NEWS - April 2016
After the most appalling, wet, cold, long depressing winter we're still waiting for lots of sunshine to cheer us all up. Our sheep have all enjoyed the luxury of spending the entire winter in the shelter of the barns. Shelter and food on tap, what could be better when commercial sheep, pregnant ewes, ewes and lambs have to survive freezing rain, snow, blizzards, floods etc. No extra feed, no shelter.
Our pensioners prefer their straw bed to a stroll in the paddock, but the younger sheep became restless when the sun finally did make an appearance. The day came when it was time to let them out.They knew exactly where they were going, couldn't get there fast enough. It was a joy to watch them leaping and bouncing their way down the track to get their first taste of lovely new grass.
The eight little calves we took in last month aren't able to join them just yet, they still need to be fed a special ration to help them to grow and become stronger. They play and chase each other round in the small paddock at the front of the barn. One of their favourite games is dog herding. When Beatrice the Alsatian and Tilly the Basset visit their paddock they find themselves surrounded by a circle of curious calves who want to play with them. Sticks and balls are things to play with, not big black snorting beasties. The dogs beat a hasty retreat when they spot them coming, trying to look as though they have an urgent appointment somewhere else and not two big scaredy cats.
We've taken in fifteen more sheep, all kept as much loved pets. Circumstances changed for their owner, sadly their future was looking more than uncertain. They were quarantined for three weeks before being turned out into one of the big fields to join some of our other sheep.
Two weeks later one of the new sheep was seen with a newborn lamb running with her. Huge surprise for everyone, we had no idea they'd been anywhere near a ram before coming to us. The lamb was a huge, strong handsome chap, very bold. He's been given the name of Jake, mum is Peggy.
The sheep were brought back into the barn to be checked, we found signs that another ewe had lambed, but sadly there was no sign of a lamb with her. A search of the fields didn't find a lamb, the most likely explanation was that her lamb had been born dead or a fox had been in close proximity. A sad time for the ewe, who we named Eva, she had plenty of milk but no baby to feed.
Next animal to arrive was Frieda the sow. She had been living in solitary confinement in the most appalling conditions for several years. She was wading up to her belly in slurry, her shelter was a piece of broken tin, she had no bedding and was fed mainly on household scraps. How this intelligent, kind natured, friendly sow had survived such deprivation was a miracle. We were told that DEFRA and Trading Standards Animal health had been informed of the conditions but no action had been taken?
Most pigs are naturally curious animals who thrive on company, either their own kind or human. Many years ago we had a beautiful big sow we named Lucy who fell in love with Patrick, my big thoroughbred gelding. She worshipped him and would walk three steps behind him everywhere he went in the field, much to his disgust. When he died she grieved, she took his rug and dragged it over to where he was buried and lay on it for several weeks.
At the very least Frieda should have had behavioural problems, but the first thing she did on arrival was to sink into the thick layer of hay that we'd rolled out for her. She lay there scratching around in the hay grunting and chatting away until dinner arrived. Dinner was best sow nuts and apples plus a few doughnuts, she thought she was in heaven. She's a delightful, happy, forgiving sow who loves nothing better than sitting in the doorway of her new house watching the world go by, waiting for someone to give her a lovely belly rub.
Frieda was followed by George, a large, castrated male pig, rescued as a small piglet and subsequently kept as a pet. Compared to Frieda George had led a charmed life. Born on a commercial farm, destined for the slaughterhouse or market at six months old, he was found half drowned in a bucket of water as a tiny piglet. His brother wasn't so lucky, he had drowned. George was taken indoors and brought back to life by the farmers wife. She didn't just save his life, she found a place in her heart for him. When it was his time to go to Market with the rest of his siblings he was found a home with friends who happened to have the perfect garden for a pig. There were wild areas and bramble bushes, a home made pig shelter, plenty of treats and the company of humans.
Sadly things changed, George had to be relocated again. The first move to a farm didn't work out, the senior sow wouldn't tolerate him and time was running out. Our last pig space was made available for George, we're all hoping that given time we might have another Colin and Gloria situation and George and Frieda will be able to share a life together. Watch this space!
Perry the Persil white lamb was next to be brought in. When he arrived he was around three weeks old, a little chap very lucky to be alive. Someone had seen him being hurled over a fence by the farmer. He hit the ground and didn't move and was still there a few hours later lying alone in the pouring rain.
He was removed from the field, dried and warmed, then taken to a Vets. He was unable to stand and was obviously in pain, not surprisingly the prognosis wasn't a good one. Euthanasia was suggested and refused, he was just a baby, his rescuer wanted him to be given a chance. He was given medication and painkillers and nursed indoors until he began to show signs that his strength was returning, then he was brought to us. Perry was a determined little lamb, before long he was up and walking and began to share the garden during the day with the hens and Carol the ewe with her three new lambs.
After a few days Perry was joined by a skinny, scrawny grubby little lamb who had been left in a box in our front yard. There was no note with him, he was just unwanted but at least someone had abandoned him with us. This skinny little lad was hungry and frightened, he wasn't used to a bottle so had obviously, for some reason had been taken straight from his mother. Fortunately Perry welcomed him as a companion, the two of them were soon resting and sleeping side by side in my bedroom. The skinny one we named Kevin.
Although house lambs can and have been a joy over the years, (about 50 and still counting) getting out of bed at all hours of the night to feed them no longer has the same attraction.
We had the perfect solution. We had Eva, the ewe who had lost her lamb, she had plenty of milk and no one to feed. There are few ewes who will foster lambs who don't belong to them without being severely restrained, sometimes for two weeks or more. Using a spare hurdle, which gave Eva movement but not the opportunity to hurt the lambs, we introduced Perry and Kevin. Before long, apart from giving them a few black looks, she was allowing them to suckle and lie by her side. After just a few days we removed the hurdle, Eva was a brilliant foster Mum with them, so much better than we'd hoped for.
Little Kevin, the skinny little lamb spends a lot of his time sitting on her back keeping his feet warm, Perry the lazy lamb, has found a way to take his nourishment while lying down. He lies spread out, eyes half closed, firmly attached to Eva, his stomach getting rounder by the minute.
Kevin is at last beginning to fill out and grow. He loves his Mum, he loves his adopted brother, two very lucky much loved little lambs.
Pay Roll Giving
We are constantly in need of donations to help with our running costs. Pay Roll Giving is a good way to set up a monthly donation. If you would please consider this take a look at www.payrollgiving.co.uk. Thank you.