Wednesday, 31 March 2010

It's lambing time...

Well, we've started lambing a whole day earlier than scheduled. I still can't believe how accurate the scanner must be to be able to predict it that close - the man is incredible!
I arrived at the sheep fields this morning around 10am and no sign of anything happening lamb wise, I really thought that not much more would happen today and went to do a few chores. I arrived back at the fields around 2pm to find twin lambs up and about with their mum, and what an incredible sight that was. They were feeding away, up on their feet and looking healthy. The rest of the flock were really curious about these new arrivals and when one of the younger ewes got a bit to close the mum intervened and sent the curious onlooker on her way. Watching the natural protective and caring "mum" instinct is a wonderful thing.
I decided to stay at the fields the rest of the day just in case anything else happened and when I returned from having a cup of coffee with a neighbour I found another ewe just in the early stages of labour - at least I didn't miss the birth this time and felt really privileged to be able to watch the whole process. The ewe mothered the new born lamb and then after around 20 minutes the next water bag appeared indicating the arrival of the twin. Unfortunately after about 45 minutes the only progress visible was the unborn lambs two legs sticking out. I called a friend and he confirmed my gut feeling which was that the ewe would probably need some help delivering the twin lamb. Very nervously I pulled on an arm length glove and managed to catch the ewe with my spare hand. On closer inspection I could see that it was in fact the hind legs sticking out which meant that the lamb was backwards. I slowly pulled the two legs making sure not to squeeze too hard and suddenly there was a newborn lamb at my feet. I gave it a quick wipe down and cleared its nostrils and then returned it to its eagerly awaiting mum, she gladly took over from there cleaning the lamb up and gave it its first drink of milk. Nerves, excitement, fear and elation are just a few of the emotions I went through.

So there you have it, the first day of lambing - eventful,scary and oh so very humbling. Fingers crossed for the next few weeks now as the rest of the lambs arrive...

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Tiny Farmer...Big Tractor!

As if there's not enough going on with lambing just around the corner, we have the impending arrival of our calves within the next 2 weeks. With the last few days being dry it was window of opportunity to cut the long overgrown grass in the new fields and prepare them for the cattle.
I discussed the options with a friend and we decided that the small tractor I normally use was going to take far too long. "No problem" he said, "You can make use of the big tractor and you'll have it all done in a day". What he omitted to tell me was that this would include having to drive said big tractor through the Newmarket traffic in rush hour - and I can report that from up there in the cockpit of the tractor it's a terrifying experience!

So after getting the tractor through the traffic and to the fields I then discovered that the flail mower was 10ft wide and the gate was exactly 10 ft wide as well - problem, I thought.

I called my friend who was luckily close by and by some craftsmanship he managed to manoeuvre the tractor and flail mower in backwards.
The rest of the day was thoroughly enjoyable and the fields were cut in no time at all.

It was then off to change the flail mower for the 18ft wide harrowing chains.

All done by 5pm - result!

Another day of learning so much...

Monday, 15 March 2010


Meet our British Lop – it’s one of five little piglets in our pigsharing scheme.

Here they all are:

There is the British Lop (with the big ears), a Tamworth (the reddish one), a British white and a Gloucester Old Spot cross.
They are happily living in an orchard just a few hundred yards from the sheep field. They are being fed on a rotation scheme by the members of the pig share and at the end of 4 months the pork will be divided up between us.

There was a bit of manual labour involved on Saturday – here’s the Tiny Farmer helping to move the pig ark.

And the children came up for a good look at the new arrivals.

They really are very entertaining to watch. They run around and play together and also enjoy playing football! They’re very inquisitive – after only a few minutes they were coming very close to us and giving us a good sniff. They are already digging up the ground beautifully too. It is incredible how efficiently they turn over the soil. No need to rotovate with a pig in the garden.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Lesson in vaccinating the sheep

Hooray - the flock is now vaccinated for another year against some nasties like clostridial diseases and pasturella (thanks to Heptavac) and bluetongue (thanks to BTV8). The bluetongue vaccine is more about overall flock management as bluetongue is spread by midges going from animal to animal. There is actually a big drive on in the UK to become bluetongue free this year and let's hope that becomes a reality. The Heptavac vaccine is more about protecting each sheep individually from clostridial diseases and pasturella and very importantly passing on some of that protection to the new born lambs who will only need a booster vaccine after the first month or so.
The vet came to give us a hand and show us how to administer the vaccine. We got to vaccinate quite a lot of the sheep ourselves under her watchful eye and going forward we will now be able to administer the vaccine ourselves without vet assistance.

We have also sent away a faeces sample of the sheep off for analysis so that we can see if it is necessary to give the sheep any worming treatment before lambing. We certainly wouldn't want to give any unnecessary treatment, not only is it extra handling of the sheep at a fragile time with lambing around the corner but it also builds up resistance to the worming treatment in the long run which leaves you high and dry if there is a worm problem later on.
It's all about little steps and each day learning a bit more I guess.
So now we are almost ready for lambing - only 3 weeks to go and I'm sure they will fly by.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


It seems like the weather gods have answered our prayers...sunshine and blue skies at last!
It has been such a bitter winter that the this little preview of spring feels absolutely fantastic. Amazing how a ray of sunshine can lift the spirits.
Out in the garden the early bulbs are putting on a brave show.

Spring growth…so can’t be too long till we get started on the allotment again. Probably about time to start checking the seed supplies and dust off the propagator. I feel a list coming on…