Riddlesden Jacobs

A site about a West Yorkshire flock of Jacob Sheep

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Spotty Ear’s Lambs

IMG_4058 (640x480)It’s over. We have made it through another lambing season. It’s hard to put into words how relieved we are to get to the end of this one. Our shearling ‘Spotty Ear’ lambed on Sunday sometime between 9am and 10am. We’d had a lovely Saturday with our friend Heather and all of us had said how uncomfortable Spotty Ear was looking. When I went for the evening check on Saturday I was convinced I’d fined lambs – but no, just a very fed up ewe. Kath said the same about Sunday morning – but nothing. I’d just dropped Heather off at the station and changed into my running gear when our phone rang. Anne had popped on at 9am and there wasn’t a sign of anything and had then gone back at 10am to feed Kevin and Snuffles and Spotty Ear had lambed.

We went on immediately and by the time we got there she had two lambs and they were IMG_4051 (480x640)both up and she was licking them and both had a drink. Kath picked the lambs up and we moved them to the shed. Luckily we didn’t have far to go at all and it went pretty smoothly. Spotty Ear sort of danced around Kath and the only heart stopping moment was when she stopped outside the shed and took a minute or two to decide whether she was really going to follow her lambs inside. Then she went in and all was fine.

The lambs were shivering. We followed the vets advice and after helping dry them off a little bit we gave them both a quick turn in the lamb box to make sure they were warm, gave them a shot of lamb reviver and the shot of antibiotics given to us by the vet. Then we left them to it for a bit. We kept checking back and gave the lambs another few minutes in the lamb box each. We also gave them a little bit of colostrum replacer from the bottle.IMG_4124 (640x480)

Both lambs were shivery but warm. They never went downhill like the others, they didn’t have a perfect start but maybe the lamb reviver helped, maybe the warmer weather helped, maybe the shearling wasn’t as affected by whatever impacted on the others. Who knows, what’s important is that the lambs seem ok. They were more responsive from the go but they were also shivery and we gave then another shot of lamb reviver in the evening. When I went on at 10pm to feed the hooligans they were IMG_4129 (640x480)lovely and settled, they were warm, not shivering and were clearly getting food. This morning they were up and playing. I had a break from work mid morning to go on and let them out into the field and they are thriving. In fact they are behaving as I would expect. They are bold and curious and already bouncing about. Spotty Ear is taking it all in her stride and it was good to see her with the flock this afternoon. She didn’t come over for food but she did enjoy the food I took over to her.

We end lambing season on a high.

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Saying goodbye to Tufty and her sister

The heartbreak continues. We introduced Stumpy’s twins a couple of days ago. Both have died. When I wrote the blog I was getting ready to go on and feed Kevin and Snuffles and check on the twins. I was hopeful. We were a little concerned about the smaller of the two but the other one seemed to be responding to Stumpy. When I got there both lambs were freezing and weak. I made up the lamb box, phoned Anne for an additional hot water bottle and made up volostrum. Stumpy was beside herself going from lamb to lamb nudging them and constantly ‘talking’ to them. It was heartbreaking to watch.

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Kath woke up and realised I’d been a while so called me and I told her I was struggling to keep the lambs alive. She came on. We sat for over 3 hours in the pen feeding the lambs volostrum in tiny tiny little sips and getting them warm. Both responded very slowly but they responded. Stumpy was anxious but accepting of our help. She never stopped ‘talking to’ the lambs. We left at around 1.30am having got the lambs to roughly where we had Dewey before returning him to his mother’s care. We were still really worried about the smaller one but we made the decision and left. We had a couple of hours sleep and headed back to the shed at 5.30am. Both lambs were still alive but the smaller one was completely unresponsive and then died in Kath’s arms. Stumpy was still ‘talking’ and trying with the other lamb. It was freezing again. We tried to help it in the pen but it was clear it needed more. We brought her home.

We called her Tufty because she was really fluffy and the black spots of wool really stood up and felt really, well, tufty. We got a fan heater on her and she warmed up and throughout the day Kath kept dribbling little bits of volostrum into her mouth. She also got some lamb reviver into her. In the evening Tufty had a few suckles from the bottle and showed interest in food. She was incredibly weak though and couldn’t really stand on her own.

IMG_3992 (480x640)Kath nursed her through the night, dozing on the sofa with her and trying to get more food in her but she stopped wanting food and then started resisting the bottle. She looked miserable and was unsettled. She kept wanting to take a few steps but just fell over. She had a couple of brighter moments but mostly just cuddled in to weak to do anything else. She would bleat occasionally and she had the most pitiful heart wrenching bleat. It made us cry every time we heard it. This morning we took her to the vet. The vet took a good look at her and listened to her symptoms and our account of what is going on with the flock. She didn’t have any solutions. She said it sounded a little like E-coli but that wasn’t really likely without the diarrhea. She said she could give Tufty an antibiotic and we could try and coIMG_4011 (640x480)ntinue to nurse her but we decided it wasn’t fair. If there was a reaction to the antibiotic we’d at least know that it was the right one for any other poorly lambs but the vet agreed that Tufty probably wasn’t strong enough to pull through. It was clear to Kath, who had nursed Tufty all night, that her body was shutting down and all our experience and knowledge of our flock and nursing pet lambs told us she wouldn’t come round. She was too weak and it wasn’t right to keep her alive just to see if this was the right antibiotic for whatever is going on to then watch her slowly die.

We walked away feeling sick and heartbroken as the vet put Tufty to sleep. Poor Stumpy was pining for her babies. She has settled a little since we let her out of the shed but I feel sick every time I see her. I don’t know how to make it better for her. I don’t know how to explain to her that we couldn’t save her babies.

The vet suggested that when the last ewe lambs we give the lamb(s) a shot of antibiotics straight away so the plan is to get the lamb(s) and ewe in, get the lamb(s) in a lamb box to get/keep them warm, give them a dose of lamb reviver and a shot of the antibiotics we’ve been given today and then hope. This is all complicated by the fact that the last to lamb is a shearling so anything could happen! It’s nearly over, we’re running out of energy, we need proper sleep, we need to stop worrying and we need to start focusing on the lambs that we do have because they are all little stunners. But right now it’s hard and right now I don’t ever want to do this again.

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Kevin and Snuffles’ Adventures – 2

IMG_3851 (640x480)On Friday Kevin and Snuffles moved to their new more permanent home on at the field. They have a pen in the shed where they will stay for a while. We will let them out while we’re there and we’ll play with them and try and get them used to being amongst the flock but for a little while yet they need to be penned in when we’re not there.

They disagree. The first iteration of the pen was nowhere near secure enough. within minutes Snuffles climbed through the gate on to the hay bale that was supposed to be blocking her in. So we put two bales on top of each other (tied on so they can’t fall off and kill a lamb). That seemed to work ok but when Anne went to feed them in the evening Kevin had got out into the neighbouring pen where number 12 was with Dewey and then out. Snuffles was screaming her head off and there was  carnage with lambs all over the place and generally with the wrong ewes.

Once that was sorted, Anne added a barricade to the front of Number 12’s pen and that IMG_3944 (640x480)worked. They now seem quite settled in their little pen.

We have been going on and spending time with the lambs and encouraging them to move and play. In fact Kath has been doing little hill repeats with Snuffles. Kevin is more interested in nibbling things and he’s far too lazy to actually run. He will come for a little trot though, if he must. His priority though seems to be chewing things. To try and put some fun back into lambing season we took a picnic on to the field and sat in the sun. Kevin in particular really took an interest and tried to chew everything he could reach.

On Saturday morning Snuffles and Kevin were the stars of Riddlesden. Walkers came by and stopped to watch them and for one or two who didn’t have dogs we took them over to the fence to say hello. Kevin seemed non-plussed and kept nosing the ground and chewing on sticks. Snuffles however thought it was about time she got the proper attention she deserved. Mum called her Madam Snuffles – with some justification it seems.

Neither of the lambs will venture far away from us when we’re there. We’re going to have try and encourage them to toddle off on their own away from us. Maybe we can get them to play with the other lambs – or at least go and have a look at them. It would be great to get them outside more of the time even if we pop them back in the pen at night.

Watch this space as the Adventures of Snuffles and Kevin continue.




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Introducing Dewey

Number 12 is a lovely ewe. She’s a bit on the older side and this is likely to be her last year lambing. She comes from a line of calm, caring, brilliant ewes that have historically managed to lamb in all weathers and get their babies through anything. She has lambed like clockwork previously and did not let us down this year either. She hit her due date of 24th March and promptly popped out a lamb. It was a gorgeous morning with the light playing with the dew drops on the grass so the lamb was immediately called Dewey.

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Kath watched her. It wasn’t an easy birth for her and at one point she was bleating so much that Kath was sure the lamb must be stuck and causing her pain but then she laid down and pushed the lamb out. She immediately starting licking it and mothering it and all looked well. Kath called me to let me know and I walked on to meet the new arrival. We watched for a little bit, we guessed Dewey was a little ram as we could see horns (we were right) and then headed to Anne’s for breakfast. Between us we’d been watching ewe and lamb for over 2 hours and all seemed to be going really well. A few minutes later there was a knock on the door and Anne’s neighbour told us that the new born lamb was lying on it’s side twitching. By the time we got there Number 12 was starting to walk away and leave the lamb. It was so out of character that it all felt really wrong and upsetting.

Kath got there first, scooped up the lamb, it was breathing, and tried to take Number 12 and the lamb into the shed. Number 12 followed her in and we penned her. We made up our trusted lamb box and got the little ram lamb a bit warmer. We also made up a bottle of colostrum replacer. Number 12 still hadn’t expelled the placenta and seemed very tender. There was also a bit of blood when she peed. We gave her a shot of painkiller and antibiotics as well as some ketosaid and the energy boost seemed to give her the strength for a last push which got the afterbirth out.

What followed were some agonising hours where Number 12 didn’t seem interested in the IMG_3858 (640x480)lamb for most of the time but did show interest when it bleated (which it didn’t do very often) or if we took it out of the pen. Kath sat with the lamb on her knee in the pen rubbing it and feeding it bits of colostrum replacer until his gums were no longer cold. Number 12 seemed to relax, she seemed to trust Kath to deal with her lamb. It’s probably our imagination but it felt like she was asking for and accepting our help.Once little Dewey was warmer throughout and we were confident he’d had some colostrum replacer we let them sleep. When we went back to check he was still shivering/shaking but he was warm and he was also getting food judging by the feel of his tummy. We decided to trust Number 12 and left them to it. We had to disturb them over night to feed the bottle fed lambs but they seemed nice and settled.

The next morning we let them out into the gorgeous spring sunshine and Number 12 immediately perked up. She no longer has any discharge and now seems more comfortable with him drinking. He spends an awful lot of the time flat out asleep but he is getting enough food and seems to be ok. He’s not as strong as his size would indicate or as we would like or expect at his age but he’s doing ok. He spent his first night outdoors wedged between his mother and a lick bucket but seemed to quite like it there. We’ll keep an eye on him but now that Number 12 has fully accepted responsibility for him we are less concerned, she is, after all, supermum.

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Losing babies

This is the blog post I didn’t want to have to write. I didn’t want to have to share with you that some of our lambs didn’t make it or how they died. However, not blogging about what happened wouldn’t be right either. The blog is meant to reflect on our day to day with the flock and our life in Riddlesden. We can’t just skip over the not so nice bits!

The 22nd March started with heartbreak. The weather was horrendous. It was sleeting heavily, it was cold and it was windy. Kath started the early checks at 4am and there was nothing. She followed it up with checks at least hourly. There was still no sign of anything around 6am. Then at 6.45am she found 2 dead lambs in very odd positions in a corner of the field our ewes don’t often go into. Number 15 was laid a few metres away and had just pushed her afterbirth out. She was not interested in the lambs. It was all very odd. The lambs hadn’t been rejected outright, they were licked. They must have been born very shortly after one check and then gone downhill and died very quickly. There was no chance of saving them when Kath got to them. They were dead.

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Number 15 a couple of days after losing her lambs

The morning after Kath walked the field at 4.30am. Everything seemed calm and the ewes looked like they were all just sleeping. As she approached one of the shearlings she saw a little body behind her. A lamb. It looked dead. It was still alive though so Kath scooped it up and tried to bring it and the ewe in. The ewe wouldn’t follow though. Even with me walking behind her she wasn’t having any of it. She kept running back to the area she had lambed in. In the end we had to give up and try and save the lamb. It was a beautiful gimmer lamb and she seems a little fighter. She had some colostrum and the lamb box was working. We took her to Kath’s mum’s house where I’d slept so I could be closer to the field and check more often and she seemed to be coming round. Then she had a little fit, went floppy and stopped breathing. There was nothing I could do.


Little Guzzle shortly before she died

It is hard to explain how much losing a lamb takes out of you. It’s an almost physical reaction. You can’t help but feel you’ve let everyone down. Those lambs are our responsibility and when they die, particularly in circumstances where we don’t really understand why, it is really hard not to blame yourself. We have been over everything we have done and not done, anything we might have done differently, we’ve been through all the should haves and all the shouldn’t haves. We are our own harshest critics. But the reality is, if you keep sheep and lamb them at some point you will lose lambs and there won’t always be a reason. Sometimes crap things just happen, sometimes you’ll make mistakes and contribute to those crap things happening and sometimes you’ll make calls that prevent crap things from happening. We learn every year. There are new problems every year and some are easier to deal with than others but we just have to keep dealing with what the flock throws at us as best we can in the moment and then take the time to reflect, think and learn afterwards. We do our best even if sometimes that feels like a long long way from good enough.


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Kevin and Snuffles’ Adventures – 1

The bottle fed twins decided they wanted to live and have been little hooligans ever since. They
IMG_3834 (640x480)spent their first night in our shower room which is easy to clean but can be kept warm as it has a radiator in it (we put the thermostat in there and turned the radiators off in the rest of the house). After that first night we moved them to the utility room, lined the floor with newspaper and made a bed with straw. They flooded it several times a day. As we’ve mentioned before – lambs pee a lot.

Kevin and Snuffles quite liked being in the house I think and they were good as gold really. They seemed to understand being put to bed and they slept through without a peep from midnight until 6am. In fact most mornings Kath had to wake them when she got back from her early morning field check. They spend a lot of time bouncing around the house and following Kath around. Snuffles learned how to climb the stairs and then taught Kevin. Retrieving lambs from under our bed became a thing to do – as did running up and down our driveway being followed by lambs or muttering ‘please don’t pee in my shoes’ or ‘Kevin, don’t mount your sister’…20170321_102410 (480x640)

There are a few videos and pictures of them at home over on our Facebook page and they are cute and they do make me smile but having lambs at home is relentless. During the day you don’t get a second’s peace. They are learning all the time, they are figuring out life and so you can never assume they can’t or won’t do something. There were the stairs, the nuzzling cat biscuits, the curling up in the cat litter tray, the pulling pizza off my plate and getting stuck down the side of the garage. There were meetings with the cats, the difficulty of getting four legs to work together on wet slippery laminate flooring and there was the learning how to pee on the fresh IMG_3821 (640x480)newspaper as soon as it has been put down. A special skill Snuffles soon perfected.

Kevin and Snuffles had adventures in our house but it was definitely time to get them out. Our cats need therapy and we need a rest. They now go longer between feeds during the day so now they need to learn to be sheep. We took them on to the field on Friday afternoon. More on that in Adventures – 2.


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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.