I know, it’s been so long and I can almost hear you all thinking “what’s going on with the sheep?” So, especially for you lovely sheepy people, here’s a little update.
You may remember back in February my favourite ewe, Trouble, managed to produce triplets. It’s definitely a design flaw that sheep can produce more than two lambs when they only have two teats. She fed them well to start with, but we were offering the lambs a bottle just in case and quite quickly it seemed that one of the lambs was only really feeding from the bottle, and not running to mum for milk. When they all went outside after the initial bonding period (with heat lamp) we continued topping-up with the bottle.
Blondie and her single lamb were doing fine (though this lamb has a very odd, yodelling kind of baa – so odd that I hear the Builders mimicking her!). She has also inherited Blondie’s flightiness and will be a bugger to catch up in the future if her Mum is anything to go by!
Then the weather changed and it got really cold. They had some shelter to rest in and plenty of hay. The lambs were trying to feed frequently from their mums to keep warm. I noticed a very slight, almost-not-there, reddening area on Trouble’s udder and made a note to keep an eye on it.
That afternoon I sprained my ankle really badly (an old dancing injury that floors me these days) and was properly off my feet for two days (apart from the complications of getting out of the yurt down the stairless foot-high drop to ground level and hopping over uneven stones and up a ramp into the barn to get to the loo hanging onto a bit of two-by-one – but really, let’s not go there).
As a result, I took my eye off the ball and Trouble developed bad mastitis. Word (and Farmer’s Weekly) has it that it was a bad year for mastitis in the ewes – the endless wet and then sudden cold, snowy weather was causing the lambs to bump up to the udder more than usual for comfort and energy. I felt awful, I should have known what it was and reacted faster. I will know for sure next time.
My farmer friend came to the rescue and treated her with antibiotics. Thankfully she recovered and has slowly put on weight. We took two of the three lambs from her to be fed on the milk bucket, so she just had one lamb, but now they are all together you can see how that lamb has been affected – she’s definitely smaller than the others. I’ve no doubt she will catch up in time but it’s interesting comparing them. I think maybe it’s a little like breastfed babies, who tend to be leaner than bottlefed babies.
Now the lambs don’t need milk they can give their mums a much-needed rest, up on the grassy cliffs above the sea. In my mind’s eye I imagine them lounging around on the grass in the peace and quiet, listening to skylarks and chewing the cud while they enjoy not being jumped on or tugged at. In fact, that’s exactly what they are doing., while the lambs all play together in the field here.