What a roller coaster it has been! Having had the ewes scanned in December we separated the twins and triplets and put them on better grass in readiness for feeding their extra lambs. Looking rather large some of them!!
We set up the lambing shed taking into account everything we had learnt from last year. We had 2 adopted pens ready, extra single cubicles for the new mums. Then we brought the ewes in a few days before due date and we waited………
First born were twins to Stevie – so called as she is blind in one eye, having been pecked by a gull when stuck on her back about 3 weeks before. She had a serious eye infection in the other eye and was totally blind for about a week, the prognosis was not good. However with eye drops every 2 hours for a number of days she recovered her sight in one eye. It is really wonderful to see her well and nursing her lambs so well.
So it kicked off, so many highs and lows…..things we learned this year:
- Don’t be thrilled when a lot of triplets are expected, most of them had one much weaker lamb. Some survived staying with the mum, four we removed and fostered onto other ewes. One successfully by putting it straight to the foster mum (who had just lambed) and smearing it in afterbirth. The others by using the adopter pens. These pens hold the ewes head in place to stop her butting the lambs but allow her to eat and drink and the lambs to feed.
These pens were successful but took longer than we expected to work, after 3 days we released the ewe to see what happened but in all cases the problem was not resolved. So the ewe was restrained again and we waited another few days – was eventually successful in all cases, not quite sure the lambs really understand how it is supposed to work!
- Stomach tubing is so beneficial for the weaker lambs, they often cannot compete with the stronger lamb(s) and this mean they fall further and further behind. We gave them a good dose of colostrum and sometimes squirt of lamb ‘quickstart’. This then seemed to then give them the energy to continue feeding on their own.
- Twin Lamb Disease is not only a risk when the ewes are in poor condition but ALSO when they are in good condition as ours were, having been bollused with a mineral supplement and being on better grass throughout the year. Sadly we had two ewes die from this, one had an emergency caesarean as her triplets were imminent – all three survived and are being bottle fed. The second ewe was already outside doing well with twins and suddenly went downhill over a few hours, we were unable to save her. These twin lambs were bottle fed for a day and we were then able to foster them onto a single mum whose lamb was dead on arrival.
- Bottle feeding is hugely time consuming but so rewarding when they do well…..
The weather was better this year and it really paid off being able to put the new mums and lambs outside within a few days. The grass was still poor but topped them up with haylage and all doing well so far……..
Just waiting for the last ewe to lamb, she is outside with the rest enjoying the sunshine, all eating and sleeping (just like us!)