It is indeed peak lambing season, which to be honest doesn’t normally affect us as Muga dances to his own tune. However, today, not four hours ago, we had another set of lambs arrive. Our other mule in with Muga had triplets! Here she is with her little ones:
I’m heading into the big smoke tomorrow, so will not be docking them and, where relevant, castrating them until Friday morning. All good stuff.
After a few days of less than happy news, today at least there were no more deaths. No new lambs either (or ex-bat eggs). On the upside Bernard’s piglets were out and about a little bit, their first real time outside. Here they are heading back towards their hut having decided I was something which might be scary:
As you can see, many of them are fine specimens of English Saddleback-hood, with the a perfect white band. Always a surprise considering Bernard is mostly white, but shows she has good genes!
Meanwhile the lambs have been running around like crazy things. Muga’s four progeny, three from White Face, and one from a Suffolk, have formed a tight bond, and often hang out together. They’ve also been tearing around the place, and on occasion worrying their mum’s as they head off farther than expected. Meanwhile the currently lone Boreray cross lamb is being a bit more relaxed, apart from when she chases up the drive after the land rover. Here’s a picture of her lying on her mum (not something I’d ever seen before!):
I found two more of our piglets dead this morning. One was from Hacker’s litter, nothing seemed wrong with it but that sometimes happens in the first day or so, more often with pigs than with lambs. Also one of Bernard’s litter, which seems to have got lost and managed to get into the enclosure with Hacker and Gaffer. Not sure what happened there.
All the rest of the piglets seemed fine, and I suspect it won’t be long until we see Bernard’s lot running around outside.
Lamb watch: Still just the 5. This is the fun we have by not controlling the ram’s access, we get a much, much longer lambing season. I’d expect the remaining Suffolks and Mules to pop in the next couple of weeks, and then the Soays will start, they’re usually a bit later. Perhaps because they’re a bit more flighty and harder for Muga to catch? I have no idea how the Borerays will fit into the cycle, but suspect they’ll be closer to the Soays.
Ex-bat egg watch: None.
Hacker has been looking very heavy for the last few days.
Clearly she too received some love and affection from Humphrey in the break out I can’t recall in November. This morning she produced conclusive evidence with a fine litter of piglets. Six alive, and two unfortunately dead. But lovely looking little monsters nonetheless:
Lamb watch: 5 so far 3G:2B (WhiteFace had two boys and a girl, the white faced suffolk/Soay was a girl, and Lamby’s remaining lamb is a girl – one lamb lost, Lamby’s second twin)
Ex-bat egg watch: Still nothing. I think they may have forgotten how.
One of the lambs born on the 20th didn’t make it through the full twenty-four hours. He was one of the twins born to our black faced Suffolk in with the Borerays. He’d been fine on the 20th, but by yesterday he was very unwell, unable even to get up. His mother was trying to persuade him up, but he just didn’t have the energy. I made up and fed him some colostrum, thinking that maybe he didn’t get enough milk from his mum, but it didn’t help and he died a short while later. The ewe sat with him, until I took him away. Poor little thing.
Yesterday Bernard was looking very heavy and we decided to separate her out. I wasn’t expecting her to farrow any time soon, but it seemed like a sensible idea. Last night she didn’t want to come out of her hut, which is very unlike her, though she ate when I took the food to her. I wondered if she was unhappy at having to move.
This morning she still didn’t want to come out of her hut again when I called to her and rattled the food bucket, and I was starting to get worried, that is until I got close enough to see into the hut, where I was greeted by a joyous sight – a pile of piglets. I managed to coax Bernard out with some food so that I could check out the piglets. One of them was dead, so I removed it, but that left twelve or thirteen! I couldn’t get an exact count because they moved so much and I didn’t want to get too close to avoid upsetting Bernard.
So great news really, and very exciting. Even if they were about six weeks earlier than I’d planned. There is some belief in our household that Humphrey got out in the autumn for a few hours and that I’d said it was unlikely to be a problem. I don’t recall such a thing. However he must have got to her somehow.
Hacker is also looking a little heavy. So I’m going to separate her out this afternoon, which means playing with the water to make sure it all works (which it doesn’t at the moment). I’ll sort it out I’m sure.
Today has been an awesome day for lambs. Firstly during the morning feed I noticed that the Black faced Suffolk in with the Borerays (who is probably called ‘Lamby’, but that’s a story for a different day) seemed to have at least one lamb. Sure enough when I got close to her she had a lamb, and then I saw that there was a second lamb about twenty feet away. When the ewe realised she’d left the other one behind she bleated and went back to round her up, confirming that she’d given birth to twins. This is great news, not only because every lamb is a gift, but it also shows that our Boreray ram, Haan, has what it takes to produce offspring.
And a close up of one of her lambs (you can see its umbilical cord, this will shrivel up and drop off over the next few days):
I thought that we’d had all the day’s excitement, and then when I looked out at lunchtime I saw White Face out on her own at the far end of the field. It looked like she had lambed, and produced twins. Algenon was sitting at guard near her, showing the alpacas aren’t entirely useless. I went out to check on her, and give her a little food, and it turned out she’d given birth to triplets, for the fourth year in a row! She is a truly amazing ewe, and has always been a good mother to her lambs. I gave her some extra feed, and managed to get a good shot of the four of them:
Lamb watch: 6 lambs (1 ewe lamb, 5 less than 24hrs old)
Ex-bat egg watch: still none. It’s been weeks!
Our geese have recently become even more aggressive than usual. They’ve tried to attack us several times, they try and attack the chickens and ducks even through the fence separating them, and if the sheep or goats get too close to the gate when the geese are there they attack them too. Normally this isn’t much of a problem as we can handle them, however they’ve also started started attacking the early morning, by waking us up honking and squeaking before the sun has raised it’s weary light, or even the lazy sparrows have shaken themselves awake. It’s very irritating, and this morning they went on for about 45 minutes.
As it happens it’s probably because our goose is likely to start laying soon, and all the extra hormones have wound the ganders up. Traditionally geese start laying on Valentine’s day or so I learned from a more country wise friend over dinner last night I’m hoping this year to be able to snag some of the eggs early. I do like goose eggs.
Also, while our goose doesn’t seem overly eager to sit she does a bit, and I would rather she didn’t sit long enough to produce yet more geese. Three are enough fun… so the best thing to do is take her eggs away. I suspect however this will be a challenge.
The main reason we acquired the Alpacas was to provide protection for our new born lambs. Alpacas have a reputation for being fox killers, or at least fox scarers, as indeed do llamas. As far as we know this has worked out well. We don’t believe we’ve ever lost a lamb to foxes, though one did just disappear a couple of years ago, so that might have been a fox. Still, the alpacas seem to do their job well.
Often when the first lambs are born the alpacas will go and sit near the mother, and look like they’re keeping an eye out for her. Sometimes this freaks the ewes out and a little chasing occurs until everyone agrees what appropriate distances are. All seems well.
We had to leave the house very early this morning, so hadn’t fed the animals at their normal time. This usually results in much bleating, quacking, clucking and very loud mooing when we return, which is often sustained until we get out there and feed them. This morning there was a little of that, but also the sound of a happy alpaca. It’s hard to describe really, sort of like a high pitched squeaky fast bleating sound. I looked up to see that Algy had managed to mount one of the Suffolk ewes. It soon became clear that it was in fact the mummy Suffolk, as her lamb was wandering around next to her bleating in confusion. I did shout at Algy, I mean really, she has enough problems without him adding to them! I dumped my stuff inside and went back out to do the actual feeding time, by which point the ewe had managed to shake Algy off, and they both came to food without any problems. Perhaps all was forgiven, or maybe I’d misunderstood the whole situation…
Our Alpaca poo piles continue to provide an artistic, if scatalogical, touch to our fields. Yesterday I noticed this particular gem. I’m starting to wonder if they are deliberate:
Lamb watch: Still just the one, but it’s doing fine.
Ex-bat egg watch: Still none. Really, I think they’ve become lazy.