Saturday, 21 May 2011

May update - lambs

A couple of posts ago, back in March, we picked up our three orphan lambs, with a view to raising them for meat.
Bottle feeding lambs is not something to be attempted if you are keen on sleep - the first few weeks, the lambs were on 6 hourly feeds. This generally took place at 12 and 6 o'clock, every day. As there are two of us, we each took either a morning or midnight feed to minimise sleep deprivation.
Warming the bottes in hot water first. The biggest inconvenience being that we had nowhere to chill the champagne, Tsk!

Then they were weaned at about 5 weeks old. This requires real willpower - as the noise they make when they are crying for milk can be utterly heartbreaking. We started by giving them a small amount of creep feed (little pellets of balanced feed) and fresh water alongside the milk during the day, which they sucked occasionally and gradually started to nibble at it. Sprinkling lamblac over the pellets (the powdered ewe milk replacement) helped.
Lamlac - other ewe milk replacers are available and might have slightly less menacing sheep on the packet.
By this time they had quit our straw lined stone garage and were outside in our paddock, which already had stock fencing from our pigs last year. Note - 5 week old lambs can jump straight through stock fencing! So we added chicken wire as well. They started to nibble the leaves from the trees and the hay which we used for their bedding - the pig arc doubled up perfectly as a little nightime shelter.
Then one day, we just stopped abruptly with the milk. This is widly touted as being the best way to get them on solids, but I know others who have phased them out gradually with success. Within a day they had started chowing down the pellets and drinking water.
What about grass I hear you ask? I am neurotic at the best of times, but no neurosis has gripped me as badly as 'Bloat Neurosis'
Sorry to the squeamish - a bloated sheep.
Bloat is a potentially fatal condition, prevelent in lambs, whereby a bacterial imbalance in the stomach produces excessive gas, which bloats the stomach and puts pressure on lungs causing suffocation. It is particularly common where new lambs with immature stomachs start to eat moist, lush, spring grass, clover and alfalfa. To avoid this we introduced them to older, longer grass very gradually, a few hours a day at most. Much to Oli's annoyance, I have rushed out at the slightest hint of a bump on their upper left side (where the stomach is) with natural yoghurt (said to aid the good bacteria and avoid gas) and to massage their stomachs to disperse any gas - sometimes at midnight, as I lie awake fretting that they will all be dead by the morning. (This can be quite amusing as they do fart if you push too hard!)

Needless to say, they were perfectly fine and are now permenantly on the pasture, so an absolute doddle to care for, only needing us to check they are OK twice a day. 

They really are eating machines and spend their days sleeping in a big pile, or moving from one tasty patch to another. I hope they enjoy a summer of sunshine and munching in this lovely spot. 

As soon as they spot you they come running - how bad do I feel?!
They are still desperate to be around us, even though we no longer have bottles on our person and like a good neck scratch. They are also still desperate to get through the stock fencing to the veggie patch, but are far too big for that now!

"Hmm this grass is so much greener!"

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