Moving sheep around

We needed to move the Borerays out of the thin field and in to the big field.  This is because we’re about to dig the trenches for a ground source heat pump.  This magic device will use the heat in the ground to give us hot water and a warm house all through the winter (hopefully) but requires us to dig 700m of trench about 1.2m deep.  Now I’m sure the Borerays are clever enough to avoid trenches, but then I wouldn’t want to risk it, especially if they were spooked, and they certainly wont enjoy having a digger in their field.

The problem is that the big field had Muga in it, as well as the adult ewes.  We need to make sure Muga and Haan are kept separate as they will fight, especially at this time of the year, and with their horns it could have a very bad outcome.  Also in that field are Wrath and Avarice, and we needed to keep them in that field to avoid them deciding to camp out near our house to moo loudly for dinner.  While it wouldn’t bother us too much, it’s not great for our immediate neighbours.  Surprisingly, keeping them in the larger field seems to result in less mooing, possibly because they can’t see us as much.  So I had to persuade the sheep through, without being so persuasive that the cows followed.

A bucket of ruminant mix was the ticket.  I shook it and they call came through!  Hurrah thought I, but just as I was about to close the gate Lafite ran back through.  I don’t know why!  I couldn’t chase her back through, and she didn’t seem willing to come even when I backed away.  I’d also run out of feed for them.  I trudged back to the animal restaurant, loaded up with a new bucket load, and headed back out.  I was not going to be beaten by a recalcitrant Soay!

Shaking the bucket resulted in virtually all the sheep mobbing me, which was good, as it included Lafite.  In fact the only exceptions were the Suffolks who were still enjoying the remains of the first bucket I’d spread out.  Muga took the opportunity to show he loved me, by putting his head on one side and wiggling his tongue at me!  It seems to work when he does that to the ewes, but I had to explain how we just weren’t the right match, I mean there’s a species barrier and everything.  Anyway, after that heart to heart, I had to quickly jog across to close the gate, and part one was complete!  I’d left the cows in the field, and also the Soay OAPs – I figure they would rather stay where they are, and I’m sure they’ll be mutually ignored by the Borerays.

Now I just needed to get the Borerays in.  I took a bucket and they followed me the whole length of the field.  Unfortunately they weren’t quite ready to come through the gate, and were further put off when the cows decided that enough was enough and they wanted part of the feed action.  Still, I think I might get the Borerays through next time…

Whethers, Rams and the Inbetweeners

When I was moving the boys into the pre-holiday field, and crutching them and suchlike, I confirmed something I had suspected for a while.  One of them was not properly castrated.  When I’d done him last year I must have just missed one of his testicles, and it had continued to grow, and turned him into a Ram, or at last an Inbetweener.

This has made him a little more feisty than the others, he was certainly a bit more of a handful, and I think quite a bit stronger.  He was also obviously taunting Muga quite a bit.  But the other thing which is interesting is the affect on his horns.  A rams horns are much bigger than those of a ewe or a whether (castrated male), because of all the testosterone he has.  With our inbetweener and his one ball, he has enough testosterone to start growing his horns.  It’s easy to spot him in this picture of all the boys I moved:

He’s the one on the right, who’s horns have started to curve back in.  In fact it makes him look a lot like the Borerays (this is one of the two whethers we have):

Moving lambs, dagging and worms

As part of reducing the chance of further escapes we decided we needed to move the roaming boys into the field with the Borerays.  This is our field with the best fencing, and is also the pre-holiday holding area, and last year’s boys really do need to go soon.

I thought that after their recent escapades they’d be a bit nervous, and unwilling to enter into the channel between the pig areas, but they followed me in, and when I scattered a load of food they were all over it.  This allowed me to walk back round and close the gate up.  I managed to get twenty sheep in there altogether, leaving only half a dozen to wander.  Crucially I captured all of the white boys.

Now I could have just walked them through and let the boys into the Boreray field, but I don’t often get them all in one place.  Also I thought it might save me some time in a week or two if I crutched the boys (which involves trimming the fleece back around their bottoms) as this is a requirement before they go on holiday.  I could also dag the other sheep (which involves trimming away any poo covered fleece around their bottoms).

This is a relatively difficult activity requiring speed, to catch the sheep, and also to keep control of them, dexterity, to be able to move around and actually get to their bottoms, while controlling them, and flexibility.  Think Twister, but with one of the participants choosing to writhe around wildly every few minutes or so.  It’s also exhausting.  I’d managed to check through the first eight when I had to take a breather as I was knackered.  A couple of them had quite pooey bottoms and needed quite a bit of trimming, the others only needed a little bit of work.

As I started working on the others it started to rain, and then as I continued it began to rain properly.  I did not let this deter me.  I figured having got this far I might as well complete the lot.  The only problem was that I couldn’t Clik them, which would be to spray them with Clik to help prevent flystrike.  It lasts for five months, and so far as been very effective for us.  Clik needs a bit of dry weather to properly soak into, and dry on the fleece, so I’ll need to get the keepers in again in the next week or so to Clik them, if it stays dry for a day or two.

I’m making this sound all a little clean and easy.  It was anything but.  In fact my hands were covered in poo, both from the bottoms, and also from the new poo which the sheep were producing, in one case while actually sitting on me.  A couple of the bottoms were particularly bad, requiring quite a lot of trimming.  There are a few reasons for their bottoms to be bad, the pastures being rich being one which has affected our sheep in the past.  However one of the other likely reasons is worms.  Last year we tested for worms and had a relatively low number.  It’s likely this is, at least in part, because we mix our stock, so we have cows and alpacas in with the sheep.  The exact mechanism for this I don’t entirely understand but it does seem to be the case.

Still, it’s best to check every year, so I gathered up a sample of poo.  Alex had helpfully brought out the sample bottles and some gloves.  The gloves were sadly way too late, but the bottles were useful.  I managed to get a very fresh sample in when I was dealing with the very next sheep:

Eventually I’d checked them all, trimmed those that needed it, and crutched the boys.  There were four white boys, and two Soays.  These six I let into the field with the Borerays.  Actually what happened was that as I’d been checking and trimming htem I’d put all the girls into a separate pen, so by the end only the six boys were in the initial enclosure, and the remaining OAP ram.  As I was maneuvering him out of the space the gate into the Boreray field opened itself, and the six just trotted in.  Very lucky for me that it hadn’t opened any sooner!

So that means I have eight boys ready to go on holiday, six of whom have already been crutched, which means that come the day of travel it should be, relatively, and with all caveats implied and understood, easy to load them.

I’ll still need to get the rest in to Clik them, and I need a few more poo samples to get a view across all the fields.  But all in all a day of progress.  That’s what I told myself as I stumbled, exhausted and aching, back to the house, there to strip off my sodden, and in the case of the trousers, poo-covered, clothes.  Looking after animals is a lot of fun.  Really it is!

More lambs!

Today was a good day for lambs.  We had another three!  Twins from one of the Soay ewes in with Muga, and another singleton Boreray.  Both mothers were very protective, so I’ll give them a day or so before checking them, and castrating as necessary.

Soay twins:

Boreray (with mum standing protectively over her!):

So our stats for the year are:  20 living lambs, 8 girls, 9 boys, 3 to be determined.

P.S. While I was out taking photos, Luke’s sister’s lamb sat and watched me placidly:

Fencing – will we never learn!

This morning we were awoken by a phone call.  It was to tell us that some of our sheep had gone awandering.  Again.  Now this shouldn’t be a huge surprise as they have been getting out recently, but I thought I’d actually found their main egress route, and blocked it.  Sadly I was wrong.

Usually the escapees are the cross-bred boys, with the occasional pure bred Soay.  None of the OAPs wander, I think they’re quite happy where they are thank-you-very-much. This morning the usual suspects had been joined by all the other non-OAPs, for a total of twelve wandering sheep.

We quickly jumped into the car and drove round to where they’d been spotted.  We found them quickly, and I started towards them with my trusty bucket.  Usually they would run towards me, but not today.  They were rather spooked.  I suspect that they’d met a few people out walking their dogs and this had put them in rather a fluster.  Instead we did the human sheep dog thing, and soon had them heading in the right direction.  They’d clearly had enough of an adventure, and were happy to be heading home.  I stayed on after them, both to make sure they didn’t change their minds, and also to see where they’d got out, and within a few minutes they were all safely back in their field.

Recently their method of escape has been to jump over the fence, so I was expecting them to jump back in.  Instead they seemed to walk back in without any real problems.  When I got to that part of the fence I found that a whole section had come loose, and they could just walk in and out.  I was rather lucky the cows hadn’t decided they needed to wander as well!

We got out the fencing supplies and went to work to fix up the fence, and we also took another look at all the other fencing to see what other weaknesses they might be exploiting.  I have to admit that recently I’ve only been looking at where they have been jumping, so have been a bit lax at checking the bottom of the mesh.  It looks like they’ve taken advantage of this and pushed it up in several places, and indeed that’s how they’d freed up the loose section.  An hour or so later, with some judicious use of wooden beams, some random branches and a reasonable number of fencing staples, and I was relatively confident that the fencing would hold our escape committee for at least a few days.

However, I also decided that wasn’t going to be enough.  Clearly those boys would continue challenging the fence, so I needed to do something about it.  They’re actually due to go on holiday fairly soon, so maybe it was time to move them in with the Borerays, who happen to be occupying the pre-holiday field at the moment.  So next job is going to be to move them!

Also, obviously, at some point I’m going to need to get the whole fence on the bottom field redone.  Something else to look forward to.

First Boreray Pure Bred Lamb

Yesterday evening one of our two Boreray ewes gave birth to a lamb.  I managed to get a couple of pictures of her with the newborn, but didn’t want to get too close as it was only minutes after the little one had popped out.  I’ll be checking it tomorrow morning, and then sorting out registering it as soon as possible!

RIP Duchess

When we acquired the Borerays we gained not only two breeding ewes and a ram, but also two whethers and an old ewe.  The old ewe we dubbed ‘Duchess’ and we both became fond of her.  She was a very friendly ewe, and would usually run up to us whenever she saw us, and happily eat out of our hands, the only one of the Borerays to consistently do so.

She was rather old, and over the last few days has had problems standing.  She was still eating fine, but was rather weak, and needed help to get up a couple of times.  This morning when I went out to feed the sheep I found her in her little hut.  She wasn’t moving at all any more.  I think she’d only just died.  Poor duchess, but at least she had a fair innings.

Goodbye Duchess


Heavy Soays

I managed to get a couple of good snaps of one of our Soay ewes.  Given how slender they normally are, you can see two definite bulges, one on either side.  It doesn’t mean she’s carrying twins, but I think it does mean she’ll drop soon.  I also noticed that the ewe Mule in with the Borerays has now got a full milk bag, which means she’ll probably drop in the next few days as well.  Second wave of lambs are a-coming!

Waiting for lambs

We’ve always had a bit of a break in our lambing cycle.  First the Mules and Suffolks pop, and then we wait for a bit and then the Soays pop.  As it happens each year I’m guessing it’s something to do with the breed.  Maybe the longer days and nights up on the island of Soay mean they wait for later in the year before being in season, though clearly it doesn’t stop the rams!  Given that the Borerays have also not yet popped (assuming they are actually pregnant), I would guess this means they are the same sort of cycle as the Soays.

Some of the Soay ewes are really starting to look heavy, so I suspect it’s not going to be that long before we start our second wave of lambing!

Didn’t get any good pictures of the Soays this morning, but got some nice misty shots of the Borerays (and friends), of which this is my favourite:


The IN thing

We’ve kept sheep for about five years now, and had four seasons of newborn lambs.  Beofre this year I don’t think I’d ever seen a lamb sitting on it’s mother.  Maybe I’ve just forgotten it, but I can’t see how.  I’ve mentioned that the Boreray/Suffolk lamb occasionally sits on her mother, but I thought it was just her.  But no, I’ve now seen it a couple more times and managed to get a picture of one of the Soay/Mule lambs sitting on her mother:

This was taken with my iphone, as trying to get a zoom shot with my Nikon is what seems to have broken Nikon (the lens is being awkward, permanently).  Unfortunately with all my messing around with my image capturing equipment I failed to capture the moment when both lambs were standing on their mum, until the first one was nudged off.

Still, given it appears to be this season’s excitement I’m sure I’ll get another opportunity!