We’ve started lambing and there’s a Basco Béarnaise !

New-born lambThe days just seem to fly by at the moment. There’s a lot of everyday things going on and like farmers all over France, we’ve loads of paperwork to do this month, then on exactly the date we predicted, the sheep started lambing.

I like it when they lamb early in the year because we have them all inside in the warmth and out of danger. When we let them lamb outdoors there are often mishaps when, for example a new mother abandons her new-born lamb in the field or a fox or badger takes a lamb.

new born lamb with yellowThere’s not a lot to eat in the fields anyway and it’s been bitterly cold and windy out there for the past few days.
We’ve some good hay, mineral and vitamin licks and a ration of cereal for each new mum and being closer to them at the moment makes them less scared of us and easier to manage if there are birthing or feeding problems.

We have a lot more water harvested from the roof this year which the goats and sheep seem to prefer to tap water and we keep the storage close to the shed, in a warm area and so they’re less likely to freeze, which cuts down a lot on the work of smashing ice and carrying kettles of hot water. The new mothers drink an amazing amount of water ! All in all it’s easier and more comfortable for us and them and as we can hear what’s going on in the shed from the house it’s certainly more reassuring.

I’m excited because we’ve had a lamb from one of our Basco Béarnaise ewes. He’s a strapping lad and huge despite the size of his sire – a small but obviously very capable Cameroon ram.

She’s not a terribly good mother which is not a bad thing in some ways. It means we can feed the wee fella a bit ourselves and take some of her milk for tea and for making cheese and I’ll feel a lot less guilty about the whole thing.

We’ve one lamb in the kitchen who we needed to warm up and feed quickly because his mother totally rejected her. The poor wee thing chose the worst spot ever to curl up in and got chilled and when we tried to get her to suck the colostrum from the ewe she was already too weak.

We milked off some colostrum and gave it to her gently in drops from a syringe and she licked and swallowed.

She finally got a bit more strength after she was warmed up and with a bit of help from our Dachshund Bonnie who is a real star and licks lamb’s bottoms to stimulate them to pee and feed just like the ewe does. Thanks to Bonnie, the lamb’s sucking reflex started working and she’s now taking tiny amounts from a baby’s bottle and is slowly walking around the kitchen this evening.

The little thing isn’t completely OK yet but we’re hoping she’ll recover and make a strong wee lamb.

We’ve got too many chickens !

This young cock has just lost a fightThis boy got beaten up by a band of roaming youngsters that I call the red bunch and as he was walking away with his head down I started taking photographs of him and he suddenly perked up and strode along proudly as though to show me that he was non the worse for his humiliation.

The culprits were a large group of young red cockerels who are now at sexual maturity and are a pain in the whotsit – not just because they’re fighting with all the other young cocks but also they’ve started to gang up on the girls and the poor things have to walk the gauntlet before being allowed into the chicken shed to roost for the night.

That's the spirit !Anyone who has kept chickens will know what I mean – I almost feel like throwing something at them when they start their antics and the girls are becoming nervous and scatty and if this goes on any longer they’ll go off the lay, their backs will lose their feathers and some of them may be tempted to sleep outside and risk an encounter with Mr Fox.

Young cockerels almost ready for the potIt’s been a real joy all summer to see this year’s chicks grow up. A high proportion of them are bright orange with a few blacks and a couple of pure whites. All of them are in great condition, bright eyed and constantly on the move.

The garden has been brought alive by the flashing past of dozens of orange chicks running when they hear the feeder being filled up. But I counted the chickens this morning and there are fifty and an awful lot of them are young males. I’ll try to find homes for the best cockerels – normally my neighbours are interested if they need to change their stock – but sadly, it’s not worth feeding them all winter and the time has come to cull them and get them into the freezer.

 

Au revoir Judy – Bourrou May 2010


Our little wire-haired Dachsund Judy was in perfect health on Monday.

In the early evening we found her in a coma behind the house. Her gums were white and her limbs in spasm and I rushed her to the nearest vet. He said that she’d eaten rat poison. Neither us nor our neighbours use rat poison. She died without regaining consciousness.

We are devastated.

Notre petit Teckel Judy était en parfaite santé lundi midi.

En début de soirée nous l’avons trouvée dans un état comateux derrière la maison. Ses gencives étaient blanches et ses membres dans le spasme et je lui amenais en tout hâte vers la vétérinaire la plus proche. Il a dit qu’elle avait mangé du raticide. Ni nous, ni nos voisins utilisent le poison pour les rats.

Nous sommes dévastés.

 

Latest lamb – small but perfectly formed

We have a few young ewes due to lamb soon so we’re keeping our eyes peeled regularly on the field in front of the house since the flock have gone outside on to the new grass.

The sheep turn their noses up at hay now and we’ve almost stopped feeding supplements as both the ewes and the lambs are looking pretty chunky but the yearlings who are pregnant still need a bit extra so we’re getting pretty good at slipping some corn and lucerne nuts in front of them and they’ve started to become used to a discreet treat.

This teeny weeny little lamb was born yesterday. She’s the smallest lamb I’ve ever seen and when we saw her at first we thought she might be premature.

On closer inspection, we saw her little feet are hard and you can feel her teeth and today she’s running after her mum and screams her head off when she’s lost. She’s pretty normal for a day old lamb really.

We’re almost at the end of our terrible foot-rot problem. Seven of our goats still have a slight limp and I still have a slightly sore back but we’re getting there.

Clearing up after the storm and almost the end of lambing

We had a really bad storm in Europe this week and although the Dordogne wasn’t too badly hit, it’s given us a lot more work to do and the animals are stressed and jittery. There wasn’t any damage to our buildings but a few trees have fallen on the fences and in the veg garden and we’ve been collecting debris, cutting up trees and mending fences for the past two days.

Some people in Bourrou still don’t have electricity and of course we’ve had a lot of visits from people who need to borrow lighting, ‘phone EDF or contact family and friends in other parts of France which are suffered badly after the high winds and flooding.

The weather has made working outside difficult for us some weeks now, first the bitter cold and winds then snow. Now we have rain almost every day. In the morning we put the sheep out in warm sunshine then it starts raining and we have to go and get them back in again.

The changeable weather doesn’t matter too much when the sheep don’t have lambs, they’re hardy enough to decide for themselves whether or not they want to come in but I don’t like to think of the little ones outside on the damp grass because it’s still quite chilly here and lambs can go downhill quickly if they get too cold. That’s one of the reasons we like to keep our sheep inside for lambing but they do get bored and there’s a risk of footrot if the bedding gets damp from constant use and of course there’s a higher incidence of external parasites.

Thankfully, all the births this year have been trouble-free and the lambs are up on their feet and looking for food within minutes. We’ve had no problems at all with new mothers and every lamb has a ewe and plenty to eat, so they’re growing fast. Although it’s nice bottle feeding lambs the powdered milk is expensive and not as good as the ewe’s milk and after having done it for a few years, early in the morning and late into the night, the novelty soon wears off !

To begin with we had just single births which seemed a bit strange but in the past few days we’ve had three sets of twins – two within an hour of each other.

We had a problem with one lamb of the second set born yesterday who wouldn’t stay with her mother and kept going over to another ewe when she called for her twins. We put her with her mother who then rejected her but we persisted and the problem seems to have been resolved. Yesterday evening the ewes had worked out which lamb belonged to which mother – as you can see in this video.

Cameroon sheep cross lambing is in progress !

I’ve taken a break from blogging for a while to concentrate on other things but I can’t resist showing you some photos of some of our lambs born this month. They are from our sheep who are a mixed bunch of “normal” girls crossed with our Cameroon ram. We decided to try this cross because last year we had a surprise lamb who was a Cameroon cross and he grew fast and was extremely hardy – out in all weathers yet big boned and heavy like his mother. This might not be the most appropriate time to say this but the meat was wonderful !

That’s him in the middle of the photo at about five months. His sire is the brown strange looking horned ram top left. We inherited most of our sheep from Fabrice’s family and we kept a small herd going of about thirty through a period of some very low lamb prices. We’ve chosen new rams to improve the conformation and increase the hardiness of the flock as the summer grass has been affected by the droughts we’ve been having for the past few years and winters seem to be getting colder.

Now our lamb is selling well locally and it’s very nice when the work involved in keeping them is rewarded with a decent regular income.

We’ve had the Cameroon sheep for a few years. They’re easy to manage, out in all weathers and graze contentedly where there doesn’t seem to be a lot for them to eat. We decided to leave the Cameroon ram with all the ewes.

Unfortunately, we have Blue Tongue disease in France and were obliged to have our sheep vaccinated early in their pregnancy. We’ve had a lot of miscarriages, so many of our ewes aren’t going to have lambs at what is (for us) the best time of the year when they are inside on straw because of the weather and easy to keep an eye on.

So far we’ve had six lambs, all easy births, all fine healthy lambs who fed easily and quickly as soon as they were on their feet but all singles – which is a bit of disappointment because we normally have a lot of twins and sometimes even triplets. Still, the lambs are beautiful chunky wee things and we should have some more later on in the season.

Duc’s going home

Duc is an 18 year old ex-trotter who has been staying on our farm until his owner’s broken collar bone healed. She’s now fit enough to ride and take care of him again and has found Duc a few hectares of land near her home.

We were really sad to see him go – he’s a lovely horse who still has a lot of energy and fun in him. Best of luck you two…

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