest of the flock was at the other end of the field. We penned her in and watched a bit but there was nothing. Nothing at 9pm, nothing at midnight, nothing at 4am. We went on again around 6.45 am. Number 6 was a little restless. We watched her a little. She appeared to want to be out but other than that there were no signs of anything. So we opened the pen. But instead of leaving the shed and joining the flock she just laid down in a different corner of the shed. Instead of penning her in we put a gate across the doorway and watched. Eventually we could see the contractions and were sure it was different to when we’d seen her push the prolapse out. We cut the harness off her and backed off. Then we waited and watched. At about 7.40am a head appeared. Just a head. No little feet. We went in to help. Number 6 let herself be held immediately and Kath managed to bring both of the lamb’s front legs forward gently and then pulled the lamb out in sync with a contraction. There was a horrible moment where we thought the lamb was being born dead, then Kath realised it was alive but really struggling for air. It’s so hard not to panic and as a result work too fast and make a mistake and once the lamb  was out we still weren’t sure we’d got it to oxygen in time but we had and when it did a little funny sneeze and shook it’s head we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and probably did both. Number 6 licked it clean and dry and did exactly what she should do so we backed off. We later checked and it’s a little gimmer lamb.

Then we waited some more. Given the size of her we were fairly sure there’d be more. But IMG_3618nothing seemed to happen for such a long time. Every now and again she stopped the licking and seemed to get restless and at about 8.20am we were just beginning to think that we might have to have a look to make sure the next lamb wasn’t stuck when she laid down and pushed a rather large head out – again we couldn’t see feet but just as we were about to go in she had another contraction and didn’t need our help. The second lamb was a not so little ram lamb and because of the angle we were at and his markings we just hadn’t been able to see his legs. He was up using them really quickly though and he was also keen to drink quickly – much quicker than his sister.

There then again seemed to be an age  where nothing much happened but there was no afterbirth either and eventually there were more huge contractions and another head appeared. This little one was also stuck. The legs were partly forward but then curled under making it really difficult to uncurl them and bring them forward. Pushing the lamb slightly back so you can make room for the legs doesn’t feel like a natural thing to do and that feeling of knowing that if you get it wrong the lamb will die is horrendous. Put she too made it. Number 6, with a little help from us, has three seemingly healthy triplets. They’re big for triplets and the ram lamb’s horns are through already. The sense of relief here is palpable. It’s like we’ve been holding out breath and are finally daring to breathe again.

17321397_710953582418126_1019003262_nAll three lambs were a little cold and Number 6 was a little bewildered at having three. We gave them a little bit of help drying them off fully with towels and giving them each a turn in our make-shift lamb box where they could warm their little bodies on a hot water bottle. Number 6 seems to be coping well. We gave her some glucose stuff to give her an energy boost and then we left her to it after having made a pen that allows her to come outside the shed a bit. It was tempting to let her out but she hadn’t expelled the afterbirth yet and we need to make sure she is feeding all three lambs ok.

This afternoon we cleaned her back end up a little because she was a bit of a mess and by then the afterbirth had been expelled so we cleaned up the pen too. I think Number 6 had had enough of us by then because our presence seemed to stress her a bit so we left her to it. We took a bottle on to top the triplets up earlier this evening and try and take some pressure off her but none of them were interested. They were warm, dry and had full little bellies.

All was quiet at 9.30pm ish and I am really just waiting to do the midnight ish check – not IMG_3623really for Number 6 although I will of course check her and the lambs but more to check on the shearling. She has separated herself off several times today and then rejoined the flock. This afternoon she was behaving a bit oddly and we know that she was tupped in the same roughly 16 hour period as Number 6. She’s got to have her lambs soon, surely. Hopefully we won’t have to interfere – the weather is still holding up so if she pops her lambs out on her own, I will just leave her. If there’s a problem I’ll turn our shed into a proper maternity ward and Number 6 will have to be penned up with her lambs until the morning.

I hope to have more good lambing news soon. For now though, night night. Oh and keep an eye on our Facebook page for more pictures and videos as we take them!

 

 

 


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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.