birth Category

  • A Boaring Day

    Adventures, Agricultre, birth, PigsComments (0)

    On January 1, 2016 • By

    I have had pigs, on and off, over the past 6 years. Usually just weaners for the freezer, but over the past year I have been gearing up to having my own breeding stock.

    I kept two females that were born in spring 2014 and added a 4 year old sow that was free to a good home in spring 2015. Because of the restricted opening of our slaughterhouse (Aug-Dec) I wanted to have any piglets that would be ready to go in the autumn, so I have held off with a boar until now.

    I have been on the lookout for a boar for a couple of months, and had some options, but then a 3 year old Gloucester Old Spot became available for sale locally this week, and I was fortunate enough to get in there first.

    I saw him yesterday (Hogmanay) and went to pick him up today. This wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped. The boar isn’t keen on trailers and it took us around an hour to get him in!

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    We had taken the roof off the trailer, to encourage him in, only for him to jump straight back out!!

    Take 2 wasn’t too bad, but this time we left one of the sows that was with him in the trailer, until we got the roof on. We had to strap it down as well, as he kept lifting it!

    Anyway, it was a 10/15 minute drive home from Borve, and he went straight in with my own pigs.  It didn’t take him very long to settle in. Less than 5 minutes, in fact….

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    I know there will be a certain Councillor in Callanish that will appreciate that photo!

    That should mean piglets in 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days, from 1st January, so around 25th April, I think.  There are another 2 sows in with them too, which will come into season over the next 3 weeks.

    Yesterday, I prepared extra sleeping accommodation for the boar. We’ll see how he takes to it. My neighbour James came down with his chainsaw to cut a doorway in an old oil tank. All systems go now!



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  • ‘An Lot’

    Adventures, Agricultre, birth, Chickens, Freelance PiecesComments (2)

    On December 3, 2015 • By

    Having started filming 16 months ago, we’re now just a couple of days away from the first airing of ‘An Lot’.  I am excited, and also quite anxious. I’m more than comfortable in front of the camera, although this is a little different.  Usually, I am talking about a third party, but not this time.  This time I am opening myself up to the big bad world!

    To date, I have seen (and added my voice to) the first four episodes.  The final two will be completed on Monday, the same day the first one is broadcast.  I am delighted with how they have come together; Director Neil and Editor Paul have done a power of work, while locked away in a studio for the past couple of months.  I think I come across as myself, which is one of the things that I was hoping for, and I feel the series gives you a true taste of what crofting is like; full of highs and lows, not just a romantic image.

    Filming started in July 2014 and follows the arrival of the 300 chickens, ups and downs of the sheep, my family and has plenty laughs. I think the parts with Innes and Martin will make quite a few of you laugh!

    Anyway, the series starts on Monday at 8.30 on BBC Alba.  You can get more info on the BBC website – or you can ask me!  Hope you watch and I hope you enjoy!

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  • Disastrous Start

    birth, death, Lambs, Sheep, TurkeysComments (0)

    On April 12, 2015 • By

    The week before lambing was due to start was a tough one. Two dead ewes, 8 dead lambs, and a dead turkey. From my first 5 sets of twins, I have only 2 lambs to show for it.

    But the day before the first lambs appeared, I came home to find my turkey dead, with a nasty gash above its eye. I still haven’t figured out what caused it.

    That was bad enough, but things got worse the next day. I went to feed the sheep around 9.30 (it was a Sunday) and noticed one of the sheep didn’t come. I went to her with some feed & thought nothing of it, as I suspected she hadn’t heard me call due to the wind and she wasn’t due to lamb for another few weeks.


    An hour later though, I found these two wee lambs, which had been aborted.

    The next few days saw more of the same. First I lost a ewe to “Twin Lamb Disease” (aka Pregnancy Toxaemia)


    She looks bright enough here, but was dead within 24 hours. Twin Lamb disease is where the lambs are basically a parasite and all the energy & nutrition goes into them, rather than keep the sheep alive. Horrible seeing them fade away so quickly.

    Anyway, the ewes were all moved into their lambing fields. Here are the singles getting their first feed in their new home.


    And then the first live lamb arrived! A cracking Cheviot Texel Cross.


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  • Lambing Update

    Agricultre, birth, Lambs, SheepComments (0)

    On April 12, 2015 • By

    It’s Sunday afternoon and I am taking a much needed break from lambing. This is the most sheep I have lambed in a single year, and it has been tough.

    I’m going to write several blog posts today, about some of the ups and downs of lambing so far. This is as much for myself as it is for anyone who reads the blog! I’ve found it very useful, going back and reading over posts, several months later.

    To date, I am almost two-thirds of the way through lambing. Still a way to go!

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  • Surprise Ducklings

    birth, Ducklings, Ducks, PoultryComments (0)

    On June 15, 2014 • By

    A couple of weeks ago, I had to let my ducks out of their run, as the stagnant water was becoming a hazard for them. I have to build them a run around the stream on the croft at some point. Trying to clean out the wee pond they had just wasn’t feasible. Anyway, I let them out and off they went, enjoying life. There are 2 black ones and they disappeared very soon after getting out. I would see one most evenings, but not the other. I feared the worst until she appeared last Sunday with 9 ducklings!!

    I was in the kitchen and heard all this commotion outside. Bud ran to the back door too, barking, so I guessed something weird was going on. I ran outside and saw a flash of yellow to my left; ducklings!

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    Unfortunately I was not the only one attracted by the noise. As I came out, a crow swooped down and flew off with a duckling, which was still wriggling in it’s mouth. I ran after it for a while, but it landed about 1/4 mile away. I had to make a split second decision, so I sacrificed that duckling (which would have been severely injured, probably dead, by the time I got there) to make sure that no predators got the other 8.

    They are so fast along the ground so it took me a wee while to get them all collected but they’re now safely in a run in the barn.

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    One smaller duckling died during the week, but the other 7 are doing really well.

    The other black duck is still out and reappearing periodically. I am convinced that she’s sitting on a nest too, so don’t be surprised if more appear!

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  • Vasectomy (for the ram!)

    Adventures, Agricultre, birth, Medicine, Rams, SheepComments (0)

    On June 15, 2014 • By

    I now have a ‘teaser’ ram. One of my friends told me about his a few years ago, but I didn’t pay much attention to teasers, until I saw the affect it had on my neighbour’s lambing last year; numerous sheep lambing each day, while I was having a max of 2/3.

    Anyway, the process is quite simple. A ram is given a vasectomy and this does strange things to the sheep! The teaser is put in with the ewes 10 days before the ‘intact’ rams. This brings the ewes into season and also synchronises their systems, meaning your lambing period is much tighter. This year I was up at 5am 39 times in 42 days. I was exhausted. Hopefully next year won’t be anywhere near 42 days!

    The process with the ram was quite simple.

    1. Choose a ram

    I have this ram lamb from last year. Wasn’t sure what to do with him, as he is related to too many of my sheep, so this was an easy decision.

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    2. Get the vet out

    I made the appointment when Bud was over for his own ‘sensitive’ operation. The vet wanted it booked as soon as possible, to avoid fly strike. Suits me, so we got it done the following week.

    I had to sit an hold the ram, while the vet did his thing. The animal is given a sedative, the area is given a local anaesthetic and then cleaned.

    The job takes around an hour and I’ve been told it’s similar to the process on humans. Tubes from the testes are snipped and a length removed, to ensure it doesn’t grow back and repair itself.

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    Quick and painless for the animal. It will actually mean he will have a nice long life here now, given that I won’t have to move him on. Fingers crossed this all works now!

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  • More chicks

    Agricultre, birth, Chickens, chicks, eggsComments (1)

    On May 18, 2014 • By

    I ordered some eggs from Andy at The Chicken Street about a month ago, and they hatched on Mon/Tue of last week. This was quite a surprise, as they were due to hatch the previous Saturday! I candle the eggs and saw that 7/8 of them were fertile and waited patiently for them to appear. Nothing on Saturday and nothing on Sunday. Oh. I was worried.

    I’ve had workmen in for the past 3 weeks (they came at short notice, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the eggs in the incubator) and I thought the fact that they switched the power off now & again may have affected the eggs. I was all set to switch off the incubator on Monday morning, but thought I’d leave it until I got home that night. I hadn’t heard any cheeping from the eggs, so was convinced they’d all failed. I was quite surprised to be greeted by these wee ones when I came home!

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    Another three hatched over the next 24 hours, leaving 5 in total.

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    These are Speckled Sussex and the second batch I’ve hatched of them. Hopefully they’ll be just as nice as last years ones. 2 hens & 2 cockerels. Here is one of the cockerels.

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    Incidentally, the work happening at my house is applying external insulation to the walls, as part of a funded scheme. It should be ready in the next couple of days and currently looks like this!

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  • Lambing is over

    Adventures, birth, death, Lambs, SheepComments (1)

    On May 4, 2014 • By

    I’m lying in bed at 9.30 on a Sunday morning, thankful and relieved that lambing is over for another year. It’s my favourite time of year, but it is exhausting. I worked out that i was up at 5am in 32 of the last 35 days, with my dad doing the early shift those other days.

    I’m not sure why this happened, but most of my lambing problems occurred late at night this year, whereas they were all early morning issues in 2013.

    Last year I had gimmers rejecting lambs and ewes with no milk, but this year was significantly better. A few late night lambing issues resulted in 1 or 2
    am finishes, and that makes it even tougher to get up at 5!!

    If it hadn’t been for the set of triplets I lost, I would have said it was one of my most successful lambings ever. Quite often there are a couple of lambs lost to crows/gulls or simple stuff like membrane covering their mouth after birth. Fortunately none of that this year. Every sheep has a lamb, except for the one that lost triplets (she was unwell for a week after her prolapse).

    The last one to give birth didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked, but the lambs made it out ok.

    I came home from work at around 5.30, expecting to spend the evening tidying the house, as I’ve had workmen in. This was not going to happen! First thing I do is check the sheep that’s to lamb and noticed that her water has broken. Excellent, twins will be along shortly. Wrong.

    I waited patiently but after an hour or so, I decided to catch her and have a look at what was happening. I needed help doing this, as there was no pen in the field I was keeping her. We caught her, took her into the shed and discovered that it was a breech. That means lamb coming tail first. It didn’t take too long to get the lamb out. While we were discussing how long we should leave it before going in for the twin, out it slipped! Two healthy twins.

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    So that’s it. Spent the night inside and let them out early in the morning.

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    I’m going to make the most of my sleep for a while now!

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  • Last fortnight of lambing

    Agricultre, birth, Lambs, SheepComments (1)

    On April 26, 2014 • By

    Saturday 26th April. I still have 2 sheep left to lamb. My first lamb was 32 days ago and I have been up at 5am for 29 of the last 33 days. I cannot wait for this to finish!

    The last fortnight has seen mainly ups, but a few downs too.

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    I had some difficulty delivering this monster lamb and was is such a rush to run and get the pickup, that I didn’t notice one of my chickens sleeping on top of the wheel. One live lamb but one dead chicken :/

    I then had to get the vet out to help deliver this lamb. 2 of us had tried to deliver it, but no joy. I expected a dead lamb, by the time the vet arrived, but he managed to get it out alive. He said another 5 mins and it would have been a goner. The main problem here was that the sheep has a very narrow pelvis and the lamb was as big as she could have managed.

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    I’ll have to consider her future, but they’re outside now anyway. The lamb has interesting markings

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    This sheep lambed last Thursday (17th), meaning there were 4 left to lamb. Things went very quiet after that, with only one more lamb in the following 9 days!

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    I had a set of twins waiting for me at 5am today, so down to the last 2. A set of twins and a single. I cannot wait to get it all finished!

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  • Late night lambing

    Adventures, birth, Lambs, SheepComments (1)

    On April 15, 2014 • By

    As tends to happen, things got busy while I was away. I was playing for Ness last night, over in Point, and my father was keeping an eye on things. My brother Murdo was watching the game, and came up behind my goal with 10 mins left, saying I had to get home asap as there were problems. Not what I wanted to hear!

    Anyway, I got home and two had lambed, one which needed some help. As she was a gimmer and had some difficulty, I decided to take her in for the night. It was quite straightforward getting her in.

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    I was a little suspicious about another one, so went out to keep an eye on her. It was a beautiful, moonlit evening.

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    One of the chickens keeps escaping from the hen house, I found her sleeping under the wheel arch of the 4×4

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    By the time I reached the sheep again, the first twin had been born, and the second wasn’t far behind. A successful evening all round.

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