Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘lambing’

Countdown to Lambing

We’ve spent this weekend getting ready for our first lambing.

Jim the ram went in with the ewes on 31st October so we’re expecting lambing to start end of March / beginning of April. Because we’ve only got 8 ewes and we live on the smallholding¬†we didn’t raddle Jim, so we don’t know when each of the ewes fell pregnant.

For those that don’t know raddling involves putting a harness on the ram with a wax crayon. When he mounts the ewes it leaves a coloured mark on their backside. You can also apply a paste to the ram’s brisket which does the same thing. The colour of the crayon or paste should be changed after the ram has been running with the ewes for a while e.g. 2 weeks. Ewes have a 17 day cycle and are on heat or in season for 2 days. If not mated successfully during these two days the ewe will continue to come on heat at 17 day intervals. If a ewe has repeated marks of different colours then she is failing to get pregnant, this might be due to infertility of the ewe or ram. Once the ewe stops having different colours appearing on her backside you know that she has mated successfully and can then estimate when she will lamb.

We’ve already got our lambing kit from Supplies for Smallholders ( https://www.suppliesforsmallholders.co.uk/lambing-starter-kit-inc-storage-tray-p-485.html) but we needed to sort out the lean to barn and the electric fencing so the sheep can have access to new grazing.

The previous owners of our flock of Jacob sheep lambed outside and apparently had trouble free lambings with the ewes just getting on with it. I’m hoping that this means the experienced older ewes will continue to be trouble free lambers. We do have 4 ewes that haven’t lambed before though. The smallest doesn’t look pregnant compared with the others at the moment but we’ve got a few weeks left.

We’re planning to lamb outside but wanted to clear out the lean to barn so that we have the option of moving any sheep or lambs inside if necessary. We’ve got a set of hurdles ready to make pens. The lean to has an open front and connects to the piggery building which has water and electric as well as several stalls. There’s also access to grass at the front.

Here are some pictures of the lean to now it’s been cleared out. There are some bits and pieces at the back but the sheep won’t have access to this area there’s also a built in hay rack, the previous owners kept cattle here at one time.

Once that was all cleared the next job was to experiment with using some electric polywire fencing to allow the sheep to graze the grass around the polytunnel and caravan.

I was planning on planting lots of herb beds in this area but the clay soil is so hard to work with, unless you spend a lot of time improving it or build raised beds, and until the windbreak hedging matures the herbs are really going to struggle. So I’ve abandoned those plans and instead we’re going to extend the forest garden but this will take a while, so in the meantime it makes sense to make full use of all the available grass.

The area hasn’t been grazed at all over winter and is lovely, lush and green. Following advice from online forums and other sheep owners we chose polywire over tape and put some permanent corner posts in to get it nice and tight. At the moment we’ve only got two strands but before the lambs arrive we plan to add a third. This temporary grazing area links easily to the other paddocks but we can shut it off easily as well. Another bonus is when the sheep are grazing here we can see them from our bedroom.

The paddock that we plan to use for lambing is the closest to the house and has a field shelter and ark as well as several mature trees for shelter. The paddock has been rested for several months so combined with the temporary grazing there will be plenty of grass for everyone. We’ve also got the schooling paddock which hasn’t been grazed at all over winter and we’ll move the sheep down there once the lambs are a bit bigger.

Here are some pictures of the temporary electric fence and the sheep investigating their new grazing.

One of the older ewes who is very clearly pregnant and has udders appearing started taking herself off from the rest of the flock this afternoon. She seemed fine no signs of distress at all and is eating and drinking but does seem to want to be alone in one of the field shelters. I’m wondering whether this is a build up to going into labour and giving birth.

Ewes put to the ram on Guy Fawkes night 5th November are expected to give you lambs for 1st April. Jim the ram met his ewes on 31st October hence our estimate that we’d be lambing at the end of March / start of April from about 27th March. So she would seem to be a bit early but it is technically possible that somehow Jim the ram got busy before we put him in the same paddock as the ewes. He would have had to get into the ewe paddock and then back into his own without us noticing though which seems unlikely. Maybe it’s more likely that our just wanted to spend some time in the field shelter and we’re getting a bit over anxious.