This pretty much sums up what’s been going on around here lately:
The ewes are really making us wait for their lambs this year – Esme (the first expected) is several days overdue now. So I’ve been keeping myself entertained with book-keeping (boo!) and a little jewellery-making (yay!).
Here’s today’s creation, a bracelet made with memory wire and seed beads. I added a little beaded charm at either end. It took perhaps half an hour to make, and was a great way of using up the random seed beads I had cluttering up my jewellery bench.
I’ll probably make some more of these over the next few days, as I think they’ll look lovely worn in multiples. They’re also really simple to make while my brain’s fried with late night/early morning lamb watch…
Since I know that quite a number of you are checking in on Sheepcam, I thought you might like to know a bit more about the ewes we have in the lambing barn this year.
We have nine ewes in the barn right now, three Ryelands and six Shetlands. Some of them are intentionally in lamb, we put them in with Stephenson, our fawn gulmoget Shetland ram in November. The other ewes are expecting because they had unscheduled (and unplanned) visits from some of the ram lambs in the autumn (Shetland lambs are really hard to keep fenced in during the breeding season!). Because of these escapes, we had the whole ewe flock pregancy scanned by Cedar Farm Vets, so that we could identify which ewes were in lamb. We were lucky to get away with just four unplanned sheepy pregancies, as the rams got in with a flock of 25! Another benefit of scanning is that we have a pretty good idea of how many lambs to expect from each ewe, so you’ll see that in their details below.
Esme’s a fawn katmoget. In lamb to Stephenson (Shetland). Due date: 6th April (twins). She’s very sweet natured daughter of Truley (see below). Esme’s the first of our ewes expected to lamb.
Elsbeth is a ‘Shetland black’, i.e a dark brown. She’s in lamb to one of the Shetland ram lambs – identity unknown. Carrying twins, due April 13th. In the barn, you can identify Elsbeth from the other dark ewes as she’s the roundest!
Seen here with last year’s lambs. Aniseed is a ‘true black’, i.e. her fleece is a proper black, not brown, the light brown on her outer fleece is from sun bleaching. She, like Elsbeth is in lamb to one of the Shetland ram lambs, identity unknown. She’s carrying either a single or twins (the scan was inconclusive). Aniseed is very shy, but she’s a great mother to her lambs. She has a gorgeous fine fleece too. Aniseed is also due on the 13th April.
Black gulmoget. In lamb to Stephenson (Shetland fawn gulmoget). Due mid April (we didn’t get an exact tupping date). She’s carrying twins. Isobel is one of my all-time favorite ewes, she has a very sweet nature and is a great mum. Her first ever lamb, Callanish, born last year, has inherited her lovely temperament, so I can’t wait to meet the lambs she has for us this year.
Truley is a grey katmoget. She’s in lamb either to Eddie, our second adult Shetland ram, or one of the coloured Ryeland rams. Truely’s a grand old dame of 10 years old. She had a really tough time lambing triplets last year, and was supposed to be taking a break from lambing this year. She, however, had other ideas, and jumped over a 6ft wide stream to spend a night with the ram flock. Her scan shows she’s carrying twins. If they’re Shetlands, then we know they’re by Eddie as he was the only Shetland in that group of rams. If Ryelands, then they could have any one of five different dads! Truley’s due date is 17th April.
Portree’s the baby of the group, she’s only a lamb herself, born early May last year. She’s the black sheep on the right of the pic, Alex the brown one is her mum. In truth, I’m quite concerned about Portree as she’s a year younger than the ewes I normally put in lamb. Just before Christmas, she took herself over to visit our Ryeland ram Murphy. I was really hoping that she hadn’t taken, but her scan showed she’s carrying twins. Ryelands are quite a lot larger than Shetlands, so I really hope that little Portree will be ok with delivering her crossbred lambs. Portree is the last ewe due to lamb, expected in mid May – so quite a while after all the others.
The three Ryelands that we have in lamb this year were all put to the Shetland tup, Stevie. In previous years we’ve found that Ryeland ewes sometimes struggle to deliver their lambs unassisted the first time around. So I reasoned that as the Ryelands are all first time lambers, then using a Shetland ram who’s much smaller than a Ryeland would produce smaller lambs that are easier to deliver. We shall see soon enough whether I was right about that.
Smallest is somewhat misnamed now. When she was born, she was the smallest Ryeland lamb I’d ever seen, she really was pint-sized, with a cheeky character to match. These days however she’s very much bigger, and plump, almost too plump. The name ‘Small’ doesn’t really suit her any more, but it’s stuck. Her scan shows she’s expecting twins, which will be Shetland crosses. She’s due mid April.
Summer is one of two sweet-natured white Ryeland ewes that I added to my flock last year. We put both Summer and her half sister, Skye with the ram last autumn, but unfortunately Skye didn’t conceive lambs (we’ll try again with her next year). Summer’s expecting a single lamb, due in mid April.
And finally there’s Piglet
Piglet by name, and piglet by nature. She wasn’t supposed to be in with the breeding flock, but she got into the group while I was sorting the sheep for tupping – charging after a bucket of feed, and I decided to keep her with them. She didn’t get a raddle mark from the ram, so I thought she wasn’t in lamb, but her scan shows she’s expecting twins, probably in mid April.
So now you know them all. Look out for these characters on Sheepcam. Esme gave us the run-around last night as it looked as though she’d started lambing, but it was a false alarm. So we’re still anxiously waiting for the first lambs to appear.
Our lambing camera is now online, click the link below to view all the sheepy antics over the next month or so. There’s also a link to Sheepcam in the main menu above, which appears on every page.
11.03am Friday 4th April
As you can see, at the moment the ewes are not in the barn. I’ll be putting them out in the paddock during the daytime until the first lambs appear. There’s a stray cat who’s taken up residence in the barn, so she’ll be entertaining you until the ewes are back in this evening. She sometimes hunts there during the night when the ewes are in too. The ewes come in around 4pm each day.
Our first lambs are due this weekend, so we’re keeping a close eye on them all at the moment.
Do feel free to add comments to the Sheepcam page if you see anything interesting!
Today we have a little genetics demonstration. As kindly shown by two of last year’s Shetland lambs: Eriskay and Callanish.
I bet you won’t believe me, but underneath all that fluff, both these sheep are black. I’ll show you again after shearing time, they’ll be hard to tell apart.
The reason that they look so different now is that Eriskay (left) is what’s known as a ‘Shetland Black’, while Callanish (right) is a ‘True Black’.
It’s all brought about by their genes. Callanish is a BB ** i.e. she got one black gene each from her mum and her dad. Eriskay meanwhile is Bb, she got one black gene from her father, and a brown one from her mother. Her fleece is actually a very dark chocolate brown, and the golden tips are where it’s been bleached out by exposure to sunshine/rain etc. Here’s Eris when she was a wee lamb:
She looks black, doesn’t she. However, you can probably just tell that the skin around her eyes is a very dark brown colour. Her eyes are a pale honey colour too, I’ll be looking out for both these features in this year’s lambs, as they seem to be a giveaway for a Shetland black.
Here’s Callanish, who was jet black from the outset:
Last year we used a ram who turned out to be a True Black (genetically BB, so he could only pass on black genes to his offspring), and as a result had mostly black Shetland lambs. Some were grey (a variation of black), but we had no Moorits (a gingery brown colour). I’d like to maintain a good variety of colours in my Shetland flock., so this year I’ve used a Moorit Katmoget ram (with a genetic base of bb), in the hope that we’ll get at least a few brown lambs.
The details of sheep colour genetics are pretty complicated, but fascinating. You can learn more about the subject here:
and specifically about Shetlands here:
As for my flock, I can’t wait to see what colours this year’s lambs are!
Lambing time’s rapidly approaching here at Wildcraft HQ. The first one due is Esme, who’s technically due on the 6th April. In practice she could lamb any time from now onwards. She’s looking very patient about it though:
All the ewes had their pre-lambing booster vaccination at the weekend (Heptavac P-plus). So both they and their lambs will be protected against all kinds of unpleasant bugs.
D tells me we’ll have Lambcam up and running by the end of the week.
I also have plenty of artificial lamb colostrum and milk stocked up, plus all the usual lambing kit collected together and ready for use. Hopefully we won’t need any of it, but it’s great to be well prepared.
And now we wait…
Lots of things afoot here at Wildcraft HQ at the moment. First of all, I’m delighted with the way the new website’s working out. If you haven’t had a look yet, do take a peek at www.wildcraft.co.uk. It’s shiny and new, and I’m told that it’s much easier to navigate than the previous version.
Last week’s club shipment went smoothly. This month’s installment was BFL/silk in a colourway named ‘Honest Moons’, a subtle combination of pale grey and brown. Here’s the view in the Wildcraft Wool Room last week. As you can see, it was a pretty big dyelot this month!
We’re gearing up for lambing, with the first ewes expected to have their babies at the beginning of April. We have nine to lamb this year, but only three gimmers, all Ryelands – the others are all experienced Shetland mums. So I’m hoping it’ll go more smoothly than last year, when we had 6 first timers. I’ve been bringing all the pregnant ewes into the barn overnight, and as you can see from Piglet’s expression, they’re much enjoying the extra rations they’ve been getting!
We’re planning to set up Sheepcam again this year. Which will help us keep an eye on the ewes, but we’ll also make it available for you to see on the web. You can expect much fun over the next few weeks as you see all the lamby antics.
Sorry it’s been a while. Other things have distracted me from blogging lately.
I’ve been training Inara, who’s now walking out beautifully on the roads, whilst wearing a saddle (no pic of that, I have my hands full at the time). I’m hoping to have her carrying a rider by the autumn.
So, quite a busy summer so far then!
So lambing season is over for another year. We’ve had a lovely lot of lambs this year, despite the challenges of the season. This was the first year we produced Shetland lambs, and I have to admit, they weren’t easy at all. Perhaps it was because all but one of our six ewes were first-timers (gimmers), but it seemed they threw as many problems as they could at us: twin lamb disease, difficult births, rejected lambs (giving us the first bottle lambs we’ve had in years), and poor milk production in the ewes. I’m really hoping that they’ll have sorted all this out by next year!
The only Shetland who was totally straighforward was Alex, the last to lamb. She surprised us all with this lovely little ewe lamb, who appeared as if by magic one afternoon. Alex was the perfect mum to her, so this is one ewe we’ll definitely keep in the breeding flock.
The ewes and lambs are now all out in the paddocks, eating as much of the sweet spring grass as they can. They were shorn recently too, so we don’t have to worry so much about them overheating, or getting fly strike.
I love watching the lambs playing during the long spring evenings. They seem to have a lot of fun while they’re learning about what it means to be a sheep. Here’s Tweed, one of the Ryeland lambs, rallying the troups it seems.
It’ll be fun to see all of these little ones grow up. I know the Ryeland breed pretty well now, and can already tell that we have at least a couple of lambs with excellent conformation (possibly prize-winning, if I can get my act together and actually enter some shows with them). But Shetland lambs are new to me, so I’ve yet to find out how their baby fleeces and shapes transform into adulthood. I’ll keep you posted with updates here as they grow up.
We have our first Shetland lambs! Aniseed surprised us all by producing these two little ones yesterday. She didn’t get marked by the ram, and for a while I didn’t even think she was expecting. These are her first lambs and she’s doing a great job of being mum to them. I’ve named them Tobermory and Talisker (Toby and Tallie for short) – all our Shetland lambs this year will be named after places we saw in the Hebrides last autumn.
Next we’re waiting for our Ryeland ewe Coffee to deliver her lambs. She was the one we expected first, but she’s keeping us all hanging on for a while.
Also, have you seen Lambcam? It’s now up and running., so you can see images from our webcam in the Ryeland barn, updated live online.