Monday 31 May 2010

The gathering of the clan

This weekend we held an Open Day for our friends. We hold one most years and it gives our friends a "look see" at what we've been up to over the past year and what animals we have got. This year we decided to hold our open day earlier in the year so that everyone can see the lambs, whilst they are still lambs. But no one lingered outside for long as there was a very cold wind.
I did manage to take a couple of photos.

Holly and KD. One or two didn't recognise Holly's new hair cut. We say this cut represents her personality, the "tuff" dog she is. At one point there were 8 dogs here, ranging from a Husky cross down to a Westie and it was Holly who was the "pack leader". Showing them all the best bits of sheep poo to roll in and which ditches were the muddiest to run in!

Our friends Mark and Freylyn and their dogs Lunil (the Husky cross) and Bil (short for Bilbo).
Looks like I've lost my tractor to my godson's own son Robbie.
But my favorite photo of the weekend is this one

Robbie and his Dad, Ben. Robbie is wearing his mum's sunglasses and looking a very "cool dude".
Despite the weather everyone had a good time, with some friends staying over until today. Not being ones to miss an opportunity of extra hands, we decided to give the lambs the first of their Hepotvac injections, as well as weigh them. It took us about 45 mins to inject and weigh the lambs, with one lamb weighing a hefty 25kgs as 6 weeks of age!. Most weigh between the 15 - 20kgs, which considering the winter we've had and the lack of grass the ewes have been on, the lambs are doing very nicely.
Now that job is out of the way, Tim can start to empty the barn of hay and straw, take the sides and roof off, so that he and the Resident Vandal can replace the broken roof joists in a couple of weeks time, when the Resident Vandal is here again. That is, if we can find some roof joists long enough!!!!!

Sunday 23 May 2010

Worm egg count results

Since we had the problem with a resistant type of worm a couple of years ago (brought in by a tup who had been wormed indiscriminately every 3 weeks) I now work with our vet on the type of wormer we use etc. This involves me collecting sheep poo at various times of the year for the vet to count the worm eggs.
As the last worm count was done in late Feb, to coincide with the ewes final vaccinations before they give birth. Though the worm egg count was low, it was decided to worm the ewes as it is know that with the stress of lambing and feeding lambs, the ewes natural immunity to worms is very low and this can quickly result in a lot of worm eggs being passed on to the pasture, which means that the lambs can very quickly become infected, and this can have a effect on how much they grow.
It was decided that May would next time to do another worm count, and to that end, Monday saw me busy collecting 3 different poo samples. One from the pet lambs, one from the tup and weathers and finally one from the ewes and lambs. The vet rang with the results on Friday and it was good news. The tup, weather and pet lamb's worm count was so low, it was hardly worth mentioning, the ewes and lambs, though higher than the other 2 samples, was also low. Evidently anything between 100 - 200 is low, but all of the samples I had taken in for testing were below this.
So what next! No stress of worming the sheep just yet. Another worm count to be done for the ewes and lambs (not the pet lambs) in 6 - 8 weeks time. Or sooner if I start to notice a lot of lambs with "pooy bums" that is not related to being put onto fresh lush grass. I'm also going to continue putting the homeopathic wormer into all the animals waters, it seems to be helping the situation. The vet and I are aiming to be in a situation where the meat lambs are not wormed at all. It's all down to timing, correct use of wormer and the correct dosage. I know that this way of working goes against what a lot of farmers do, and that is to worm lambs every 3 weeks regardless, with the strongest wormer going. But with a worm egg count costing around £30 and the smallest bottle of wormer costing between £50 - £60. I know which route I prefer to go down.

A better rest of the week

The weather this week has been sunny and warm, so I took advantage of the heat to do some dyeing of the Merino/Nylon sock yarn

The photo doesn't do justice to the red, which is a rich and vibrant colour. I'm hoping these sell well at Stockton Farmers Market in June. Yesterday and today I was able to sit out under the sun brolly and get some spinning done.
Despite the heat I've planted out some peas, red sprout and dwarf runner bean plants, and as we have a spring, which Tim rigged up to water the veg garden last summer, I've been attaching the hose to, to water the potatoes, which are just starting to show. I've also been frantically sowing some more seeds, (fennel, mixed salad leaves, kale, and calabrese) to try and catch up due to the cold weather we've been having recently.
The sudden heat wave has brought with it clouds of green fly, which the chickens love, 2 very hot alpacas, as they are sporting 2 years growth, thanks to the shearer not turning up last year. They've only got to go until the 19th June when the new alpaca shearer arrives. The ewes are going through a lot of water, we are filling their water trough up 2 - 3 times a day and 2 very hot dogs, who both had cooling showers this evening, Holly because she'd found some rather smelly sheep poo to roll in, and Deefa, because he was afraid he was going to miss out!!!!
We'd given the ewes and lambs access to the grass between the 2 barns as it wanted eating up, followed by the grass at the back of the barns. It's taken them less than a week to eat it all down, but it has just given the grass on the common land a bit of a rest, and, as we have "the gathering of the clans" here on Bank Holiday Sunday, tided the spot up a bit.
Today we finally weaned the pet lambs, I'd used the last of the milk powder last night and now they are 8 - 9 weeks old we were not going to buy any more milk power. By rights they should have been weaned a couple of weeks back, but as it was so cold we felt that it was not the right time to wean them. So today they have been complaining, loudly, every time they have seen us. It won't last long, by the middle of the week they will be quiet and the milk bucket will be a distant memory to them.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

The decision to end a life.....

Is not one easily taken, but on Monday that is what we had to do.
Two weeks ago this little lamb weighed 18kg, but just over a week ago we noticed that he was not eating or coming to the bucket for milk, his head was down and he just didn't look right. We weighed him again and his weight was down to 15kgs, so the vet was called.
An examination flagged up that he had a high temperature, but nothing else, so a course of strong antibiotics was prescribed.
On Friday the course of 'botics was completed, but the lamb had started to pick up, but not as much as we had hoped. Over the weekend the lamb started to go downhill again, and his weight was now 13kgs. So on Monday I spoke to the vet yet again to see what we could do for this lamb. He had two suggestions, another course of even stronger antibiotics, or we put him to sleep. We decided to go down the antibiotics route, but when Tim and I went to give the lamb this additional antibiotic, he looked so ill. He sat down and started to through his head about as if in pain. There was no other option but to call the vet and ask him to put this poor little lamb to sleep.
The vet arrived and the lamb was very quickly put to sleep with no fuss and stress to the lamb, but still upsetting all the same. But you can't have livestock without dead stock.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Paddock management and Tynedale Guild Open Day

It's been a mixed week, this week with the weather. We've had hailstones and sun!!
Ghilli and Grommet are now in their summer paddock. Finn, Cecil, Fluffy and Archie are gently munching the grass in the allotment area. So despite the mixed weather, we've been able to get the vacated paddocks' docks and thistles sprayed. Yesterday Tim chain harrowed a couple of paddocks that the ewes had been in. It's amazing how much thatch came out of the grass.
Yesterday was the Tynedale Weavers Spinners & Dyers Guild Open Day, over at Stocksfield. It meant leaving home before 7am, and I had the usual argument with the Sat Nav. All I will say is that I saw parts of Bishop Auckland and Crook I didn't intend to see going to Stocksfield and on the way home, I didn't realise Darlington has so many roundabouts!!! The journey aside, which I view as part of the adventure, I really enjoyed the day, the people are so friendly and the food delicious. It was also great to catch up with everyone and I spent some time looking at all the different spinning wheels that were being used.
On Monday and Thursday I had my first sittings for the Employment Tribunal. Monday was reasonable uneventful, but only part heard and the additional days rescheduled for August. Thursday, on the other hand, started badly. Trains from Saltburn were cancelled, so I had to drive to Thornaby, this time without the Sat Nav. But I still got lost!!! 2 things in my defence the Tribunal court is actually in Stockton, not Thornaby and Thornaby has a evil one way system!!! I lost count the number of times I went past/through/round the Mandella Industrial Estate!!! I finally found Thornaby train station, so parked the car and walked. It was easier!!!!! The case I heard was done and dusted in a day and was relatively simple. As was the drive home, it's easier to get out of Thornaby than it is to get in!!!!!

Holly's hair cut and the chickens

Last Sunday Holly and Deefa visited the doggy hairdresser. Holly has had the "2 penny all off" and now looks like a "tuff dog" with a stick for a tail as opposed to the "fluffy duster" tail she did have. Deefa looks just the same, just with shorter fur.
I finally managed to get some photos of my chickens.
This is one of the Cream Legbar chicks who is the most inquisitive of the four Legbar chicks

These are my 2 Sussex chicks, as you can see the chick between the water container and feeder has no tail, as well as being the youngest of my chickens. The Sussex at the front is the oldest of all the chickens and she is starting to "cluck" like a grown up hen.
The extensions to hen run arrived on Monday, which have been cable tied together as the joiners that were sent with the extra runs didn't seem secure enough. The chicks now have a 12' run to explore, which on Tuesday morning was a little unfortunate for a very big black slug. It stood no chance against 6 chickens!!!!!!

Sunday 9 May 2010

When is the weather going to warm up?

It has been very cold this week. Yesterday I was at Saltburn Farmers Market and we were all saying that it was as cold as if it were October, especially the wind, it was bitter. We all started to pack away before 3pm as we'd all had a very cold and slow day as customers were few and far between.
As the weather has been so cold I've not been able to get any photos of my chickens, they've been out in their run, but not for long, deciding to stay in their hut out of the wind. I shut them in at dusk and they now are all roosting on their perch as they should be. The youngest Sussex has no tail as yet, all the chickens have the startings of their combs and they all still cheep like little chicks!
Holly and Deefa have had their first hair cut of the year. Holly is completely shorn and looks like a small greyhound with "bat ears". Deefa no longer has a "white tutu" round his tail and both dogs smell very "flowery". It won't take Holly long to find something aromatic to roll in.
Despite the cool weather this week I have managed to spend sometime in the veg garden, 6 rows of parsnips have been sown, the contents of 1 compost bin spread on one deep bed and then planted out with some broccoli and summer cabbage plants. The seeds I've sown in the greenhouse are coming through really well and are ready to be hardened off in the cold frame.
We've had to give the ewes and lambs some more grazing on the common land, we've also moved Ghilli and Grommet into their summer paddock and Finn and his mates are quickly eating the grass down in the race and will be moved into the allotment area in the next couple of days. Tim went to a farm sale on Saturday and the main topic of conversation between all the farmers was the lack of grass with many complaining that ewes with lambs were drying up after 6 weeks! Lets hope next week brings some warmer weather to get the grass growing.

Monday 3 May 2010

Some quiet time....

Now that lambing is finished, life seems a little quiet, not that I'm complaining. But you soon realise how tired you are once you stop.
Lamb 19 is now fully recovered, though he did have a visit from the vet on Thursday morning as he didn't seem to be picking up from his selenium injection. So the vet prescribed a multi vitamin injection and a course of strong antibiotics, a 1/4ml per day. We let him and his mum out with the rest of the ewes and lambs this morning.
With so many sheep we are watching the grass very carefully and this morning we let the ewes and lambs onto the common land as the grass is a good length, not too long and not too short, ideal for feeding ewes and young lambs. We're still feeding the ewes a mix of concentrates and sugar beet shreds and it's amazing how many of the lambs are starting to take an interest in the shreds, they are also forming a large lamb gang, headed by Amber's twins, they may be one of smallest set of twins in the pack, but they are two little "pocket rockets"
On Thursday morning the weather was ideal for me to spray out Ghilli and Grommet's summer paddock, the docks, nettles and thistles are really starting to put on some growth, and today, despite the cooling weather, they are showing signs of starting to die back. We'll move Ghilli and Grommet into this paddock this week, giving their existing paddock a rest before chain harrowing and the selectively spraying out for docks etc.
Today I went and picked up my chickens, they are now 11weeks old and tonight are safely tucked up in their new hen house. They travelled quite happily in the cat basket in the back of the car, cheeping away to each other. Tomorrow they will be let out into their hen run, when, hopefully, I can take some photos of them for the blog.