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Ludi

Lambing in Scotland - 2017

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Hey all,

 

I've not been very good at updating on my young collie Meg's progress in work, but it has been going super well and a couple weeks ago, we came back from our first proper lambing. I drove from France to South Lanarkshire, in Scotland, and came back a better shepherd and sheepdog handler. Meg made huge progress with her in-bye work, and has shown she more than has what it takes to be a good lambing dog.

 

The flock was a fairly mixed bag, with two separate lambings going on (of which we only worked one, next one is due to begin in a week or so). Our group was comprised of pedigree and pure Texels, Cheviot cross Texels, and a handful of pure South Country Cheviots. For those of you who have not had the joy of working with SCCs from Scotland proper, rest assured, you're only missing out on chaos and destruction. They are mad.

 

Anyway, the experience cemented the idea in my head that if you really want to be good at this sheepdog thing, you've got to have some honest work to get stuck into. Gathering Mules scattered across a 7ha (17 acre) field with a dodgy hedge that sucks them in like a vacuum, drenching and jagging said Mules in a race with a too-big holding pen (what an adventure, I realised sheep could fly at your head), late night lambing, and turning out new mothers and lambs to the paddocks - you learn so much as you go. You might not need hundreds of sheep to do it, even a handful could teach you a lot. But get out there and work! Lambing is a great time for it, since it's all hands on deck and free help (provided it's good help!) never goes unwanted. It can test your patience, but you quickly realise that your worst enemy is usually yourself. Bad placement, slow reflexes, not reading the sheep... all these things stick out like sore thumbs when you're clinging on to your last shred of patience. So you get better! That's what I've learnt, and I look forward to doing another lambing next year to further improve.

 

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Thank you for posting this. :) The pictures are great, and your descriptions are very engaging -- sheep flying at your head, a hedge that vacuums sheep right out of the working area, and all of it! Meg looks really beautiful, especially the way she's moving in the first picture that has her with the two sheep.

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For those of you who have not had the joy of working with SCCs from Scotland proper, rest assured, you're only missing out on chaos and destruction. They are mad.

 

South Country Cheviots (aka Border Cheviots, IIRC) are the larger Cheviot breed, right?

 

If so, I have no experience with them but when I was building my flock quite a few years ago I got 2 or 3 of the smaller North Country Cheviots (I think -- the smaller ones) and they were really awful. "Mad" is an apt description.

 

Sounds like great experience for you and Meg. There's nothing like getting right into the thick of real work to teach you more than all the deliberate "training" in the world. :lol:

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I do not know what SCC are but NCC are larger than Border Cheviots. NCC withl new lambs are not apt to run some will come at a dog. The Border Chev are flightier sheep

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I think South Country Cheviots (SSC) and Border Cheviots are synonymous (though please correct me if I'm wrong).

 

So it would have been Border Cheviots I had. Thanks for clearing that up for me. And yes, very flighty. Crazy mad. I never had any interest in getting any more of them. :rolleyes: But good mothers.

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Hi Ludi. Sarah with Indy told me you were over here for lambing.

 

Risk has been on hold since New Year as I injured my knee. It's OK now but I've missed the window of opportunity when I was going to do some concentrated training before Derek sets off on his travels again.

 

I think I may have to wait until I get another dog.

 

Pam

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Man, that is the sort of work experience I'd give my left arm to give my dogs! You are so very lucky! We just don't have opportunities like that much in the US, at least not in my area. Your photos and story are great and your dog looks like a real worker! :)

~ Gloria

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SCCs (Border Cheviots) are smaller than NCCs. The SCCs were flighty as hell. Derek had a good way to explain just how they behaved: If you gather a group of Blackies, then send the dog on a look-back to gather more, the Blackies will gradually spread out but stay in the same general area you left them. If you do that with SCCs, they will just disappear.

 

And it's true. It's like they only have two settings - frozen in place, and actively bolting. We had to bring in 6 girls having triplets, and spray-mark them. They were in their own paddock and getting into the ram feed, which has some kind of special additive that isn't great for pregnant ewes. 3 mules, 3 SCCs. Once again, because it was last minute, the pen we shuttled them into was too big and let them manoeuvre. Big mistake. One SCC took a running leap at my head to try and get past me. I don't know what got into me, but I just sort of grabbed her out of the air and swung down with her. I yelled for someone else to come spray her. Definitely a two person job when handling these wily creatures!

 

Pam, good to hear from you again! There'll be more clinics in the summer when Derek's back from his travels. We should meet up then, and it'd be fab if Sarah and Indy could be there too!

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Very nice pics, makes me look forward to our own lambing, counting the days (we start around first of May).

I second your opinion on the importance of real work with difficult sheep.

I wonder how those mad SCC'S compare to our Icelandic free range berserkers...;)

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Probably similarly crazy, Smalahundur! I'm not sure if you put your mothers and lambs into pens ever, but we did, for 24 hours following lambing, so the pair could bond and be monitored in case of any difficulties following birth. Even when you would simply walk past a pen with an SCC in it, you could tell she was just a hair's breadth from charging. And indeed, it happened to me twice when trying to draw milk from a stuck teat on a new Cheviot mother. I usually pinned the mothers against a wall with the side of my body and one leg so I could hunch down and draw milk. Well, these girls weren't having it, and twice they simply decided to bolt towards the shut door of the pen, dragging me along with them. And they didn't have mastitis or anything painful! They were just mental.

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And they didn't have mastitis or anything painful! They were just mental.

It was mentalitis then :lol: :lol: :lol:

 

I like challenge, but I don't like panicky mothers.

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One of my Border Cheviots (another thanks for sorting out which type I'd had) had had a breach lamb she couldn't pass one time, the only time I'd ever had to pull a lamb.

 

Imagine that kind of mentalitis with a ewe who needs you to stick your arm up her vajayjay to turn a lamb so she can deliver it! She wasn't having it either and I literally had to lay across her to keep her still enough so that I could do what I needed to do so I wouldn't loose her or her lambs. Talk about awkward working conditions. In the end she made it so difficult and drawn out an ordeal that the lamb died before I was able to get it out. The ewe of course was fine (are you surprised? Tough as nails) and the second lamb was delivered fine, healthy and almost as much of a witch as her mother. :rolleyes:

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Oh my, what a story :)

 

[My husband once had to have stitches in his nostril because a Cameroonian (kind of like black belly barbados) tried to jump over him, while he was standing, and missed. ]

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Oh dear, I quite like Cameroon sheep and was thinking of getting a couple! Maybe I'll rethink that. ;)

 

Mentalitis is a good way to put it. :D GentleLake, we were extremely lucky with our Cheviot girls. They just squirted their lambs out. We put a pure Texel to them, so I was prepared for some large heads getting in the way, but our Cheviots had nice, wide-set pelvises and the actual act of lambing was incredibly easy. Just goes to show that breeding for those traits is not to be overlooked!

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That was the only time I had any problems (thank goodness!). Every other year they lambed on their own just fine. Dog only knows why I kept the witches (yes, that's what I routinely called them), but if I'd have had to do that again I'm sure they both would have been out of my flock pronto.

 

So apparently American bred Border Cheviots are just as mental as their Scottish counterparts. :blink:

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I wonder how those mad SCC'S compare to our Icelandic free range berserkers... ;)

 

I would love to learn more about Icelandic sheep. I have only had goats until now (three different breeds) and as I have contemplated sheep Icelandics are one of the ones that appealed to me. What has your experience been?

 

Also, looking up the breeds mentioned here, none of them seems to be the brown sheep in the first picture with Meg above. Might someone care to enlighten this sheep-ignorant person about what breed that is? (I am quite taken by the thought of fleece with that natural color.)

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Zwartbles. Fairly good carcass size, prolific, easy lambers. Downside (or upside, if you're not me) is that they're quite sociable with humans and gregarious. I do not like that, personally. I like sheep who are indifferent to humans, so "pet sheep" don't gel very well with me. The Zwartbles really liked human contact. Could just be the case for these, as they were reared in a very pet-orientated way, but it seems across the board that they're quite a friendly lot.

 

Good for training, though, I suppose. They are fairly robust, and are light despite being sizeable animals.

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Thanks, Ludi! I looked them up and it doesn't seem they are ever used to provide fleece despite that lovely color. Who knew? (Clearly: not me! LOL)

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There are quite a few breeds of sheep that get that sun-bleached brown (Hebrideans and Ouessants spring to mind), perhaps you could get in touch with someone owning those? Although, I'm not sure how popular they are in your part of the world!

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I looked them up and it doesn't seem they are ever used to provide fleece despite that lovely color.

 

When I looked them up I saw a couple of references to their fleece being used for hand spinning and felting.

 

I like naturally colored sheep too. I had a lovely black Finn cross that had a nice spinning fleece.

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When I looked them up I saw a couple of references to their fleece being used for hand spinning and felting.

 

I like naturally colored sheep too. I had a lovely black Finn cross that had a nice spinning fleece.

 

Would you be interested in sharing some pictures of them? I'd love to see. :-)

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