Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Little Lamb

We haven't managed to get a blog entry up for ages as it's been completely manic on just about every front - but I guess better late than here goes:

Sadly, not all of this year’s lambing was entirely successful. Our very last lamb born was rejected by her mother. Although mother and baby seemed to have some sort of bond – the mother nuzzled the lamb and looked quite protective – when it came to feeding, things didn’t go well at all. For some reason the ewe just refused to let her baby suckle. We checked for signs of mastitis and ensured that the mum was not “dry”. She was fine but for some reason she just turned away every time her lamb tried to get some milk. Clearly very frustrating for the poor – and increasingly hungry - lamb. We tried penning them up together and did a bit of force feeding but in the end the lamb was wasting away and it all came to a crux when we offered her a bottle one evening and despite her mother running in the opposite direction and calling her away, the lamb ran towards the bottle.

So she came home with us...

She was a great hit with the family for the short time she was with us – though the first few nights of bottle feeding and being woken at all hours by hungry bleats was a bit exhausting. “Lamby” quickly put on weight and was eventually weaned and eating grass and “creep” (dry lamb food pellets). This weekend she was officially adopted - and has now set up home in the Suffolk countryside. She is being kept as a pet lamb alongside another little orphan called "Lucy". We hope that Lamby and Lucy will be very happy together.

The orphan lamb has been the least of our problems with the sheep this month.
Sadly we have been struck by Liver Fluke. It is a rather nasty disease caused by a parasite that gets inside the sheep and eats away at their liver. Despite our quick response to the ailing sheep we lost two of the flock. The vet suspected it was worms but after conducting a post mortem he discovered the liver fluke. As a result we had to round up all the sheep (with the aid of our trusty, elderly Springer Spaniel – who thinks she is a sheep dog) and treat them wfor it. As liver fluke is usually associated with marsh land and we are on very dry ground in East of England the vet was somewhat perplexed as to how the sheep contracted the disease. None of the sheep had been on wet land before they came to us. So the most likely culprit was the hay that we fed them in the winter – which could have come from wetter ground and been infected with liver fluke.

Then onto fencing...while the rest of the country lounged around in the scorching heat enjoying leisurely BBQs and watching the World Cup, we spent the hottest day of the year fencing. We have to move the sheep on to better grazing as their current field is looking a bit sad and with the hot weather the grass is scorching too. It was quite a big job and the whole family came along to help. We put in an electric fence all round perimeter of the field and managed to knock up a dog barrier on one side of the field to prevent any more nasty canine attacks.

The electric fence unfortunately was contending with some very long we had to try and cut all the grass underneath the bottom wire. We didn't really fancy going round 3 acres with a sickle so thought of a rather unorthodox, but extremely effective, alternative... yep, our trusty garden mower which has never tackled more than a patch of suburban lawn before now, was put into service with the help of a huge extension cable and a generator. Amazingly it worked a treat.

There - a field fit for a flock of Black Welsh Mountain Sheep who were moved onto their new field yesterday.

Tiny Farmer out.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Fantastic Mr Fox

Well you’ve got to hand it to our friendly neighbourhood fox. Show him an impenetrable chicken run and he will show you a way to get into it. Our safe enclosure turned out not to be that safe after all and as a result we have again lost all our hens. Full marks to the fox though – a very clean job: only a few feathers and a spare head at the murder scene. We have deduced that it must have happened just after dawn. The fox made a hole in the top netting like this:

Then the trail of feathers, disturbed feeder and aforementioned body part led us to the hole at the other side of the run:

Enter, kill, exit. A perfectly executed multiple assassination job.

Of course, in retrospect the netting was not strong enough and we had not checked that every corner was tightly tied down. But the ingenuity of Mr Fox is really amazing. We suspect that he must have been casing the joint for some time before going in for the kill. Possibly this is why the chickens were not laying as well as they had been. Poor chicks...and good bye to those beautiful green eggs.

It is now a battle of wills with the fox – and we are determined that our next hens will have a long and happy life. The chicken fortress is going to be further reinforced and surrounded by the electric fence before we consider getting any more hens. Cambridge Poultry here we come....again.