All in all my lambing over in the borders of Scotland went well, sure there was the problem of dysentery but other than that all was fairly good, had it not been for that problem I would have had a very good lambing. Ewes were beginning to take hurt by the time I was leaving, they were getting what we call sucked down. As the lambs grow so do their bellies, usually by this time there is a flush of spring grass which gives the ewes a lift and also supplements the lambs diet. The flush didn't come and some ewes were showing signs of weakening.
There have been some poorer lambings which is to be expected. The atrocious weather at the end of March/beginning of April hit those who were doing early lambings hard. Hill sheep were also hit hard, just a matter of weeks before they were due to lamb it was very much the last straw after such a long hard winter.
It would seem that quite a number of sheep kebbed (aborted) at about this time. Those who battled on were weakening by the day. Ewes succumbed to drains, burns, twin lamb disease and general poverty. This is no reflection on either the farmers or the shepherds - it's nature, good ol' mother nature at her worst. There were lean ewes lambing down and walking on - a last ditch attempt at self survival, no interest in the lamb just an interest in surviving - you can't blame them.
It hasn't all been doom and gloom, there are lambs running around everywhere. Some have had very good lambings but I for one wouldn't like to foot their feed bills, others reflect on the fact that it could have been worse, wet would have seen phenomenal losses on a year such as this. All will tell you the same "the lambing gets through, unlike hay time which may never come to an end"
My twins over the back ended up on cake. For all this is a high running hill farm it is a very grassy place and would normally feed the sheep no bother, this year was different with the result the twins needed feeding. I would have let them away to the hill, however the intention was to have all the ewes and lambs through the pens and the lamb marking done, seemed daft to let all the twins away to cause bother when I then had to gather the hill and so onto cake they went. What a difference. The ewes had been getting no peace from their lambs, forever hammering away wanting more milk, the cake gave the ewes a lift, helped the milk supply and everything settled down.
There was much I could have reported on at lambing time, if only time and energy had allowed. Dongling is all well and good but very time consuming, especially as it meant driving somewhere where there was full mobile reception, more often than not my bed beckoned.
Once the height of the lambing got through I shed in. Those lambing on the hill were dropped into a field, I went through them to see what was and was not in lamb with those still expectant held in so as easier found. Herding the hill dropped to twice a day as all those due to lamb were nearer at hand. We started lamb marking with the other shepherds flock as he had lambed in fields all the time and the ground was so bear he was desperate to release them to the hill. The last week saw my ewes all gathered and their lambs marked. It's the first time since I've lambed there that everything got done before I left. I left at May Term (13th May) and there were only 9 remaining to lamb. I've often wondered since how they're getting on.......
The last few nights a great deal of socialising went on. I am so fortunate that both neighbouring farms are shepherded by people I know well and they are kind enough to offer me the occasional supper, which is much appreciated as I seemed to live on bacon butties, chocolate and salad (not the weather for salad but it is very easily made!)
I spent my last night in the cottage making a snowman. I always like to leave my mark when I leave - very sad I know! Anyhow, there had been snow showers on the last three days I was there and I thought this was a hilarious idea to make a snowman. As is oft the case there is a story..........
A neighbouring farmer had told me I must call in for a cup of tea before I left. A guy I have know since my first shepherding job and who came over the border many years ago and played his accordion at my housewarming. My last day in the Borders was spent lamb marking the Crunchylaw and Dod Law lambs, come mid afternoon the shepherd and I headed off to visit the fore mentioned farmer for the cup of tea. It was the usual Borders hospitality, which I partook of in the mid and late afternoon, the tumblers of whisky went down well...... I headed to the hill that evening barely able to mount my trusty stead. Once back to the cottage I had the brainwave of making a snowman.......
Plastic feed bags were my chosen material (well, there was nowt else) and after many laborious hours I had a snow man to be proud of. By the cold light of day the following morning I really wasn't so sure - plastic bags stitched with baler twine and stuffed with twigs......... umm........ Also the cheesey smiley face which I had drawn on with sheep keel had a rather macabre look about it. Never mind, I wasn't going to let all that hard work and effort go to waste.
I have been told by a friend that she spotted my 'snowman' that afternoon, it had a lopsided plastic bag look about it........ In my drunken stupor I do wonder if I had made a self impression!!! The shepherd I had worked for recounted our visit to see this farmer to the other shepherd on the morning I left "we came away and my lambing man was tipsy....... mind the auld herd was nae better!" It had been a good afternoon!!
So, Shep is back in Tarset. It seems like an eternity since I was away lambing and yet it is just a number of days. Life has been hectic and much has been done since my return - lamb marking and also clipping hoggs. My old boss years ago often used to say after lambing time that he felt he had a touch of louping ill (a sheep disease caused by ticks which can drop sheep off their feet) and that he felt a bottle of ewe tonic wouldn't go amiss. I must be ageing coz I feel exactly the same this year, I now know what he meant and how he must have felt. I'm putting it down to fighting with the cold for ever and a day and probably too much 'partying'. However, life is looking up as today has been hot, even though I have been bent over looking at my feet and clipping sheep I was still aware that it has been a beautiful spring day - At long last! Let's celebrate!!