Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sheep Stories



The sheep are back on the croft now, as lambing approaches.  It is good to have them close by, and to see them out the window. We have five now -  we were given  three by kind and generous neighbours, looking to reduce their stock numbers, to add to our original two. They are mostly blackface or blackface/cheviot crosses, and the new girls are fairly experienced mothers. (The ram is a cheviot, so the lambs will not have horns.)  As our two were first timers, we were glad that there would be some role models for them.

We decided to have them scanned - really so that we knew what we were dealing with.  It is our first lambing season too, so we wanted to know if we had any multiples to be looking out for.
Scanning is a community affair, although not everyone participates in this.  Those who are, take their expectant sheep to the appointed place - in this case, the barn of one of the crofters in the village.


And here they are - the anticipating ladies.  Reminds me a bit of the ante-natal clinics I used to attend when I was expecting my older children in the 80s and 90s!


While we waited for the scanning man to arrive, we headed indoors for a cup of tea and some amazing home baking.  Of course he arrived in the middle of it all, but I am afraid I lingered in the kitchen, blethering, and eating scones, so there are no photos of the event, only the packing up afterwards. Apparently though, he sat on a machine rather like a motor scooter, and the sheep were passed into the gap in front of him, and were quickly scanned and pronounced "Single - Empty - Twin".


Everyone discussed their outcomes - one had a lot of empty sheep, but this was balanced out by the number of twins - another was very concerned that an older ewe was carrying twins. We were happy with our results though - 4 singles, 1 empty, and now we can look forward to mid-April when the lambs will be born.


And then, back home -  only Maddie Beag carries the blue mark of barrenness.  Not totally unexpected - she was still very frisky, and small too.  In fact, it is debatable whether she should have gone to the ram at all this year, but we couldn't have kept her separate from the others on her own.  She can try again next year.


So  now we just wait.  I have been to a lambing course, I know what to do in an emergency, and, oh my - what a lot can go wrong!  Fortunately the sheep don't know all that, so hopefully they will just do their thing when the time comes, and all I will know about it is seeing those tiny white woolly bundles jumping around.

37 comments:

  1. I am so pleased that they didn't mark us in the same way after the ante-natal classes!

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    1. Lol - well from my memories, I think they might have if they had got away with it! x

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  2. Is it silly of me to be excited reading your post lol. All new life is a miracle I guess. Don't forget your camera come lambing time, wee wobbly lambs are SO cute. And ditto about ante-natal in the late 80's early 90's haha, although I don't suppose you force the sheep into an enema and a shave lmao, sorry too much info eh? (anyone under 35 will have no idea what I am talking about anyway)
    V
    xxx

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    1. kerrrrriste! very glad I'm under 35 at this point... I had no idea!!!

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  3. So excited for you, good that you've been on a lambing course and know what to expect. Some of our guild are sheep owners and talk of the late and sleepless nights they've had at times. Are you keeping the lambs to increase your stock?

    Would love to hear what the fleece is like as they get older (I would, wouldn't I??) the Cheviot may make it a more wearable wool - I know the blackface is a bit less smooth but cheviot is softer and lovely to spin.

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    1. Dawn - yes. we will keep all the hogg lambs for a year or two yet. xx

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  4. I love all the different markings on sheep. They always look so colourful and I'm sure they mean something to the sheep farmer. When we first moved here I seriously asked the farmer in the lane if the pink markings were for girls and the blue for boys. He looked at me,(that sad woman up from the south!) and said the red and blue markings simply showed him which hills the sheep had been brought down from! I'm learning!

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    1. Ah Annie - but that can be the case, so you are not a sad Southerner at all! marking male and female lambs with different colours makes it easier to tell them apart when sorting them out for the sales. if you have a lot of sheep and a lot of twin births, marking the mother and lambs with a number and the male lambs with a different colour of that number is a really good idea for identification. There is a whole unknown world of sheep marking out there. xx

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  5. I think what amazes me most is the togetherness you and the other crofters experience with everything. It's wonderful that everyone gets together for these things (even scanning sheep! I love that!).

    Good luck to your ladies! I love the new ladies in the group. And Maddie Beag is just biding her time -- she's in no rush. :)

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    1. Emily - it is really because we all have small farms or croft, so it is more cost effective to do things together - it is traditionally how all the tasks would have been done. I love it too. xx

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  6. ah, i'm quite certain you will very much enjoy sheep midwifery...it's a lovely thing indeed.

    and yes, happily, for the most part, they just get on with it.

    xo

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  7. I had no idea scanning was available for sheep. How good to have an idea of what's ahead! Can't wait to see those healthy, robust lambies! :) xx

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  8. I hope it does all go well. Terribly exciting!! I do just adore little lambs, so sweet, and a true mark of spring.

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  9. Love the sheep photos and look forward to lamb photos in the future!

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  10. What an exciting time that lays ahead! Can't wait to see the outcome and the lovely bundles of fluffiness!

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  11. What a great life you are living Jacqui! I love seeing all the sheep faces and hope for an easy birthing experience for the mama's. Maybe you can take lots of pictures of the birthings to share? {hint :)}

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  12. Very interesting story today. I'm ready to buy some new sheep next month. I'm not sure if we have this scanning technique available where I live. Good post and photos.

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  13. how facinating, i never knew, marking sheep and scanning them for babies. i'm so glad to hear (and see) nothing hurtful to them happened and the sheep look just as placid after as before. can't wait to see the little lammies!

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  14. OOh how exciting ! baby lambs - Spring on its way. I enjoy reading your posts as you are living my dream, it was something I wanted to do some years back but now it will just remain a dream. Keep the good work going I am enjoying all you do!

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  15. Lovely lovely news! We have 4 sheep which would have blue bottoms poor loves.

    Fee.x

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  16. What a wonderful, cooperative, community system you that includes tea and baked goods!

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  17. I overheard a lambing conversation at Guild the other night that was suggesting that lambing went with the tides. Ie they would lamb evening and morning, and not much in between. Hoops all goes well for you and your woolly ladies.

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    1. Hi Claire - yes that seems to be the case - and you can make it work by feeding them at the same time, early in the morning and at tea time. xx

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  18. I need to pick your brains...do you have any experience with Molly lambs? We have four arriving at the weekend and although the farmer next door is leaving me with instructions, any first hand experience would be very welcome. Our farmer is a bit tougher than I am, and basically said that if they die it's not a bother. Eeeek.

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    1. I don't, kelly, as it is our first time lambing. Wow - 4 is a lot to be taking on. How exciting though How old will they be?
      Questions to ask would be about their feeding - did they get colostrum at all and any vaccines they will be due. If there are male lambs, you might want to have them castrated,if they are not already, and check about tail docking policies in your area.
      Eventually you will need a flock number or registration and the sheep will need to be tagged. I am not sure how it would work where you are, so find out from the farmer.
      lambs do die though - especially ones with a poor start in life.
      Good luck - you will be further along the road than I will - I might have to call on you for advice - lol.
      Actually, some of the smallholding forums might have some advice too. xx

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    2. he tried to give me eight! So I thought four wasn't too bad....and they are all little girls and very small. I grew up lambing but didn't get involved in the legal/ technical stuff and my poor Dad retired a while back and isn't up to date with all the current policies so thanks for this info x

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    3. my goodness - that is a lot of orphans! What happened to his ewes?

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  19. How exciting your first lambs to be......We have a small flock(7) of Damara sheep which shed their wool so there is no need to shear. They are bred for meat but they live the life of luxury at our farm, just keeping the grass down. This week we have introduced a new Ram(the girls were not impressed)so hopefully we will have some lambs too.

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  20. 4 Lambs how wonderful and exciting! Can't wait to see picvtures in due course. Much spring love x

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  21. Blessing on the Sheep

    The blessing placed by Mary
    On her own flock of sheep,
    Against hawks, against foxes,
    Against beasts, against men,
    Against hounds, against thieves,
    Against pole-cats, against marten-cats,
    Against the evil eye, and envy,
    Against disease, against dearth.
    In the hollow of your gathering
    Be yours the aiding of God
    On the hillock of your lying
    Whole be your rising.

    I was just reading "Power of Raven Wisdom of Serpent" by Noragh Jones (p. 156) and found this blessing. It made me think of this post I read a couple days ago. It is from the "Carmina Gadelica", a collection of lore and blessings from the highlands and islands of Scotland.

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    1. That is beautiful Missy. The carmina is a book i really need to get hold of. The library will have it to be sure, i just need to remember. Thank you for leaving that blessing. xxx

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  22. I love your blog and also am very excited to see your lambs when they are born! I am from the USA, have lived in Iceland for a few years but never saw the Icelanders mark their sheep as those in the UK do. I always assumed the markings were for what farms the sheep belonged to or perhaps a favourite football team! haha! (just kidding!) I would love to read more on the subject of sheep marking. I find it intriguing! I did pick up The Crofting Way book you reviewed a few posts ago but have not had a chance to read it yet. Oh, how I long to live the life you lead!! Thank you for sharing your days with all of us!

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    1. Thanks Shannon - so nice to have you along. There is a lot to sheep marking here - mastly because we all have small strips of land and our sheep all go to the common grazings for most of the year. I think it would be an interesting theme to develop, so i will post more on it at some point.
      My daughter and son in law love Iceland - they have been on holiday there a couple of times - it looks like a fascinating place.
      Hope you enjoy the book - will be interesting to hear what you think. xxx

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