Bantams in trees

Since we got our new bantams, and they managed to get out of the ark, I’ve been wondering where they were sleeping.  The other evening I was late home and so was feeding everything in the dark, and I got my answer.  The bantams appear to be nesting in one of our trees:

They seemed quite happy, and let me get quite close while taking their photos.  It’s clearly where they sleep every night as there is quite a bit of poo underneath.  Now the mystery is, if they are laying eggs, where are they laying them?

Goose poo!

The geese are free to wander all around our drive area, and along the hedge.  Occasionally when I come out of the front door they’re waiting for me, but it seems fairly rare.  However I noticed today that there is quite a lot of goose poo in the area near the front step.  They’re clearly spending a lot of time camped out waiting for us.

I wish they’d poo somewhere else though…

Boris MOT

Having sorted out the bulk of the sheep  I thought it worth checking on the goats.  The pygmies were fine as usual, and Howard’s fleece was coming off naturally, but Boris needed some attention.

Her fleece is so thick that it keeps her very very warm.  It also hides lots of nasty lice and suchlike.  I tried to shear some of the fleece off to help cool her, but after twenty minutes of struggling with it I’d managed to cut away a patch about a foot square, and not even get it close to her skin.  I gave up and concentrated on dagging her.  Her bottom was fairly messy, but as much because her fleece was so long it would catch almost anything coming out!

Alex had also asked me to look at her face, both to treat it for lice and to clear some of the fleece out of the way so she could see.  I did my best to clip around so she could see, and did get a lot away.  I’m not sure she was happy with her hair cut though:

Then it was hoof time.  She had scald affecting all four of her hooves, and I treated them all with blue spray, and trimmed the hooves back down to the right shape.  I’ll probably need to do her hooves again in another couple of weeks to get the scald under control.  I’m hoping that, combined with the warm weather should clear it up completely, for a while at least.

Then I put spot-on onto her.  This kills lice and other such nasties.  I put an extra bit on the back of her head to deal with the ones which had been bothering her face.

Her MOT was completed with a good spraying of Clik, and when I finally let her go she trotted off with only a brief admonitory bleat.

We do need to get her sheared soon though – or maybe I should try again…

Sheep Maintenance

This weekend we took the opportunity afforded us by the wonderful weather to do a load of sheep maintenance.  We also hired in a little extra help, for the first time, to help us in the task.  Over the course of four hours we maintained twenty adult ewes and half a dozen lambs.

The maintenance consisted of:

1)      Check tags – have they got two, and is at least one electronic.  The few which weren’t tagged we re-tagged.

2)      Dag their bottoms – trim away any pooey fleece, and make sure their bottoms are nice and clean.

3)      Clip their hooves – get the worst of the growth down, and check for footrot/scald – fortunately none found.

4)      For the Soays only, help their moulting along by pulling off as much of the free fleece as possible.  With some of them this was nearly their whole coat, with others it was only the barest of handfuls.

5)      Clik them.  This involves spraying Clik along their backs and in an arc over their front legs and then across their bottoms.  Clik helps to prevent flystrike by stopping any fly eggs laid on the sheep from maturing.  I like it because it lasts 16 weeks, though with the Mules and Suffolks at least we’re going to need to get them sheared in the very near future, as soon as we can line someone up.

The lambs were easy, we just cliked them.

It was back breaking work, but very satisfying when we finished, and we released them back into the fields, knowing that they should be much less likely to be hit by flies, and that they were generally in tip top condition.

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!

Muga wipe out

I have recently started a little ritual when I’m feeding the animals, I run towards the area with the cows.  Basically I feed the goats, alpacas and Muga and his ewes, and then run away from them, carrying a bucket of ruminant mix, a bucket of pig feed, and a chunk of hay.  This generally stops them from chasing me and making me pour out more mix for them.  The two worst are Howard and Muga, but both can be delayed with a reasonable pile of ruminant mix.

This morning I poured a load out on the goat tables, and then started my run.  I was halfway to the next field, with just Mouton in front of me when I saw Muga’s shadow creeping up on me.  He then started running alongside me, and started to cut in.  I foolishly thought I could get a few more feet into the field.  Instead he cut across me and I flew to the ground, buckets half emptied around me.

Muga obviously was delighted and started tucking into the ruminant mix, and the Soay ewes joined him.  I was uninjured, apart from my pride.  So I started to scoop up the pig feed, which I duly did, and I managed to get most of it back in.  I also scraped up most of the ruminant mix and put it back in the bucket, though I had to pick out a couple of sheep poos which had got mixed up in the kerfuffle.  I then trudged on my way.  Surprisingly Muga didn’t follow me, but that’s probably because there was still a load of mix on the ground.  The rest of the feed went without incident.

I’m going to have to work out a new strategy to avoid being mobbed.

Poo Watch

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.

Frosty mornings part II

It was a very frosty morning this morning, despite promises to the contrary from our friends in the Met service.  Actually I’m broadly positive about frosty mornings at the moment.  It might help some of my pasture survive, as it reduces the damage the animals are doing to the grass.

Per my prior post on this topic,, the Suffolks and the Mules sit out in the field all night, and the frost forms around them.  Today there were some very clear areas where they’d been lying.  I noticed something new however, most of them gave a very clear indication of which way the sheep had been lying.  This was because there was a line of poo at one end of the green patch.  Just to confirm the phenomenon was not related to just a single sheep, or some freaky placement of prior poo, I checked several and they almost all had the same set up.  Here is an example:

Here is a wider picture to show a set of patches, each with its own small pile of poo:

Clearly once they lie down for the night, they don’t bother getting up again until the morning!

Eggs, eggs, everywhere!

The ex-bats have been providing us with between five and thirteen eggs every day.  The other hens have clearly noticed, and worried that they might be replaced they’ve started laying as well, giving us two eggs from them a day.  This is more eggs than we can eat, even though I really do like eggs.

The ex-bats haven’t really got the nesting concept yet, so they lay their eggs anywhere.  There was one outside the door yesterday, and I’ve found several more around the shed.  Within the shed there is one corner they seem to be favouring, but otherwise it’s a little random.  The problem with this is that their eggs often end up wet, or covered in poo, or both.  Egg shells are a little porous so when they’ve been wet it’s advisable to either eat them quickly or throw them away, otherwise bacteria might grow in them, and make them somewhat dangerous.  This is one of the reasons we have a nest box in the ark for the old hens, and we keep it cosy for them with a fairly thick carpet of woodshavings.  It means they’re out of the weather, and generally the only thing on the outside of their eggs (when they bother to lay them) is some shavings.

Yesterday I decided to see if the ranging had started to make a difference to the ex-bats eggs.  They’ve started to peck at the grass, so I figured it might be having an impact on their yolks.  When we first got them their egg yolks were rather pale, as expected, and I was hoping that they would start to head towards the vibrant yellows we get from the yolks of the old hens.  I also had some shop bought free range eggs (for reasons obscure).  So I cracked one of each into a pan to see the results.

The one at the bottom left is from our old hens.  Lovely colour.  The bottom right is a shop bought free range egg, not really in the same league.  The top one is from our ex-bats.  It’s not yet as bright as our old hens, but is already, I think, a little brighter than the shop-bought one.

I will test again in a week or so and see how they look then!

Bertie Update

Bertie still isn’t well, and still isn’t able to get up on his own.  He’s eating well when he gets up, and definitely taking advantage of the bucket of water.

The problem seems to be his back legs, he just can’t get them into position.  At first I had to hold him from behind and push him up and he’d eventually get everything in position.  His back right leg in particular keeps knuckling over until he gets weight onto it, but once he does he’s fine.  I’d changed tack a bit by holding his horns to give him something to push against, and that has been helping.

This morning he nearly managed to get all the way up and all it took was a gentle and swift hold on his horns and he was up, and moving towards the food.  I have hopes he’ll be able to get up on his own in the next few days.  Maybe the rest and extra food will have done the job.

In the mean time I have to keep an eye on his straw.  It’s slowly building up into quite a bed.  As he tends to stay in one position for an extended period all his poo and pee are in the one place, the poo usually in a nice little pile.  When I get him up in the morning and evening (and the occasional other point), I make sure he gets fresh, or at least fresher straw, back where he’s taken to lying.  We’re nearly out of straw so have ordered more, and if this goes on much longer we’ll probably have to do a full refresh.