Sheep Planning

So every year we get to this time of the year and think that we need to separate out the lambs, and move the ewes and Muga around and really get things ready for him to start covering them.  And every year we continue to think about it until around October time, when it’s a little late to do anything about it.

To be fair last year we also had the added excitement of a partially castrated lamb covering the few ewes I did manage to separate out (and I have every hope that this wont recur this year!).

This year, for the first time, not only did we think about it, but we actually did it!  First we caught all the sheep together.  Now as many previous posts have asserted, this isn’t always an entirely easy thing to do.  However we have a new technique.  First of all we get the lambs used to coming into the two fenced areas next to the animal restaurant over a couple of days. Then on the day we need to catch them we close the gates on them while they’re all eating away, and shepherd them into one of the two areas.

This is where we’ve added a new technique to our arsenal.  We get a while bunch of sheep hurdles and create a line across the area, and make sure they;re all on one side.  And then we walk the line of hurdles until we have them in a nice tight area.  It takes a while, but it works brilliantly, and keeps them fairly calm while we’re doing it.

The other challenge with separating the ewes from the lambs, is that the ewes will follow us, and the feed bucket, without trouble.  The lambs however are a lot less excited about it.  So today when we separated them out, we left all the lambs (and the OAPs) in the area surrounded by the hurdles, and separated out the ewes and Muga.  We then led them into the other field by simply carrying a bucket of feed in front of them.  It was then easy to close the gate, and the separation was complete!

Muga is now in with three Mules, four Suffolks, three Soays, and Luke’s sister.

All of the lambs, both last years, and this years, and the OAPs are now in the home field, with the cows and the Alpacas.  This means I should be able to catch them when it’s time for them to go on holiday, or if I manage to sell some more.  Which is great!

Update – Sheep

The sheep numbers have been particularly on the increase in the last year, peaking at around eighty this year.  For us to be successful in reducing our animal numbers we’d need to do two things:

1) Get last years lambs off on holiday.

2) Reduce the number of ewes we have.

The first was relatively challenging.  With the numbers as they were the sheep were far less biddable than in previous years.  A bucket or two of feed wasn’t getting to all of them, and the most flighty lambs were never getting addicted to the sweet sweet nectar of ruminant mix.  After some effort I did manage to catch ten of them, get them into the horse box and off to the holiday home.  (They were very tasty).  We still have some left which need to be dealt with, but that requires some maneuvering and acclimatisation.

Getting rid of the ewes was in some ways a little trickier, as we needed to find someone who wanted to buy them.  In the end however that bit wasn’t too bad.  The Soays are popular and a lot of people want to buy them, even if they aren’t registered.  I managed to sell two of the older Soay ewes fairly easily, and then found a buyer for the remaining ewes I wanted to sell, and also many of the lambs.  This was great, I was going to be able to offload twenty odd sheep in one go.

The plan was to round the sheep up in the channel between the pigs, and then load them up in the trailer and deliver them.  The morning came round, bright and cheerful, and Alex and Sue were ready to help me load them up.  I enticed all but five of the sheep into the channel.

And then I got greedy.

Instead of booking that as a win and closing the gate, I tried to persuade the others in.  Disastrous idea as the rest then decided it was fishy and ran out.  We then spent about an hour and a half running around trying to persuade them back in.  Eventually we managed to get eight into the channel, three ewes and their lambs.  And that’s what we took.  I was completely knackered.  But we agreed we’d aim to take the rest about a week later.

For round two I decided two things, a) I was not going to be greedy, b) I was going to acclimatise them a bit more.

Then something happened, the old Soay OAP ram died.  The last of the rams.  It was sad to see him go as he’d been a friendly old boy, and while he’d been looking a little doddery for a while, he was still going strong.  Then one day he didnt come for feed, and I went to find him and he was dead.  I think he’d woken up that morning, and decided it was a good day to go, and then just slipped away.

What this meant was we could now mix the flocks, as Muga wouldn’t have someone he’d have to fight.  This also meant I could use the proper sheep catching area by the animal restaurant.

The day of the second delivery cam, and I managed to entice all but the hard-core OAPs into the areas.  I then closed them down (not being greedy this time), and sorted out the sheep.  Some crutching was required, and a few replacement tags, but it wasn’t too much hassle.  A mere hour after starting I had fourteen or so ewes and lambs loaded up to take for the second delivery, and off we went.

We still have three ewes I want to sell (the OAPs progeny from last year), and quite a few which need to go on holiday, but we’re back below fifty sheep like creatures, which is definite progress!

OAPs (plus interloper):

Mules (White face on left):

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!

More bad news

We lost another lamb yesterday.  It was the second lamb of the Boreray/Suffolk triplets born on Tuesday.  He seemed a little slow in the morning, and I was thinking that I’d take him some lambs milk in the afternoon to see if that helped.  I checked up on him before lunch and he seemed fine.  After lunch he was dead.

I’m really starting to think there may be an issue with the Boreray breeding.  Hopefully the Mules in there are pregnant, and we’ll see something positive out of them, and obviously the Boreray ewes as well.

We’ve never lost three lambs during a season before and it’s rather upsetting.

Sheep Mothering instincts – Mules vs Suffolks

There’s a definite difference between the mothering instincts of the Mules, and of the Suffolks.  The Mules are excellent mothers, and the Suffolks, well, they’re a little more lassez-faire.

When the lambs are first born the Mule ewes are very protective of them, and often won’t move more than twenty or thirty feet away from where they gave birth for at least the first day or so.  It means I tend to have to take food out to them, which can be interesting as when a scrum develops.  Normally the ewe I’m trying to give the extra food to backs away, and then I try and get throw some more to her.  Now I try and distract the others before going out to the new mother.  As the lambs get older the Mule ewes allow them a little more room, and then after a week or two the lambs can reign free and the Mule only looks up now and again to see where they are.  If the lambs are bleating the Mule ewe will stop what she’s doing, even if she’s eating lovely ruminant mix, and look around to make sure she knows why the lamb is making a fuss.  When their lambs start to suckle they almost always stop what they are doing and let them.

The Suffolks have more of a keep-up-with-me-or-else kind of philosophy.  Even when the lamb is barely just been born when it comes to food time the ewes will come to the normal feeding area and dive in.  Even if this means their lambs are left behind, or, sometimes worse, they tag along and get knocked around by the others.  They’ll also ignore the bleating of their lambs while they dive in for the food.  Often when their lambs start to suckle they’ll walk forward to knock them off, especially if there’s the potential of some food.

To be fair, some Suffolks are more motherly than others, and some Mules are less so, but the differences between the breeds are surprisingly wide.


As the rain pours down outside, doing it’s best to turn all our fields into muddy swamps, I thought it best to stay under cover and write a general round up of where we are.

Geese – loving this weather.  Still being extra aggressive.  Alex thinks the goose may have laid an egg, but I have not yet seen it…

Hens – another ex-bat died, which leaves us with just the seventeen.  She’d been a little listless for a couple of days, though she was eating a little she wasn’t really getting into it.  I found her dead in their shed on Thursday morning.  The others however all seem fine.  No eggs off the ex-bats, but the original hens are averaging around two a day.  Which is nice.

Lambs – no more lambs since the last set of triplets, which were all girls.  So at this point we have 6 ewe lambs, and two ram lambs, for a total of 8.  We have suspicions that the Mule in with the Borerays isn’t pregnant.  She doesn’t look that heavy, and her udders certainly haven’t filled, though I’ve always found that to be an unreliable indicator.

Pigs – all is well with them at the moment.  Both sets of piglets have now been outside, and Bernard’s lot are starting to explore a little bit.  Soon they’ll be all over the place!

Lamb watch – peak lambing season

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.

Dead little piggies

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.