Saturday, 28 July 2012


I had some colostrum from Big Moo frozen, and we figured that cow colostrum is better than none at all. I also have about 800 ml of sheep milk frozen and that will be shandied with the colostrum after 48 hours and then with milk replacer to make the transition easier.

Mum recognises his baa, and he recognises her's. She's happy for him to be near her but cartwheels him if he goes near her udder. And he has wobbly legs, like the joints are a bit unstrung. I think he needs some good food, a warm place to sleep and lots of trippy trapping around to strengthen those legs as he's spent alot of his first day being carried.

He was a bit hollow and dehydrated this morning so we upped the size of his feeds to 200 ml, and that pulled him up. He seemed to be just playing with the teat at the last so I think we filled his little belly.

The vet rang to see how he was going, and was disappointed that he'd been rejected. But a live lamb and a live ewe has to be good when the alternative, if she hadn't been found and helped in time, was the loss of both. I call that a win by any measure.

He's had a rough start and lambs can die of so many things, but he's been given a pretty good chance. Hopefully I'll be able to post some bouncy pics soon.

Friday, 27 July 2012

It's been a rough week for the sheep. Harley slipped a male lamb last Friday, poor girl tried hard to wake him up, but he was born too early. She needed a shot of oxytocin to help shed the placenta, normally the lamb suckling stimulates that.

Tonight, a week later, Poppy went into labour and presented with a nose first and front legs back. Very firmly stuck. She pushed and pushed and was about exhausted by the time the vet arrived, but still had reserves to get up and bolt into the bush when he pulled up. 

So we had to pursue her around the paddock until I could make a flying tackle and pull her up. Then the vet got the legs forward and pulled the lamb and she just went limp with relief that the pain was over. But the lamb was alive ! 

Being a first time mum and so traumatised she rejected the little fellow so he will be hand raised. Named "Friday". I'll get some photos tomorrow. With only Star and Molly left to lamb we now have all extremities crossed for quick and easy births ! 



Molly is Medea's first daughter. She was a teenage mum, pregnant at five months. Her lamb was Harley, a hard birth because she was so young. She's now within two weeks of lambing for the second time and I am keeping a very close eye on her.

Molly is my second milker and my sweetheart. She is the one who will leave the feeding scrum and walk over to me for a cuddle. A steady and cheerful ewe, I am looking forward to both watching her as a mother again and having her in the milking parlour.

She and her mother make a formidable pair. I can see how flocks can form around a nucleus of a female line and the bonds between mother and daughter hold the flock together. The ram is almost incidental to the structure.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

On the subject of rams.

As you can see our flock ram, Boof, is getting a little grey around the muzzle. He's six and a half years old now and handicapped to boot. Although that hasn't stopped him being the father of the lambs due in the next month.

As Boof ages, I start to wonder about a replacement. The old guy has a home for life here, but he's related to too many of the ewes, and is slowing down. It's hard work for him to keep up with the girls in the larger paddocks. It's probably time he was retired to a small paddock with a small harem of the unrelated ewes.

So... how to fill his very large and beloved boots ?

The bad experience with Spot (too tame and turned aggressive) has made me wary of young rams. I could advertise for an older ram. A mature, laid back, relaxed old gent who has long ago realised that testosterone does not bring you scratches or slices of bread.

"Small flock of sociable ladies looking for a cheerful and polite ram for friendship and fraternising. 

Must be a good babysitter, like being the hill for lamb-king of the hill, know all the right courtship moves and take being rejected in good spirits. Willing to give us first go at the feed tub wins extra points.

We don't like pina coladas (we're all under 18 and not allowed to drink), we think getting caught in the rain is something only cows do, we are definitely not into yoga as we can scratch our ears with our hind feet already, and being sheep we only have half a brain.

So, if like the song says you are the one we are looking for, drop us a line."

Or I could buy a ram lamb, keep him til 10 months old since they can breed quite young (4 1/2 months in Bandit's case...) and then put him in the freezer before he becomes old enough to be obnoxious.

Or I could borrow a ram, which does raise the issue of quarantine and disease risk.
AI is not a simple job with sheep. They have a crimped up cervix so AI is done by laproscopy and only used for valuable breeding stock.

I guess I have been spoiled by Boof's wonderful temperament. I wish they gave rams a grade for mellowness as well as the other breeding scores such as low lamb birthweight, twinning and growth rates !

Friday, 13 July 2012

Well, I had a ditch witch instead of a house cow last night. She stomped and flicked and sidled and brushed me off. She was irritable and bad mannered to a degree I've never (thankfully) seen before. 

I ran through the list of things that might be irritating her... Was I pinching hairs ? Did I have fingernails ? Was she too full and tender ? Was her food ok ? Was Venus in transit with Jupiter ? etc etc etc. Nothing. I can only assume she was in heat. Probably about time I started tracking that again.

Was hoping she was in a better mood tonight, but it turned out to be a moot point because she and Ziggy have clearly found another opportunity for a calf head to fit through the fence. Empty. Could hear the tumbleweeds in there.

Found an egg cache ... twenty eggs of varying parentage. Comparing the colours and shapes I figure they could be up to 10 days old. Midwinter and at least half the hens are still laying. It's nice to have the eggs, but it does make you wonder what the summer is going to be like.


Here are the Three Amigos. All about 4 months pregnant now and delighting another farm for the short term. I miss them. It's not easy having up to seven ewes all trying to climb into your lap and crowd the others out, a sort of woolly glacier, but it certainly made you feel loved !

Poppy's twin, and a little shyer in some ways. She's a nice steady ewe who inherited her mother's barrel body and short legs. She likes to reciprocate when she is being scratched and makes little flea-ing nibbles up your arm. She was the first to accept the cordless clippers and was happy to stand to have the wool on her lower chest clipped to remove the itchy grass seeds.

"S'cuse me, I'm busy here !" Previously featured on this blog (28 June), Poppy is lankier and taller than Star. If "lanky" is a term you could really apply to a dorper... Poppy has already taken on the flock leader at the new temporary home and although the other ewe, Bunny, is well established and bigger, it will be interesting to see if Poppy's sheer belief in herself will win out. 

Niece to Poppy and Star, her mother is their full sister from the previous lambing. She is the result of a teenage pregnancy, her mum introduced us to the reality that dorpers can get pregnant at five months old, giving birth at ten months ! It was a hard birth on both mother and lamb and it took shy little Harley a while to catch up with her bolder aunts.

These girls were still pregnant earlier than I would have liked (they broke into the ram's paddock, not he into theirs) and I am hoping they have an uneventful lambing. It will be interesting to see if the next generation builds on the confident and steady qualities this maternal line is showing.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Burke & Wills have made an astounding discovery. They've travelled to the ends of the earth....

Our two resident geese have discovered the lower dam. It's only ten goose lengths from water's edge to water's edge, over the rim of the top dam and down into the lower. It only took them two months to make this leap into the unknown. I bet they followed the ducks.


I passed my BF (Bush Fire) competancies on Sunday.  Things like using a drip torch, making a rakehoe line, operating the pumps and laying down a water line, rolling hoses and operating the radio. We did a small pile burn with backburns and firebreaks. Now I can go and get my PPE.


We moved three ewes to another farm on Monday. Annie, Patch, Boots, Bunny & Ginny are already there, it's their new permanent home. Harley will be joining them permanently, and Poppy and Star are accompanying her to help her settle in and also for the three of them to lamb over there. Once the lambs are weaned they'll come home. The flock is very quiet without the three amigos. They were clearly the noisy ones !

This is a farm where the sheep get brushes and scritches, I was lucky to find good homes for our sweet girls. They love having the sheep around and I feel happy that they are in good hands. They're going to really enjoy these three ratbags :-)

On a side note, the gentleman who borrowed Boof didn't end up with any lambs. I was wondering if that meant the old guy had hit the wall and was ready for a quiet retirement. It's since become obvious that there are at least three of our ewes pregnant. Maybe he just wasn't feeling the love at his loaner farm ?


Ziggy is three months old now and fuzzy as a caterpillar and fat as a tick. He's going to be a solid boy. We still haven't steered him and that decision needs to be made before he gets too much bigger.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Seems like Ziggy might not be as silly as he looks. The last two nights he's gone around to his side, had a cursory suck and moved on to the feed tub. I thought it would be game over for a second let down, but it seems he just sucks enough to start it and then moves on. If he doesn't suck at all I put him back in the yard and he doesn't get to share the feed tub... Could a calf be smart enough to figure out that he can quickly get me the let down and then go to the solid food ?


This is the portable cool room sitting next to the back gate this week. Inside is a sheep carcass. The only wether we got this year. This is the hardest part of farming for me. I know that he had a better life and very much quicker and cleaner death than the meat in the supermarket. I am proud that I can make this so for my dinner. I can say absolutely that my livestock suffer no cruelty. But I always feel rotten when the day comes.

The saying goes that "where you have livestock you have dead stock". This means that where there is life there will be death, there is never one without the other. No matter what, living things will die for no seeming reason and live despite all adversity and the only thing you can do is try to tilt the odds in your direction. It's the same for people... a little slip and a knock of the head and someone is gone. Or found alive after two weeks in the rubble after an earthquake. Life is so insanely fragile and monstrously strong at the same time.

We lost one lamb at three days old to a heart condition (nothing we could do) and one at five months to pulpy kidney (complete mismanagement).  Even though both would have been destined for the freezer, I feel it is my responsibility to give them the best of care. To provide all their needs and as many of their wants as I can. They have names, because to attempt to leave them nameless is silly in a flock this small, and it feels disrespectful, as if they were not deserving of their own names.

Some people have asked how I could "eat meat which had a face", as if every sheep, chicken or cow doesn't have a face. Or how could I eat something I cared for so well. For me the question is, doesn't every animal that is eaten deserve to be treated the way I treat my animals ?

See if you can nudge the odds towards a good life for your dinner. Buy free range eggs. See if you can source free range pork. Stand up for mandatory stunning in every abattoir. Look for cheeses made from dairies where they know their cow or goat's names. Better still, keep your own chickens. You'll be suprised at how ten minutes a day watching the chookies go about chicken business will put the world in perspective. And there's nothing like your own fresh free range eggs...


If you read this blog and it makes you think or reminds you of something, or you'd just like to say hi or to argue a point or ask a question... please feel free to comment. I like to know you're out there :-)