Sunday, 28 March 2010

I'm tired and I wanna go to bed...

It's true, I did have a little drink several hours ago (a glass of cherry brandy to keep out the cold, medicinal you know) but I don't think that's the reason I'm crying out for sleep. Yes, lambing is very tiring and it's been more than two weeks of 5a.m. starts and doing all the animal feeds so that OH can do the late shift, and the usual workload has been unremitting. So that puts a distinct edge on things. But waking up at 2.45a.m. to find there is no electricity has just about done me in.
No turning over and snoring, oh no. There are ducklings to keep warm, incubators to sort, ewes to peer at with poxy torches, setting up the generator, turning everything off, playing tag with the fuse box which just won't cooperate and then, finally convinced it ain't at our end, ringing the leccy board who rush someone out for 6am who pokes about and says yes, their wires are shorting on the electricity pole outside the house and he'll have to call in back-up from Barnstaple as they are not allowed to deal with live wires solo. As he waits I attend to a ewe who has twins, but is anxious NOT to be put in a lambing pen. It tries the patience and in the gloom I get it sorted eventually and leave them to bond.
An hour later, having shinned up the pole like a ferret up a drainpipe, the chap has it all pinging with life. So, generator off, everything turned on, ducklings taken from warm box on top of the Aga and put back under their heatlamp, everything shuffled about.
Then time to feed the pigs, the sheep, the ducks and geese, the dogs and cats, to walk across the fields to check on the outdoor lambs. Then to trim sheep toes, mark and sort the new mothers with lambs ready to go outside, put in the stock box and bounce with them over the fields and release them to their first sniff of grass.
Somewhere along the way was a bowl of something hot that was meant to create a nuclear glow round my body but just made me burp as I sat in the tractor cab doinging over ridge and furrow. But now I'm sitting here, eyes glazed, getting ready to go and check the ewes, again, and again and again. What joy.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Live and learn

First timer ewes can be a major pain in the bum. They have good muscle tone and squirt out their lambs without noticing. They think they've had an almighty painful poo and just walk off.
Half an hour ago I went out to check the ewes and found one first-timer had just that second lambed. She was nervous but licking her newborn as all good mums should, but she went for the arse end, not the head and I had to clear a lot of mucus out of its mouth - a particularly slimy lamb, this. I let the mum lick and bit by bit I picked up the lamb and brought it closer to the barn and out of the cold, mum following agitatedly behind. Older ewes just trot obediently behind (unless they are box of frogs). With the pair safely bonded in the pen, I ushered all the other ewes into the barn for the night.
As I shut the door I hear the most earsplitting bellow. Lying on the floor, legs all outstretched in a weird approximation of ewe-giving-birth, was another first-timer, with a lamb head poking out of her back end. So, I need to kneel on her and help out the lamb, as it'll get stuck with a head only presentation. The ewe has other ideas. She leaps to her feet, mid-bellow and chases around the barn. She then throws herself back on the floor, squeezes out the lamb which shoots out like a cork from a bottle, the ewe gets back up and starts a stampede with the rest of the flock, leaving the lamb vulnerable to trampling. I dive in, pick up the lamb, clear its mouth and nose, check it's fine - and it is, bleating for England - and put it in a pen.
Now, can I tell which ewe has just produced her first offspring? Not without help. We pen them all, and I check under every tail of all the first-timers. The very last one I check has afterbirth emerging, so she is reunited with the lamb, and after a short panicky trample, gets sniffing and licking and bonding.
Me, I'm knackered. I only offered to do the 8pm check as a favour before going to bed to be ready for the 5am shift, and I get more excitement than is good for me or the flock. With all that stirring around I wouldn't be surprised if all the lambing pens are full by morning. Good night.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Lambing Live

Firstborns arrived on Saturday, another pair today, and another ewe just gone into labour. It's started, it's happening, I'm up and down the farm track every hour, at least, and up at 5am doing the day shift.
Dahlia the Berkshire gilt is due to farrow any time now, although her milk hasn't come in yet, and the first duck eggs in the incubator are also due to hatch this week. One big earth mother then.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

All anticipation

What with Lambing Live and my own calendar countdown, I'm more than anticipatory on the lambing front. Just 3 days til the first possible due date. Will it happen in a mad flurry of activity? Will it drag out in ridiculously luxurious and casual fashion whilst I twitch with impatience? Will it be smooth and simple, or laden with eventful happenings? Will we manage to divide early and late shifts sensibly or will they crossover with incident and cause days of snatching at sleep as two pairs of hands struggle to keep up? Who knows. And then there's a farrowing due any time soon. And eggs are in the incubator. Let's get started.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Bingo Little

Welcome home, Bingo Little. After years of putting it off, several hilarious but useless attempts at A.I, and too many visits across the lovely but circuitous South West, I present, for your delectation and delight, the new boar.
He is a young chap, and this was his first (and hopefully last) journey by trailer. He had Aunt Agatha for company, but even so, he was fretful and suspicious. Neither did he like being transferred into the stock box to be tractored to his new home. He made a raft of new noises that weren't encouraging. But two days later he is trotting up to me to be fed, ignores the excited wooflings of the dogs (they love pigs, those two), and snoozes deep in his straw-filled ark, with the mere tip of snout protruding. He will have a few months yet before his services are required - both sows are up the duff, Aunt Dahlia due in just a few weeks - and he has a lot of growing to do. But now we have a family group, are no longer reliant on bottles of spunk ( I know, I know, the pros call it semen), and I don't have to get intimate with the sows every six months.
And why Bingo Little (aka Bingo)? He's the Wodehouse character who falls for every woman he meets. Bodes well.