crouchley hall farm

  • it must be Spring

    All of a sudden we’re through March and into April. People are already asking when the turkeys will be arriving and we’re still in the throes of lambing. The weather here is much wetter than we would like, so we’re doing our very best to keep the new lambs out of the mud and with access to a decent shelter. We put a good straw bed in the 10 foot livestock trailer and park it in the field with the ramp down. Most of the lambs love it but there’s always a splinter group that prefer to creep underneath the trailer to get out of the weather. Don’t ask me why, it’s a sheep’s prerogative to do the unfathomable.

    Lambing is different every year and the 2016 season is no exception. Wiltshire Horn sheep tend to have a single lamb at their first lambing and (usually) twins thereafter. Which is ideal. In the last 15 years I can only recall having 3 sets of triplets born – triplets are less than ideal as a ewe only has two teats – so far this year we’ve already got 3 sets of triplets and we’re only halfway through lambing. As we lamb indoors, our ewes can end up delivering their lambs closer to another ewe than they would choose given more room outdoors. One of my pet fears over the years has been that this close-quarter lambing could lead to mis-mothering and the wrong ewe and lambs being paired up, either by me getting it wrong or an over maternal sheep stealing a lamb away. I arrived at the barn the other morning to find my worst-case scenario: two ewes had delivered triplets at the same time. There seemed to be lambs everywhere and I had no idea which three lambs belonged to which ewe. The secret was to do nothing but stand and watch. A ewe will only have anything to do with her own lambs and chases off a lamb that doesn’t belong. So a few minutes careful observation showed me how the two families lined up and I could get each ewe settled in a pen with her own lambs and no interlopers.

    Another first for this season has been a lamb with contracted tendons. It looked fine when first born but as it started to totter about, there was obviously something wrong. Its front feet were folded back, so it had to try and walk on the joint, rather than its hooves. For some reason the tendons at the back of its legs were contracted and pulled on the hooves so that the poor little thing couldn’t straighten its legs to walk properly. Never had this before either but this time it was out with the reference books. They all agreed that this was a minor ailment and easily fixed. “All” we had to do was gently splint the back of his legs from below the knee to just behind the heel, so that the tendons extended and would begin to work properly. So that’s what we did. Little pieces of plastic pipe were light but stiff enough to work as splints. We raided our First Aid box for padding and surgical tape to hold it in place. Plus some bright red Vetrap, self adhesive bandage, to keep everything clean and in place. He was immediately better for being able to mix with the other lambs and get at the milk more easily. We changed the dressing every 24 hours to prevent chafing and check progress and after the first day things were even better and he was walking more normally without the splints, although still on tiptoe. By day 3 he was perfectly normal again. A good result all round and another new wrinkle learnt.

    We’ll be carrying on with one of my favourite annual events for another few days yet. To me there are few things in farming as satisfying as walking away from a successful lambing, with a contented ewe and healthy lambs secure in their own deep straw bed. I look forward to it every year and miss it as soon as it’s over. And the turkeys ? They’re not due until July.



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