Mar 112014
 
pullet for sale at fifesmallholder

Silkie, Leghorn, Legbar, Maran, and hybrid laying chickens for sale at fifesmallholder

Hatching time has started again and in a few weeks our chicks will be ready to start to lay eggs.  This is called ‘point of lay’  and these birds are called pullets.  They are all female.  Chickens start to lay eggs about 17 weeks old, and have moved from eating chick crumbs to pellets and wheat.

white silkie chic

We have several cockerels of different breeds so have hatched:

cockerel    hybrid laying hens (medium brown eggs) hardy and reliable layer

 Hybrid chickens rarely go broody, and will lay reliably throughout the year.  Pure bred chickens are more likely to only lay between April to September.  A hybrid born late summer should lay throughout its first winter with or without light in the hen shed.

leghorn poultry  pure bred leghorn (large white eggs) a good reliable layer 

Unlike other pure breeds leghorns lay well throughout the year but will require light in the hen shed in winter.  For a large fowl breed they are not too big despite the size of their eggs, and are therefore cheaper to feed than some of the larger breeds.  Good value for money.

 white silkie henpure bred silkies (small cream eggs) a good pet unreliable layer

If you do not have much room, a small hen shed, or do not want much damage in your garden then these are a good choice.  Although they only lay through the breeding season (April to September) they make up for this in character.  A docile chicken, that is lovely to look at and most are good with children.  We have a beardie cockerel so our chicks have extra character.

We now have pure bred cream crested legbars (large blue eggs) seasonal layer

These chickens produce lovely blue eggs and can be used to cross with any other hen and will produce a variation of blue or green eggs.  These chickens are auto-sexing and this works even on the cross chickens saving you the expense of rearing cockerels when these are unwanted.

We now have two unrelated maran cockerels and hope to start breeding pure marans over the summer of 2014 – these lay dark brown eggs.

We are also open to swapping cockerels to improve the gene pool – if you have a young healthy man who you would like to swap with one of ours then please contact us to discuss.   

Why buy new chickens?

bearded silkie chicken

Hens that start laying eggs in the autumn should lay all winter in the first year and will tide you over if your other hens stop as the daylight reduces in the winter months.  We move our hens into their winter housing which has a light to help encourage our girls to lay in the winter.  The light is not on all the time, only for a few hours each day, but it is enough to give our girls a rest and keep producing a few eggs.

free range white female silkie hen

How do you introduce new chickens to your old chickens?

It is always advisable to quarantine your new stock (in case of disease) and make sure that they have been treated for worms and mites before introducing them to your flock.  This is best done at night, however there will be some disorder until the hens sort out the pecking order.  To reduce the stress and bullying make sure that there is more than one feeding and drinking station so that new chickens are able to access food.

For sale

If you like what you see please get in touch.  Check out my poultry page.

Apr 152013
 

From A to B

 Moving sheep can be a particularly challenging time for smallholders.  If like me you rent fields elsewhere, or have divided up your smallholding into more usable spaces. Then you may have to move your sheep regularly. However, smallholders rarely have a trained sheep dog, or access to expensive sheep handling equipment. Furthermore, smallholders often have rare breeds of sheep or more primitive types that are known to be difficult or less likely to flock together.  All of these factors combined can lead to a stressful time for both you and your sheep.  My experience is that moving sheep is a skilled job and one you need to learn.  

 Here at Fifesmallholder space is limited so anything we set up needs to be flexible, because areas have different uses at different times of year.  Through experience we have learned that you need to plan the movement of your sheep like military manoeuvres.  Especially during sesnsitive times like moving the girls (when pregnant) to get them scanned, vacinated and moved to lambing areas.

We use three things regularly:

Move sheep using food

 

  • We either draw sheep forward with food or divert them with food.  For example if you want to get a sheep to move forward through a gate that you are standing close too(behind is OK but if you are in front of them they will hesitate) then get their head in a bucket or let them eat from your hand (you need to give them some – if you just tease then they will give up).  Your sheep must be used to this and trust you otherwise this will not work (it takes time and patience but a sheep will eat out of your hand).  Winter time is the best time to do this (they are less interested in feed in the summer when there is plenty of grass), but we try to feed our sheep whenever we visit (especially if we are planning on doing something with them).  Lambs and those that have not lambed are another thing all together and are the hardest to try and tame (they do not trust and are very scared)  – we normally put an older ewe in with them that knows the ropes and who trusts you – the rest will follow (if the older sheep thinks its Ok then it must be) because of the herd instinct.  Likewise if we want to enter a field with the pickup and don’t want them crowding the gate and escaping – then feed them away from the area in question and take their mind off the opportunity.

Move sheep using their herding instinct

 

  • Sheep will always walk away from you (the danger) towards others like them (safety in numbers).  You can therefore drive them in a direction – if they are thinking about bolting or running past you might be able to stop them if you wave your arms erratically and make a sudden high pitched noise. You can also move sheep by countering their position, if they move left then you move left and stare at them – they will move right.  A good sheep dog can hold a flock with just a good eye or stare – try to act like a good sheepdog.  However if they decide to run past you – YOU WILL NOT CATCH THEM (short of a rugby tackle that might harm you or the sheep). In some situations you might only get one chance (they will learn and remember what has happened that day) – if you haven’t been working up to this (e.g. feeding them regularly etc) then either go for a cup of tea and start again or try another day.  Sheep are not stupid – they can also count.  One person is OK but two people means that something is going to happen.  Either hide the other person or try and do it yourself – you’d be surprised with the opportunities that present themselves – just be ready in advance so that you can close the gate or trailer.  A long rope on a gate is a good idea – it  enables you to swing something shut without being too close.  Another thing about sheep is that they will follow other sheep, so you either trap one sheep (e.g. in a trailer with a hurdle) or you get everyone else on the otherside of the gate and they will not want to be alone. However this also means that if you put a sheep in a pen (because it is sick for example), always make sure that they can see or have a friend in the pen with them. Otherwise they will get stressed or try to escape, if you want to move a ewe with lambs – just catch the lamb (easier said than done without a crook) and carry the lamb at nose height to the ewe and walk backwards.  The lamb will bleat and the ewe will respond and follow.  Another thing is that if you want to catch a sheep, do not look at it.  I know this sounds strange but you can get much closer to it if it does not think that it is the focus of the event.  Look somewhere else but watch the sheep out of the corner of your eye, or pretend to be doing something else.  We have a lot of metal lamb hurdles and have found them to be flexible and have lots of uses, if a sheep will not enter a gate or enclosure then make a funnel leading to a race and pen.  It also helps if you feed them in the pen regularly so that you can just close the gate.  Put the hurdles up in advance and let them get used to it, otherwise they will get suspicious of anything new.  On that subject, wearing the same jacket and not having strangers about does keep the stress down.  A bottle fed lamb, and ewes that have lambed will trust you more – use that to your advantage.

Move sheep using a dog

 

  • If you want to stop running around a field then get yourself a sheepdog, or a retired trials dog.  we dont have a sheep dog (it’s on the list) but it is not the first time that we have used our dogs to control a situation.  Sheep are not as scared of humans as they are about dogs – extend your coverage (a crook is also a good thing to make you seem bigger – it extends your arm) with a dog on a lead or extend-a-lead.  In a situation where a sheep keeps running away through a gap (they will find the opportunity and use it again and again), I have tied my dog there and the sheep will not pass the dog.  There are dangers involved in this situation – you need to know your dog and you need to make sure it cannot run free.  This could potentially be disasterous – either the dog could chase or attack the sheep and stress them, or the sheep could ram the dog and hurt it.  Unless it is a trained sheep dog – I always make sure they are on a lead and secured in position, I also only use no-aggressive breeds like my labradors or collie).  If all else fails then pay a shepherd to round up your sheep.

I know this all sounds complicated but you will fall into a way of doing things, I have seen a farmer move his sheep by just waving an empty feed bag from the back of a quad – all he needs is one sheep to follow and they all will.  Routine is another thing, if a sheep has done it before it will remember (that is where hefting originates from and the knowledge is passed from ewe to lamb).  Good luck, if you can afford it then invest in mobile systems that makes life easier.  Otherwise then plan your moves and leave nothing to chance.

Other tips:

  • We open the doors on our vehicle in order to prevent a sheep running past (blocking a single track road for example), this is done in the absence of hurdles.  
  • A bucket of feed in the trailer will often tempt someone in to investigate.
  • We prefer lamb hurdles that secure with a ring at the top – they are easier to handle than other hurdles.
  • The breed of sheep is important, it is my experience that the more primitive the breed the less trusting they are.  The one exception to this rule is Ryelands, it is said that the gate to a field can lie open and they won’t think to go through it.  We crossed our wild shetlands with a Ryeland tup for that reason and got a sheep that was easier to handle.  If you have sheep like Hebrideans then good luck!  However because smallholders are more hands on and likely to spent more time with their sheep, they may learn to trust or are not so scared – hopefully.
  • If you move the lamb first then normally a ewe will follow.  Keep it at head height to the ewe and move backwards or place the lamb in the area you want the ewe to go – it will call to its mum and she will move to it.

 

 

 April 15, 2013  dog, livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , ,
Nov 272012
 
tup and ram lamb at fifesmallholder

Its tupping time at Fifesmallholder

We have been a bit later putting our boys in with our girls this year.  There has been two bad winters in a row previously and an April lambing will hopefully mean that the lambs get a better start in life.  We do not bring our sheep in for lambing, but keep them out in the lambing field and bring them in once lambing is  immenent or they have just lambed.  We do not have a large lambing shed and have found that this method means that shelter is given when they need it the most.  However, if the weather is bad then we need to make sure that the pregnant ewes have sufficient shelter and feed.

It is a good idea to make sure that both boys (known as a tup or ram) and girls (known as a ewe) are in peak condition.

Flush The Ewes

 To improve the chances of twins, you can help the ewe produce more eggs at ovulation. To do this you can put the ewes on fresh grazing for a few days/weeks along with a mineral lick, this will give the ewe a boost in condition. Usually resulting in an increase in eggs ovulated… which hopefully means twins or triplets.

How Often Is A Female Sheep Fertile?

A ewe will come in season every 21 days until she has conceived. I advise that you put a marking raddle/harness on your Ram. Every 21 days you should change the colour of the crayon. Doing this will allow you take note of what period the ewe will lamb in and help you organise things (holidays, help etc).

How long is a female sheep or ewe pregnant for?

The ewes gestation period is typically 147 days. Allow 145-149 days and you will be safe.  A common saying is if you put your tup in on 5th November you can expect lambs from the 1st April.

* Tip – make sure this years ewe lambs are well away from all this mullarkey – otherwise you might end up with a teenage mother*

This Is What They Have Been Waiting All Year For

Make sure your ram/tup is in good condition at tupping time”

Your tups need to be firing on all cylinders! Peak fitness is essential, the most common reason for a lazy tup will be poor feet. Keep them trimmed and tidy. We have two proven tups (producing good healthy lambs last year) but it is always good to be prepared for any eventuality by having an heir and a spare.  They keep each other company throughout the summer, and mean that I have a mix of genes in my lambs, a backup in case one of them gets sick, and a guarantee that at least one of them will perform.  

For me lambing is the best time on the smallholding and I look forward to it every year.

 November 27, 2012  autumn, employment, income, livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Oct 192012
 
PLS-00008663-001

Deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus 8360 lores

To a mouse – Robert Burns

“Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.”

Winter time is likely to be the time when you start to suspect you have rats or mice (also known as rodents or vermin).   It is cold and food supplies are less plentiful outside – this is often the time when rodents move into the house or buildings around the smallholding. As a nature lover I am happy to live and let live – so what is the big issue about mice and rats?

What is the risk from rats and mice?

Rats and mice spread germs that can cause severe illnesses and disease in humans, some of which can be fatal to humans, although this is very rare.  They can carry  Salmonella and Weils Disease through their droppings and urine.   Campylobacter (Campylobacter infections, can cause diarrhoea and fever. This bacteria is spread via rodents to poultry and thus enter the human food chain  and Leptospira.  The pathogens of this potentially fatal febrile disease are transmitted via rodent urine and can enter the human blood stream through small cuts, for instance.  Mice may also carry tapeworms, and organisms that can cause ringworm (a fungal skin disease) in humans.

Rats and mice can also cause fires by gnawing on cables. Research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that half of all agricultural fires in Great Britain can be traced back to rodents.

Signs of rodent infestation:

  • Sounds. Gnawing, climbing noises in walls, squeaks.
  • Droppings. Found along walls, behind objects and near food supplies.
  • Burrows. Rat burrows are indicated by fresh diggings along foundations, through floorboards into wall spaces.
  • Runs. Look for dust-free areas along walls and behind storage material. A tracking patch made of flour, rolled smooth with a cylindrical object, can be placed in pathways overnight to determine if rodents are present.
  • Gnawing may be visible on doors, ledges, in corners, in wall material, on stored materials, or on other surfaces wherever mice are present. Fresh accumulations of wood shavings, insulation, and other gnawed material indicate active infestations. Fresh gnawing marks will be pale in colour.
  • Rodent odours. Persistent musky odours are a positive sign of infestation.
  • Visual sighting. Daylight sighting of mice is common. Rats are seen in daylight only if populations are high. Quietly enter your barn at night, wait in silence for five minutes and listen for the sound of rodent activity. Look around with a powerful torch; rat eyes will reflect the light.
  • Smudge (rub) marks. These may be found on pipes or rafters where dirt and oil from their fur leave a greasy film.
  • Urine, both wet and dry, will fluoresce under ultraviolet light, although so will some other materials. Urine stains may occur along travel-ways or in feeding areas.

“It is a generally accepted rule of thumb that there are approximately 25 mice or rats for every one that is seen.”

Why Control Rodents?

Damage from rodents comes in many forms:

  • Damage to buildings. Mice and rats will damage wood and electrical wiring, which can be a fire hazard.
  • Destruction of insulation. Many livestock and poultry facilities show serious deterioration within five years. Associated with this damage are costs for re-insulation, increased energy costs and poorer feed conversions by animals.
  • Feed consumed. A colony of 100 rats will consume over 1 tonne of feed in 1 year.
  • Feed contaminated. A rat can contaminate 10 times the amount of feed it eats with its droppings, urine and hair. A rat produces 25,000 droppings per year, a mouse 17,000.
  • Biosecurity. Rodents are recognized as carriers of approximately 45 diseases, including salmonellosis, pasteurellosis, leptospirosis, swine dysentery, trichinosis, and toxoplasmosis. Mice and rats can carry disease-causing organisms on their feet, increasing the spread of disease.

Is It A Rat Or Mouse Problem?

Since rats and mice require different control strategies, you should determine which vermin you have. The simplest way to differentiate between the types of infestation is by examining the droppings.

Rodent or Vermin Droppings

Mouse droppings are black and rice-kernel size, whereas rat droppings are black and bean-sized.

Breeding

Mice and rats have tremendous breeding potential. Under ideal situations, a pair of rats and their offspring can produce 20,000,000 young in 3 years. Mice reproduce even faster.

Life expectancy of a rat is around one year, during which female rats will typically breed five times and produce an average of 8 offspring. A mouse life expectancy is around one year, during which a female may breed up to six times and produce about six offspring.

Mice prefer to nest in dark secluded areas with little chance of disturbance. They may burrow into the ground in fields or around structures when other shelter is not readily available. Nests are constructed of shredded fibrous materials such as paper, and generally have the appearance of a “ball” of material loosely woven together. They are usually 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) in diameter.  Foraging territories are no more than 6 metres away. If there is abundant food nearby they can nest within 1.2-1.6 metres of the source.

Litters of 5 or 6 young mice are born 19 to 21 days after mating, although females that conceive while still nursing may have a slightly longer gestation period. Mice are born hairless and with their eyes closed. They grow rapidly, and after 2 weeks they are covered with hair and their eyes and ears are open. They begin to make short excursions from the nest and eat solid food at 3 weeks. Weaning soon follows, and mice are sexually mature at 6 to 10 weeks of age.

Mice may breed year-round, but when living outdoors, they breed mostly in spring and autumn. A female may have 5 to 10 litters per year. Mouse populations can therefore grow rapidly under good conditions, although breeding and survival of young decline markedly when population densities become high.

Senses

Rats and mice have poor eyesight but excellent senses of smell, taste, touch and hearing. They do not like open areas and prefer contact with walls and other objects.

Mice are considered color-blind; therefore, for safety reasons, baits can be dyed distinctive colors without causing avoidance by mice, as long as the dye does not have an objectionable taste or odour.

Habits

Rats and mice move rapidly and are excellent climbers and have no problem climbing vertical brick walls. They are also active burrowers and like to build nests in compost heaps or underneath hedges, sheds and decking. In the house they will nest in wall cavities and beneath floorboards. They are mainly active at night feeding on a range of commodities, particularly cereals and cereal products. They will eat about 10% of their own body weight of food daily. Rats require a regular supply of water, whereas mice do not as there is normally enough to survive on in their food. Rats are also good swimmers and are often found in sewers where there is food, water and shelter.

The front teeth of rats grow continuously and to keep the teeth to a useful length the rat needs to gnaw on hard objects all the time; objects can include lead water pipes, brickwork, electric cables, wood and anything else available. They usually have well worn runs between their living area and their food and water sources.

Mice will easily enter gaps of 5mm wide and they are very good climbers.

If a pencil fits in a gap, then a mouse can get in!

Mice eat many types of food but prefer seeds and grain. They are not hesitant to eat new foods and are considered “nibblers,” sampling many kinds of items that may exist in their environment. Foods high in fat, protein, or sugar may be preferred even when grain and seed are present. Such items include bacon, chocolate sweets, and butter (a little melted chocolate is a favourite in our mouse traps).

They do not range far from the nest. The maximum range for rats is 45 m (148 ft), for mice 9 m (30 ft). Rats are extremely apprehensive about new objects and will avoid them for several days. Leaving a trap out for about 5 days is necessary to ensure acceptance. Mice quickly accept new objects. This becomes very important when designing baiting or trapping programs.

Rodent Damage

Rats and mice will invade buildings in search of food and shelter. In doing so they may be involved in the transmission of disease, soiling and destroying belongings, damaging equipment and can cause serious structural damage by gnawing through cables, waterpipes and woodwork etc. They also eat and destroy food stores.

Did you know?

  • mice are sexually mature at 6 to 10 weeks of age?
  • worldwide, rats transmit roughly 40 diseases?
  • unlike mice, rats avoid anything new? They only take tiny amounts of freshly laid-out bait and often avoid new traps completely.
  • rats do not just eat food leftovers, but also soap and paper, dead mice, birds and fowl
  • a rat produces 25000 droppings per year, a mouse 17000.
  • rats and mice are highly adaptable creatures. Some of them have even developed resistance to rodenticides

Controlling and reducing vermin 

The next step in controlling a rodent problem is to reduce the population with a combination of baits, traps, and cats.  It is best to ensure that you set up a programme of activity that is overseen by you – some of the work can be undertaken by other people such as private pest control companies, or your local authority pest control officer.  However, this will be an ongoing matter that will require you to be vigilant and pro-active.

Prevention – Reducing rodent infestations

Eliminating Hiding Places and Nesting Sites

Rodents do not like to be exposed. Maintain sound housekeeping, eliminate loosely piled building materials, old feed bags or anything else that a rodent can hide in or under.

“Best practice says that when cleaning you should let it air for 30 to 60 minutes, and if you find mice droppings or you find nesting material, you should spray it with a 10% bleach solution or disinfectant, and let it soak in for a while.  Ideally you should never sweep or vacum the droppings because this puts infectious matter into the air, where it can be inhaled.  The best bet is to clean with something disposable whilst wearing rubber gloves.”

Remove Food and Water

Eliminate water sources such as leaky taps, open water troughs, sweating pipes and open drains. Keep all feeds in rodent-proof bins (we use metal dustbins with lids or old wheelie bins), covered cans or metal hoppers. Reduce feed spillage and immediately dispose of dead animals. Without readily available food and water, populations cannot build.

Mice and Rat Predators

vermin control

Some dogs  and cats will catch and kill mice and rats.  Cats may limit low-level mouse or rat populations.  However, if conditions are ideal for rodents, cats cannot eliminate a problem because they are not able to catch mice as quickly as they multiply. Cats may also introduce disease into a facility by bringing in rodents caught in fields.

Around most structures, mice can find many places to hide and rear their young out of the reach of such predators. Cats probably cannot eliminate existing mouse populations, but in some situations they may be able to prevent reinfestations once mice have been controlled. Farm cats, if sufficient in number, may serve this function.

Noise

Mice are somewhat wary animals and can be frightened by unfamiliar sounds or sounds coming from new locations. Most rodents, however, can quickly become accustomed to new sounds heard repeatedly.  There is little evidence to suggest that rodents’ responses to no-specific, high-frequency sound (ultrasonic sound) is any different from their response to sound within the range of human hearing.  Tests of commercial ultrasonic devices have indicated that rodents may be repelled from the immediate area of the ultrasound for a few days, but then will return and resume normal activities.

Repellents

Rodents find some types of tastes and odors objectionable, but chemical repellents are seldom a practical solution to mouse infestations. Substances such as moth balls (naphthalene) or household ammonia, in sufficient concentration, may have at least temporary effects in keeping mice out of certain enclosed areas.

Other solutions to rodent problems, including rodent-proof construction and methods of population reduction, are usually more permanent and cost-effective than the use of repellents.

Toxicants

Anticoagulants (slow-acting, chronic toxicants). Mice are susceptible to all of the various anticoagulant rodenticides , but they are generally less sensitive (often far less sensitive) to the active ingredients than rats.  Anticoagulants have the same effect on nearly all warm-blooded animals, but the sensitivity to these toxicants varies among species. Additionally, residues of anticoagulants which are present in the bodies of dead or dying rodents can cause toxic effects to scavengers and predators.

Anticoagulant Resistance

Within any population of  mice, some individuals are less sensitive to anticoagulants than others. Where anticoagulants have been used over long periods of time at a particular location, there is an increased potential for the existence of a population that is somewhat resistant to the lethal effects of the baits.

Anticoagulant Bait Failure

Resistance is only one (and perhaps the least likely) reason for failure in the control of mice with anticoagulant baits. Control with baits that are highly accepted may fail for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Too short a period of bait exposure. —Insufficient bait and insufficient replenishment of bait (none remains from one baiting to the next).
  • Too few bait stations and/or too far apart. For mice, stations should be within 6 feet (2 m) of one another in areas where mice are active. —Too small a control area, permitting mice to move in from untreated adjacent areas. —Genetic resistance to the anticoagulant. Although this is unlikely, it should be suspected if about the same amount of bait is taken daily for several weeks.

Reasons for failure to achieve control with anticoagulant baits :

  • Poor bait choice, or bait formulated improperly. Other foods are more attractive to the mice.
  • Improperly placed bait stations. Other foods are more convenient to the mice.
  • Abundance of other food choices.
  • Tainted bait: the bait has become mouldy, rancid, insect-infested, or contaminated with other material that reduces acceptance. Discard old bait periodically, and replace it with fresh.
  • Occasionally, mice accept bait well and an initial population reduction is successful. Then bait acceptance appears to stop although some mice remain. In such instances, it is likely that the remaining mice never accepted the bait, either because of its formulation or placement. The best strategy is to switch to a different bait formulation, place baits at different locations, and/ or use other control methods such as traps.

“Never place bait stations where livestock, pets, or other animals can knock them over. Spilled bait may be a potential hazard, particularly to smaller animals.”

 If misused, anticoagulant rodenticides can be lethal to non-target animals such as dogs, pigs, and cats.

Rodent droppings and pigs

The causative organism of Erysipelas in pigs is the ubiquitous bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, formally known as Erysipelas insidiosa. The bacterium can survive in soil or dung for 6 months or more but probably more significantly is carried by a wide range of wild birds as well as rodents, especially mice. Pigs are particularly susceptible to disease with this organism and the classical manifestations are the acute, septicaemic form producing sudden deaths or in milder cases “diamonds”. These forms of the disease can be controlled by a combination of hygiene, medication and vaccination.

Mice have also been found to act as reservoirs or transmitters of diseases of veterinary importance, such as swine dysentery, a serious bacterial disease of swine often called “bloody scours.”

Rodents and poultry

It has been estimated that rodents can increase poultry feed ussage by as much as 2% especially in the cold weather. Rats and mice are likely to find poultry houses a great place to live. Rodents spread diseases to poultry flocks by contaminating feed and bird living area with urine or droppings. Rats and mice are linked to poultry diseases such as salmonellosis, colibacillosis, coryza, pasteurellosis, mycoplasmosis, hemorrhagic enteritis,hymenolepiasis, capilariasis, and ascaridiasis. Because of their ability to harbor pathogens, rodents also can carry over disease organisms from one flock to another even if the facilities are cleaned and disinfected.  Rodents also carry parasites such as lice, fleas, and mites.

All types of rodents eat poultry feed and they waste and contaminate more than they eat. It has been suggested by some authorities that one rat eats approximately 25 pounds of feed per year.   In addition to damage and feed loss rodents can cause high mortality rates and production losses. Rats have been known to kill baby chicks and break and eat eggs, and they may frighten birds by their movements or by noises they create.  Research has shown that by reducing the rodent population in poultry houses the bird mortality rate can also be lowered.

Rodent proofing a building

• Concrete: Concrete should be 2 inches thick if made of precast reinforced concrete plates fastened together, or at least 3¾ inches thick if not reinforced.
• Galvanized Sheet Metal: 24 Gauge or heavier; perforated sheet metal or grills should be 14 gauge.
Brick: Regular size, 3¾ inches thick with joints filled with mortar.
• Hardware Cloth: 19 Gauge ½ by ½ inch mesh to exclude rats, 24 gauge, ¼ by ¼ to exclude both rats and mice.

Any openings that are needed for ventilation should be screened or rodent proofed to prevent rodent access. With elimination of entry points, any potential hiding places outside the house should also be eliminated. Obvious food sources such as spilled feed should also be eliminated, use hanging feeders and remove any uneaten food before nightfall.

In some instances, a strip of heavy gravel placed adjacent to building foundations or other structures will reduce rodent burrowing at these locations. In any event, keep the perimeter of buildings and other structures clean of weeds and debris (including stacked lumber, firewood, and other stored materials) to discourage rodent activity and to allow easier detection of rodent sign.

However, any drastic change to their habitat may cause rodents to abandon their habitat. However they will only move to the next building or into the woods to wait until the coast is clear to return. Therefore the best plan is to elimate the rodents before undertaking a major clear-up.

Livestock food storage – making it vermin proof

Where possible, store bulk foods in rodent-proof containers or rooms. Stack sacked or boxed foods in orderly rows on pallets or tables in a way that allows for thorough inspection for evidence of mice. In such storage areas, keep stored materials away from walls.  Sweep floors frequently to permit ready detection of fresh droppings.

When storing foods or feed on pallets, keep in mind that mice can jump up more than 12 inches (30.5 cm) from a flat surface. They are also good climbers and can walk up surfaces such as wood or concrete (unless the surfaces have a slick finish). Mice can live for considerable periods of time within a pallet of feed without coming down to the floor.

Useful links

Oct 102012
 
scotland flag

You’ve got the land and now want some animals – Who do I need to contact? What are the rules? Where do I get the paperwork? What if something goes wrong?

If you are not interested in keeping animals on your land or smallholding then you probably won’t want to go any further than registering (if at all) your smallholding.

Keeping Livestock

If you are planning to keep animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, hens, and cattle then read on. Different rules apply to different animals. It is complicated – but not insurmountable! 

Is there a difference between a pet animal and livestock?

Do not assume that because your animal (e.g. sheep, micro-pig, goat, alpaca) is to be kept as a pet that these rules do not necessarily apply to you.  Ignorance is not a defence – if in doubt ask your local authority animal welfare officer.

Bureaucracy surrounding the smallholding

The bureaucracy surrounding agriculture and smallholding is a challenge, don’t let it get on top of you, but don’t ignore it either. You are treated by the authorities just the same as the big guys, and will therefore have to comply with all the regulations. It’s not what you came into smallholding for I know, but the good thing is that you are not alone! Local smallholder associations are there to provide support and advice.

 Things to do before you buy animals for your smallholding

‘Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, must not attend to them unless he has access to all relevant statutory welfare codes relating to the animals while he is attending to, and is acquainted with the provisions of those codes.’

  • It is important that you read and understand the welfare guides/codes of recommendation relating to the animals you intend to keep.  Read more here.
  • You must register your land or ‘holding’ and get a CPH number (a unique code allocated to the land where animals are kept). You need this number before you purchase/acquire/move any animal onto your smallholding.
  • You must get a flock or herdmark number for your livestock (e.g. sheep and pigs)
  • Get the relevant movement documentation for your animal (from the previous owner) and be aware of the regulations around transporting animals. You may need a licence for moving certain agricultural animals (e.g. pigs see below).

Once you have your animals – other things you need to do

  • Your animals must be properly identifiable, with the correct flock or herdmark numbers. Different animals have different tagging rules and some even require electronic identification (e.g. sheep).
  • Poultry and other fowl may require to be registered (see below).
  • You need to keep a register and medications book. Return an annual inventory where requested, and notify a range of agencies depending on the animal and it’s movements (more details below).

Feeding your animals/livestock

Animal feed plays an important part in the food chain and there are rules governing this area. Most smallholders buy bags of animal feed direct from an agricultural supplier which is pre-mixed, however rules do apply about how that feed is stored (and your premises may be inspected to make sure you comply), as well as what different animals can be fed (e.g. pigs cannot be fed anything that has had contact with your kitchen).

You must be registered with your local authority if you;
  • manufacture animal feed,
  • market animal feed,
  • import animal feed,
  • store animal feed,
  • transport animal feed,
  • sell co-products of food industry as animal feed,
  • carry out on-farm mixing,
  • feed food producing animals,
  • grow crops to be used as animal feed.
 Contact your local authority Animal Health Officer for details.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for drawing up the rules on the composition and marketing of animal feed as well as improving food safety throughout the food chain. This includes improving hygiene on farms and making sure that public health is not put at risk through what is fed to animals.  Food hygiene legislation applies to farmers, growers and other producers, in many cases for the first time as part of the ‘farm to fork’ approach to food safety. There is a question and answer section available on the Food Standards Agency FSA website.

Smallholder paperwork

If you are the owner or occupier of a smallholding, you also need to keep records of animal stock on your premises. This is called a register of the animals on your holding; you should keep a separate register for each holding you use. This register will hold information about your animals, the holding and any movements of animals on or off your holding. You can keep your own records, in any format you wish however, it must contain all the necessary information as set out in the Scottish Government website you can download one from here .

Registering your smallholding

You must register your holding within 30 days from the date you first keep animals.  If you are a new sheep/goat/pig/cattle keeper you must register your holding with your local Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (RPID) Office.  They will give you a CPH number which is a unique code allocated to the land where animals are kept. The CPH code is used when reporting and recording animal movements.

Where do I get a Flock/herdmark number from?

You must get flockmark/herdmark number for your animals.  This is done by contacting your local Animal Health Divisional Office (AHDO).
They will give you a flockmark (sheep) or herdmark (goats/pigs) for your holding. The flockmark or herdmark is allocated to the holding and must be used to identify all animals born on the holding. Keepers who use the same holding must use the same flockmark or herdmark. You require the flockmark or herdmark to buy identification tags and electronic identifiers (from agricultural shops/suppliers).  You must also inform your local AHDO within 30 days of ceasing to keep animals on a holding.

Movement of animals

What is samu?

You must notify movements of animals on to your holding to the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU).
SAMU, Government Buildings, 161 Brooms Road, Dumfries, DG1 3ES
Phone: 0845 601 7597, Fax: 01387 274 457
samu@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
When an animal moves, its movement must be recorded in the triplicate movement document (sheep and goats – different rules apply for pigs) and then reported to the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU) within 3 days of arrival at the holding by the receiving keeper; moves that take place via a Market in Scotland will be notified to SAMU by the Market. The movement document forms the basis of the notification to SAMU. The white copy of the triplicate movement document can be either posted or faxed to SAMU. You can also complete electronic notification of the movement details.

You get your triplicate movement document (sheep and goats) from the RPID office.  All movements from a holding in Scotland (except those for emergency veterinary treatment) must be accompanied by a movement document and sent to SAMU .

Annual inventory of sheep and goats

You must return the annual inventory of sheep and goats sent to you directly by the Scottish Government. They will only know to do this if you have registered your smallholding.

REGISTRATION OF PIG HOLDINGS

Keepers of pigs are required to register holdings where pigs are kept and must maintain records of all pig movements.  Any owner or person in charge of pigs is required to notify the Divisional Veterinary Manager (DVM) at local AHDO office giving details of :
i. name and address of the owner or occupier of the holding
ii. identification number (CPH) of the holding
iii. species of livestock kept, and
iv. to notify the DVM within one month, of any changes to these details

Moving pigs

When pigs are moved a self declaration movement document or a licence issued by the local authority or Divisional Veterinary Manager must accompany the animals on their journey. Where a self declaration movement document is used a copy must be forwarded to the local authority within 3 days. The local authority will in turn notify the Scottish Animal Movement Unit (SAMU) of the details of the movement.
In the event of disease outbreak, the precise location of all livestock is essential for effective measure to control and eradicate highly contagious diseases.
Self declaration movement documents are therefore used to record the details of a movement in instances where keepers move pigs from a farm. The type of declaration to be used (Schedule 2, Schedule 3, or Schedule 4) will depend on the purposes for which the pigs are being moved and the destination to which the pigs are being moved to.
  • Schedule 2: Movement of pigs from a farm form of declaration
  • Schedule 3: Movement of pigs from a farm for breeding, exhibition, artificial insemination, or veterinary treatment form of declaration
  • Schedule 4: Movement of pigs on return to farm after movement from farm for breeding purposes form of declaration
Keepers need to be aware of the requirements being placed upon them when using self declaration movement documents.  No fees are payable. This is simply a notification process with the requirement being to forward a copy of the relevant self declaration to the local authority within 3 days. Tacit consent applies. This is only a notification process so this means that you will be able to act as though your application is granted if you have not heard from the local authority by the end of the target completion period.
Examples of forms can be downloaded from websites below:
Downlodad animal transportation advice and get info on pig movement licences etc from this web page

Do I need to register my chicken?

If you own or keep 50 or more poultry birds then you must register with DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs). This is due to the avian influenza (preventative measures) (Scotland) Regulations 2005.  The poultry register remains open to allow for the continual voluntary registration of premises with less than 50 poultry. Bird species that must registered:
  •      Chickens 
  •      Turkeys 
  •       Ducks     
  •       Geese
  •       Quail     
  •       Emus  
  •       Rheas    
  •       Kiwis
  •      Pheasants  
  •      Partridge  
  •      Guinea fowl 
  •      Cassowaries
You can register with DEFRA by calling free on 0800 634 1112.

Disease in your livestock

Reporting Notifiable Diseases

Many animal diseases are highly contagious and must be reported as soon as an outbreak is suspected. Such notifiable disease include:
  •   Foot and Mouth Disease         
  • Swine Fever        
  •  Anthrax            
  • Rabies
If you suspect signs of notifiable disease, or have a case confirmed, you must report it immediately to: DEFRA Divisional Veterinary Manager, Local Authority Animal Health Officer and Police.  A comprehensive list of notifiable disease can be obtained from the DEFRA website

LOCAL AUTHORITY CONTACT DETAILS

You can find out your local authority animal health officer here.

Animals going to slaughter

Animals going to slaughter require a range of documentation

  • transfer of ownership through your triplicate book (see above)
  • movement licence for pigs (see above)
  • food chain document (see below)
  • you must also abide by the correct transport regulations and use a method of transport that is acceptable (e.g. you may find that an abbattoir might refuse to accept the delivery of sheep or pigs on a horse trailer because there is insufficient side gates which increases the risk of escape).

Food chain information

From 1 January 2010 EU food hygiene legislation required slaughterhouse operators to ‘request, receive, check and act upon’ food chain information (FCI) for all cattle, sheep and goats sent for slaughter for human consumption. 
Read more here.

The ‘five freedoms’.

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst. By access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vision.
  • Freedom from discomfort. By provision of an appropriate environment including shelter and rest area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease. By preventing or rapid diagnosis and appropriate treatment including humane slaughter.
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour. By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company.
  • Freedom from fear and distress. By ensuring that conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering
Aug 072012
 
15sep12 039

Fly Strike is the thing a smallholder fears the most when they have sheep

Some people (usually your vet) will tell you that sheep are born to die, and sometimes I think its true.

Its summer, its August, and the lambs are growing fast.  At 5 months old they are now weaned from their mums, and eating grass like there’s no tomorrow.  The ewes and tups have all been sheared and there is enough fresh grass to go around.  All the hard work has been done now and its time to relax.  Take a holiday, or have BBQ’s in the garden.

Aye right!

Relax at your peril.  Warm damp weather is ideal conditions for flies, blow flies in particular.  They are lovely to look at, shiny and green, but if you see them near your sheep you are in trouble.  If you don’t check the sheep regularly then you are in even bigger trouble.

Once you hear that someone else has had fly strike you immediately go onto full alert and check your own sheep.  Then you worry about it until the first frosts. Or, like I did recently, you discover fly strike in one of your lambs.  Having to deal with a struck sheep is a distressing thing for both animal and human, but it must be dealt with.

What is fly strike?

Someone will say that they have had fly strike when they discover that their animal has a wound that is infected with maggots from the blow fly.  Most of the blowfly lifecycle occurs off the sheep and adult flies may travel large distances to find food.  

“When given favourable conditions of humidity and warmth, the entire life cycle from egg to adult can occur in less than 10 days.”

Eggs hatch within 24 hours and first stage larvae penetrate the skin using their hook like mouthparts and secrete enzymes which liquefy and digest the tissue. Larvae are very active and cause further skin and muscle liquefaction with secondary bacterial infection as they develop. Maggot development can take as little as 5 days before they fall off and burrow into the soil to form pupae.

“Struck areas often attract other blowflies

and further waves of strike.”

Once hatched, larvae feed and grow rapidly, undergoing two moults before they become mature maggots in three to 10 days. They then fall off the sheep and undergo further change on the ground, transforming to adult flies in about three to seven days.

“Female flies can lay 2,000 to 3,000 eggs in batches of hundreds, and live for approximately 30 days.”

Blowflies fall into two categories: primary flies are capable of laying eggs and starting a strike, while secondary flies cannot start a strike, but attack areas damaged by an existing strike, and make the injury worse.

When does flystrike occur?

Flystrike can occur at any time of the year, but in the UK animals are particularly at risk between April and October when the weather is warmer.

Why is fly strike bad for sheep?

“Blowfly strike is a major welfare concern and an important cause of ill thrift and death in affected animals.”

 Flystrike occurs when certain species of fly (Lucilia sericata, Phormia terrae-novae and Calliphora erythrocephala flies) lay their eggs on another animal. These eggs hatch into maggots that then begin to eat the animal’s flesh. Flies are attracted by soiled or wet fur/fleece, often around the animal’s rear end. However, any area of the body can be affected, as can any wound, cut or scratch. Flystrike causes serious pain and suffering and it can be fatal.

 How do I know if my sheep have fly strike?

“if its bad you will know just by looking”

There is a saying  – ‘there are people who look at sheep but never see them’ – don’t let that be you.  The quicker you spot something unusual the better.  Lean on the gate and just watch them, get used to watching their normal behaviour.  I’m told I have an obsession with poo – however I think you can tell a lot from the rear end of a sheep and their poo.  What do you need to look out for?

  •  Fly struck sheep are usually restless and may bite or kick at the struck area. They may often turn back their head, biting nervously, or run in short gallops and lie down. Affected areas are usually sites of faecal contamination or infected wounds and are, therefore, usually over the hindquarters and perineum or elsewhere on the body at wound sites.
  • The fleece overlying struck areas is discoloured, moist and foul-smelling. During the early stages, the maggots, which are approximately 1.5 cm long, are only visible, end-on, when the wool is parted, but as the disease progresses, the wool falls out to reveal the underlying affected tissue.
  •  Typically, they will also seek out shade, and may be lying under a tree or hedge. The affected area of the fleece may also appear damp and will be a darker colour.
  • On closer examination, wool will be moist and may be stuck tightly together. The area may also be accompanied by a foul odour. 
  • In severe cases, the skin may be broken. 
  • If the disease progresses, septicaemia could result from secondary infection of the damaged area. If left untreated for long enough, the animal will die. 

Sheep suffering from fly strike show obvious signs of distress. They spend less time grazing and more time tail wagging and rubbing the affected area and biting the struck areas of the fleece they can reach.  If these signs go unrecognised and secondary strike occurs, the wounds can become very extensive and bacterial infection may lead to serious complications such as death from speticaemia and toxaemia. On examination of the sheep the result is often a foul smell from the wound and visible signs of maggots.

What do I do if I discover fly strike?

“Because the toxins released into the bloodstream by the maggots can cause the animal to go into toxic shock, death can result very quickly if flystrike is not spotted and treated rapidly.”

 The recommended way to treat flystrike:

  • Hand shear struck wool (where the maggots and eggs are) and a 5 cm barrier of clean wool around the strike, close to the skin to remove maggots. Unless wool is shorn off it is likely that maggot trails will be missed and sheep will remain struck. 
  • Flystruck sheep need to be treated immediately.  Struck areas are sensitive to sunburn, so should not be clipped other than to gain access to the wound.  A good soaking with an insecticidal organophosphate or high-cis cypermethrin dressing will then kill the maggots and protect the surrounding skin from secondary strike.  Insect growth regulators (cyromazine and dicyclanil) are ineffective for the treatment of established flystrike.
  • Weak and debilitated sheep with extensive flystrike wounds may require humane euthanasia, discuss this with your vet.  You may have treated the maggots on the outside but what if there are maggots inside?
  • Collect the maggot-infested wool into a maggot-proof (plastic) bag and leave the bag in the sun for a couple of days to kill all maggots. This breaks the life cycle. Don’t rely on registered flystrike dressings to kill maggots – some are incapable of killing large maggots and many maggots escape treatment by dropping from the sheep and burrowing into the soil before the insecticide can be applied. Unless maggot infested wool is collected and bagged, most maggots will survive and pupate and come back as adult flies.
  • Apply a registered flystrike dressing to the shorn area to prevent re-strike.
  • Remove struck sheep from the flock. Leaving struck sheep in the flock attracts blowflies. Move the struck sheep to a ‘hospital’ paddock (with a friend for company) this allows closer monitoring of recovery and reduces the risk to the rest of the flock.
  • Protect your other sheep by checking, dagging, and applying a preventative treatment.

Pour-ons are normally what smallholders will use.
When applied correctly to potential areas of strike over the back and breech, pyrethroid or insect growth regulator pour-ons can provide effective control of blowfly strike. High-cis cypermethrin pour-ons provide protection for about 6 weeks and alphacypermethrin for 8 – 10 weeks, while the insect growth regulator pour-ons, cyromazine and dicyclanil, provide protection for 10 and 16 weeks respectively. Pour-on chemicals dissolve in the wool grease and are removed when animals are shorn. In the case of high-cis cypermethrin, this may lead to wool residue problems. Furthermore, the use of pour-ons in adult animals before shearing may be wasteful as it will simply be cut out – shearers may also insist that you do not apply treatments prior to shearing for their own health reasons.  These chemicals are dangerous and there is the risk that without proper personal protective equipment humans may absorb some of the chemical through their skin when handling sheep.

 How to do I treat my sheep after fly strike?

*within your emergency kit you should have the following – hand shears, stiff brush, maggot oil, spoton, crovect, stockholm tar, purple first aid or other antiseptic spray, tea tree oil, citronella or other fly repellant*

It will be just your luck that you discover fly strike on a Saturday afternoon when all the agricultural supply shops are closed for the weekend.  Be prepared!

  • Shearing can clear up most active strikes, we also found a stiff brush handy for getting rid of the exposed maggots.  Remember to put as much of the fleece and maggots into a plastic bag as possible.  This will stop the cycle.
  • If you nick the skin when clipping apply an antiseptic spray and something such as stockholm tar (I like the sprayable horsey version) to seal the wound to prevent access to flies. Other recommendations are tea tree oil cream.
  • I apply spoton directly onto the maggot infested area to help draw them out of the skin and kill them, others may use what they have to hand such as Crovect or Maggot Oil.
  • Apply an insecticidal dressing (such as maggot oil) which protects the healing wound from re-strike. This will either prevent egg-laying female flies, or kill newly hatched larvae that emerge from eggs laid onto treated lesions.
  • Treat any open wounds to prevent infection.
  • The animal should also be treated with an effective broad-spectrum antibiotic.  This is normally given by injection (if you do not have any antibiotic- contact your vet who will supply you with a syringe of appropriate medication – if you are not comfortable injecting yourself then you will either have to pay the vet or get someone who is skilled to do this task).  Smallholders need to learn how to do these jobs – its tough – but its necessary.  I have never had a problem with talking through a concern with my vet.  The raw area attacked by the maggots is an open wound through which infection can enter and a vulnerable/stressed/ or sick lamb can also easily get pneumonia too.
  • If weak and sickly your sheep may not eat, and this in itself could be fatal.   If you are not sure that the animal is eating and drinking then it may be necessary to make sure that it gets adequate liquid and nutritional supplements.  I do this by utilising a bottle and sturdy straw originally for administering nutrients for twin lamb disease, you may also be able to use a large syringe (without the needle) to give the sheep an oral application of water/salts/sugars/vitamins & minerals to keep it alive.  This needs to be done gently and in little doses.
  • Wash the open wound with an antiseptic solution every day to keep it clean (just syringe in or spray and let it soak in or run off). Keep an eye on the skin as it is vulnerable to sunburn or cracking and re-infection as the new skin grows underneath and the old skin falls off.  Other recommendations include vaseline to keep skin moist, and or tea tree oil cream to sooth and prevent restrike.
  • Check for more or hatching maggots and if necessary give a shot of invermectin to deal with any remaining deep seated maggots.
  • Does your animal need wormed or fluked – was this the cause of the dirty bum and infestation?  Even a change of food can upset a sheeps stomach e.g. from eating grass to being in a pen with hay and sheep feed.

After treatment, wounds can take several weeks to heal. The skin will start to grow under the dead areas within a few days and the peeling skin will fall off.  During this time, your animal will be at increased risk of further bouts of flystrike and infection, so it will require careful nursing and additional preventative measures detailed above. Then when the skin heals and dries it might crack so keep it soft with creams such as udder cream, vaseline, or tea tree cream.

Herbal remedies to treat fly strike:

  • Tea tree oil.  Research in Australia has  found that tea tree oil was highly successful in both preventing lice infestations and killing blowfly maggot larvae. “Tea-tree oil could be effective as a preventative treatment for  any wound likely to be struck. It has also been shown to have antibacterial properties and is suggested to have wound healing effects”  

How do I prevent fly strike in my sheep?

  • keep on top of your worm burden especially lambs on new grass or who have not developed resistance to an acceptable worm burden
  • if you have dirty bums then deal with it – cut away the soiled fleece (called dagging or crutching)
  • keep on top of foot rot in your flock especially during wet weather – if your sheep are limping and there is no obvious problem then deal with it and consider vaccination for the long term (blow flies are attracted to the smell of foot rot)
  • I use garlic licks and citronella sprays to discourage flies and reduce the risk
  • use treatments at vulnerable times, some chemicals give you up to 10 weeks protection – a must if you are going away on holiday

Blowflies prefer a warm, moist and sheltered environment, so the risk of strike can be reduced by moving sheep to more exposed pastures. The smell of wool grease and the presence of foot rot, urine soaked wool, skin diseases, scour, or infected cuts attract blowflies to sheep.

Established strike lesions attract even more blowflies. Recently shorn sheep are seldom struck and effective control of gastrointestinal parasites and footrot, general animal health care, crutching and dagging can further aid in the control of flystrike.

Which animals are most at risk of fly strike?

Flystrike (‘myiasis’) is a major welfare problem that mainly occurs during warm weather. It’s a painful condition that can affect rabbits, guinea pigs, cats and dogs as well as farm animals such as sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas.

“Even clean, well-kept animals can get flystrike.

It only takes one fly and one area of soiled fur/fleece or damaged skin”

Animals (not just sheep) that have a dirty rear end or generally dirty fur/fleece.

Causes can include:

  • Long-haired animals that may not be able to groom themselves thoroughly without human intervention.
  • Obese/overweight and older animals that cannot reach round easily to clean themselves.
  • Animals with dental, spinal or balance problems, which make cleaning difficult or painful.
  • Animals that are ill, as they may not feel well enough to clean themselves thoroughly and, depending on their illness, may also produce abnormally smelly urine or have diarrhoea, which will attract flies.
  • Animals that have an inappropriate diet.
  • Animals that have an internal parasitic infection.
  • Animals with an open wound anywhere on the body.
  • Unshorn sheep of woolly breeds.
Apr 172012
 
scottish lamb

Risks and dangers to lambs on a smallholding

Today I rescued a ewe lamb who had become entangled in baler twine and could have strangled herself.  This reminded me that although we always have to be careful to ensure that the smallholding is safe for ourselves and our livestock, at lambing time we need to be particularly vigilant.  Here is some advice and tips from our experience over the years.

Wind and Rain

spring lamb with rainmac on

Once we are sure that the lamb and mother have bonded well, and that the lamb is suckling and there are no other ailments, we turn them out into our field.  When they first go out we put lamb mac’s on the lambs which are plastic coats that provide protection from rain and wind.   

First time ewes/mothers don’t necessarily know to take their lambs under shelter in heavy rain or wind, or the ewes who have a very thick winter coat and are happier lying outside in all weathers.  We have also found that the Herdwicks with their oily fleece do not feel the damp as badly as our other sheep, however we do not use a Herdwick tup so the lambs do not have as good a coat as their mothers.  

Using the above methods mean that hopefully we have reduced the risk of a lamb getting chilled or suffering hypothermia.  Its not the first time that a vulnerable lamb (e.g. suffering from joint ill) has worn the dog coat belonging to my Jack Russell as extra protection! Please don’t worry, the examples I have given are exceptions.  Normally lambs get plenty of warm milk from their mothers regularly and this helps to keep them warm.  In time the lambs soon outgrow their plastic rain coats or we remove them if the weather is warm and mild.

lamb macs protect lamb from elements

Shelter

ewe and lambs sheltering from the weather

Up here in Fife Scotland, we can get ‘four seasons in one day’ as they say. And it is important to provide shelter for the lambs – somewhere they can go during extreme weather (wind, rain, snow).  Its April just now and this month we have had heavy rain (making the ground damp to lie on),  very cold winds (which chill both sheep and lamb), and snow (cold and damp).  Lambs can get chilled, and suffer from hypothermia, joint ill, or pnuemonia from bad weather.  

sheep seek shelter from very cold winter winds

We have fixed shelters in one of our fields but these can often be full at lambing time or during extreme weather.  The picture above was taken during very cold north winds and the sheep came together in the south facing shelter (perhaps to get heat from each other).  We also use other bits of kit that provide added shelter opportunities for ewes with their lambs.  

Often at the start of a lambs life the mothers like to keep themselves and their lambs separate from other mothers and lambs, so one big shelter is not the best. Later when the lambs know the call of their mum, and everyone is used to each other then  lamb nurseries can develop where the lambs come together to play or sleep whilst the mums go off to graze.  

Where there are no natural opportunities like a hedge or stone wall, lots of little shelters (e.g. with straw bales) should be provided to make sure that they all have somewhere to go when settling their lambs down for the night, or when leaving them to go of and graze.  Sheep often like to lie with their back against something. Farmers can move their livestock onto drier fields in wet weather however smallholders often do not have that option.  We also sacrifice an area of pasture during the winter (e.g. where ground around the feeder or shelter becomes poached and muddy) that is reseeded in the spring.  Despite field drains and the building of a hard standing around the water/feeding/shelter area our ground can still get wet at times of prolonged heavy rain.  We therefore use horse or cow mats (purchased from Ebay and our local Agricultural merchant) on the ground during winter and lambing time and the sheep will choose to lie on these in preference to damp cold ground.  They are easily cleaned and are warm even when wet – unlike straw.  We also use metal hoops (or square straw bales) that can be used as mobile wind breaks or shelters from the rain and will also provide shade in the summer.

protection from wind for sheep

Salt

All animals need salt. Licks provide not only salt, but also trace elements, sometimes minerals and vitamins.  A salt or mineral lick is an important supplement for the ewe especially prior to and during lambing.  However  like other nutrients (protein, energy, vitamins, and water), minerals have to be supplied within certain limits to serve their purpose. Sheep, like all other livestock, have their own specific requirements and toxic levels. Read more.  

Your ground may also be deficient in certain trace elements (such as copper, selenium  or cobalt) that will require treatment or administration to your flock in other ways.  

Some lambs seem to have a fascination for a salt/mineral lick and will lick it constantly making them ill (poisoning) and die.  Make sure that licks are well out of reach, adjusting the height as the lamb grows. I have not been able to establish if this is the case, but where I suspect that a lamb has been licking the salt I have discovered white pasty poop which might be an indicator that something is wrong.

keep mineral licks out of reach of lambs

Water

Water is vital for a ewe, however lambs can drown in bucket of water like the one below.

water container

Instead we use where we can, drinkers that fit onto lamb hurdles and are high enough that the lambs cannot reach.

water and hay for the ewe

Falling objects

We have learnt to our cost to make sure that boards or hurdles are secured to prevent them from being knocked or blown over.  Lambs sleep a lot and like to lie against or shelter under things like these.  All it takes is for an unexpected gust of wind or a ewe to rub or bump against them for an accident to happen.

falling objects are a danger to lambs

Dogs

Dogs should be kept well away from pregnant ewes and lambs.  Like foxes and other predators (crows, magpies, and seagulls) they know that young lambs are vulnerable. Ewes might defend their lamb, but when they have twins this is more difficult.

labradors in kennel

Bloat

We have found that bottle fed lambs are more prone to bloat when they start to eat grass.  I’ve observed that lambs with their mothers will copy them and nibble at grass throughout their time when suckling, however when weaning bottle fed lambs they are obsessive about food and gorge themselves regularly.  This is perhaps to do with the fact that they cannot suckle on demand and feel the need to fill themselves whenever food is available just in case.  We therefore have found that the following measures are in place with bottle fed lambs to minimise this often fatal risk.

  • keep bottle fed lambs within the flock so that they too can copy the behaviour of other sheep 
  • restrict their grazing and gorging (see lamb pen below with dry hay available)
  • act quickly when bloat is evident

restricted grazing to prevent lamb bloat

Dirt/Disease/Parasites

Lambs can get a runny bum otherwise known as scours/diahroea/dysentery from a range of infections, and depending on how good their immunity is (e.g. how much colostrum they had and what age they are) will influence whether they get really sick and how well they recover.  Although without intervention from the smallholder they may not recover at all.  Causes can be parasitic or viral, environmental (water/bedding/udders) and/or nutritional, but all result in rapid dehydration of the animal. Timely treatment, fluids to rehydrate and containment of potentially infectious poop is critical in the effort to provide the animal the best chance for recovery. Determine the cause of the scours. Environmental causes may be unsanitary surroundings or possible contact with unclean water (read more) or infected faeces. Viral or bacterial causes may be E. coli, rotavirus, cryptosporidium, salmonella, giardia or clostridium perfringens type C. 

Its scary I know but I start by trying  to identify what is wrong by the colour of the lambs poop – please note that there are many reasons why a lamb is sick and you must always consult your vet.  Here is my experience on what may be wrong with a lamb on my smallholding :

Yellow Scour

Young lambs overfeeding on rich mothers milk might develop a scour.  I would make sure that the bum is cleaned (warm water or wet wipes) and doesn’t harden and obstruct the lamb from pooping or it might suffer watery mouth and could die from septicemia. If watery mouth develops then I treat accordingly.

White Scour

This is serious and may indicate Colibacillosis/E. coli and requires antibiotics.  As with all lambs with scours make sure that it is not dehydrated, and isolate it from other lambs.  WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY

Black  Scour

Worms read more….. 

Green Scour

This may simply be grass scours when moving on to good rich pastur,e or when a lamb starts to eat grass.  However it could also be Nematodirus which is a disease that affects young lambs at 4 – 10 weeks of age. The symptoms are a watery-green scour which leads to severe dehydration, and death in some cases.  The disease is the result of a large number of over wintered larvae hatching out within a short period following the right climatic conditions. Young grazing lambs pick up the infective larvae which develop into adults in the intestine and after a period eggs are passed out in the faeces. These eggs will then over winter on the pasture and become the source of infection for the follow year’s lambs. This disease can be prevented by keeping this year’s lambs off pasture that was grazed by lambs last year. Where this is not possible, lambs should be dosed with a suitable anthelmintic in early to mid – May followed by a repeat dose in 4/5 weeks.

Other dangers to lambs can be ignorance and lack of observation.  Check out my posts on :

 April 17, 2012  dog, livestock, must do, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Mar 142012
 
scottish lamb

Worms in sheep, ewes, and lambs on your smallholding

Its March and our ewes will soon be lambing.  Amongst other health issues worms can and will play a part in the fitness of my ewes and lambs over the coming months.  This is a complex area and it can often take smallholders a long time to learn about.  Looking back, I wish I had known all about it before I had got my own sheep or let anyone else graze their sheep on my land.  It would have saved a lot of expense and effort for both myself and the woolly lawnmowers.

*checkout the parasite forecast here*

 

Are worms harmful to sheep?

If not treated then the short answer is yes.  Most sheep have some worms in their digestive system – this is normal. Indeed, exposure to worms is essential if sheep are to develop and maintain an immunity to worms.  However failure to manage this issue can cause a smallholder a lot of problems and ongoing expense.
“There are three broad types of internal parasite that can cause significant health issues in sheep – worms, flukes and protozoa.” 
 Worm infestation is probably the most common cause of “ill thrift” in sheep. Worm infection is a significant animal welfare issue and, if not treated, can cause death.  Resistance to chemical treatments is also an emerging problem in managing sheep worms.
“Worms are thought to cost sheep owners more than any other disease.”
How much harm worms do to sheep depends on a range of factors:
•  The type of worm
•  The number of worms in the animal
•  The breed of sheep
•  The level of nutrition available
•  The age of the animal and the level of previous exposure of the animal to the specific worms.
It is important that everyone with sheep has a worm management plan – and this includes smallholders. An effective plan is simple and will save a lot of money, effort and heartache.

Are sheep worms different?

The short answer is yes.  The life cycles of worms or nematodes are similar – the adult lays eggs in the sheep that pass out in faeces and hatch. The larvae infest the pasture and are taken up by grazing sheep, developing into adults in the intestine.
Teladorsagia, Trichostrongylus and Haemonchus have life cycles of just a few weeks, so several can occur in one season. For example, Haemonchus has a short life cycle – as little as 14 days – so numbers can build quickly.
The life cycle of Nematodirus is a full year – eggs shed by lambs during one spring – hatch the following season to infect the subsequent batch of lambs. The  eggs need a period of cold weather followed by warmer temperatures of 10C or more before they hatch. If conditions are right, this can trigger a mass hatch just when young lambs are starting to graze and the result can be devastating.

How do I control worms in my sheep?

Good practice says that a worm management plan is required.  This includes:
  • Worm testing. It is cheap and easy to do. Without regular testing, you won’t know whether you have a problem, whether your worm management plan is working or whether you have an emerging drench resistance problem on your property.
  • Grazing strategy to create safe or low contaminant pastures for lamb weaners and lambing ewes.
  • Maintaining good nutrition during periods of poor pasture growth.
  • Building worm resistance in the flock.
  • Biosecurity measures for new sheep arrivals on the property or any outbreak of worm disease in your flock (a sure sign that your worm management plan has failed).
  • Minimising the risk of drench resistance developing on your property.

What is the sign of worms in sheep?

  • A typical sign of a worm problem is unthrifty sheep. One that is not eating properly, is losing condition, tends to lag behind the others when moved and, in severe cases, is clearly weak.
  • A worm problem often (but not always) results in sheep scouring and requires dagging. In severe cases, affected sheep may scour profusely.
  • Not all worms cause scouring (diarrhoea) and not all scouring is caused by worms (can be bacterial/green feed scours, etc.).
  • Other signs of worm infection you may see are anaemia or swelling under the jaw (commonly called “bottlejaw”).

Which sheep are more vulnerable to worms?

  • Young sheep (under 12 months old) are far more susceptible to worms (especially  Nematodirus) than older sheep. 
  • Sheep under stress (eg during the later stages of pregnancy, during lactation, during winter feed shortages) are also more susceptible to worms.
  • Sheep in intensive conditions, such as an overstocked under rotated smallholder pasture.
Sheep under twelve months of age and ewes in late pregnancy or lactation have a higher requirement for protein. Weaners need it for their own rapid growth and ewes need it for the growth of the foetus, particularly in the last six weeks of pregnancy, and for milk production after the lamb is born.
If pasture quality is poor, such as during a prolonged period of cold, wet conditions, even healthy weaners or pregnant/lactating ewes have difficulty getting enough protein from grazing. If they have a worm infection, the problem is much worse. In short, they will have a major protein deficiency and this will result in rapid loss of condition, which in turn further increases their susceptibility to worms.

What types of Sheep are Less Susceptible to Worms

  • Older sheep (ie sheep that are over 15 months and fully grown) are much less susceptible to worms than weaners and lambs.
  • Wethers and dry ewes are less susceptible to worms than pregnant or lactating ewes.
  • Some breeds of sheep are less susceptible to worms than others. 
If you suspect a worm problem, it is worth doing a worm test to confirm it. However, by the time you have seen the symptoms, the damage to performance has been done, so worms need to be controlled before clinical signs are evident.

Worm Control – General Principles

 “Worms are only a problem if the numbers increase to the point at which growth is affected, sheep become susceptible to other diseases, or die.”
There are five components of an effective worm control program.
Drenching alone will not resolve a worm problem. Too frequent drenching with chemical treatments may reduce the sheep’s immunity to worms and increase the problem of drench resistant worms. Ad hoc or over-frequent drenching is one of the major causes of drench resistance and is, in most cases, a waste of money, time and effort.
The overall purpose of a worm control program should be to minimise production losses caused by internal parasites and to maximise the sheep’s immunity to worms. If these are achieved, the sheep will need fewer drenches.

What Can You Do to Delay the Onset of Drench Resistance on your smallholding?

Make absolutely sure you are administering the correct dose. Underdosing is one of the major causes of drench resistance, as it helps the worms develop a drench resistance. Check the required dose on the label on the drench container.
Always set the dose by the weight of the heaviest sheep in the flock. Many smallholders just take a guess at this, but if it is possible acquire or borrow a weigh machine that gives you an accurate weight.  Administer this dose to all adult sheep. If the flock includes lambs, set the dose for all lambs by the weight of the heaviest lamb. 
Use the correct drenching technique. In particular, ensure that you are drenching over the tongue rather than squirting the drench into the front of the mouth. If you have just two or three sheep, and if you do not have access to a drenching gun, the drench can be administered via a syringe (with the needle removed) in much the same way as if you were using a drenching gun.
However, when using this method, it is important that the drench is administered slowly, as you are not delivering the drench down the sheep’s throat and are relying on the sheep to, in effect, drink it. After use, the syringe should be cleaned by pumping cold water through it, if you intend to re-use it for future drenching.

Tip for maximising the effect of white wormer or drenches on sheep

Fasting. When using white drenches (BZs) or mectins (MLs), the treatment is generally more effective if the sheep are fasted for 24 hours beforehand. Keeping the sheep off feed for six hours after drenching also helps make the treatment more effective.
* ewes in the last six weeks of pregnancy, sheep in poor condition or stressed sheep should not be fasted at all*
Overdosing will not help. However, with white drenches (BZs), two drenches twelve hours apart can be effective. (This applies to sheep but not to goats). Note that any departures from label recommendations will extend the withholding period.
After drenching, put the sheep onto clean pasture wherever possible.

Common smallholder mistake about worming

Because many smallholders only have a few sheep or purchase quantities that create an excessive it is tempting to continue to use your wormer until it is finished.  This could lead to the development of resistance within the worms on your ground.  
“Rotate between the drench classes (BZs, LEVs, MLs) either at each treatment or each year.”
Use a worm test to monitor worm faecal egg counts (FECs). If you know the level of worms in your sheep, you will be best placed to avoid drench overuse, slow the development of drench resistance and save on drench costs.
If you suspect drench resistance among your flock, do a drench resistance test. This will show you if any of the classes of drench are ineffective in your situation, in which case they should be dropped from your worm control program. If you wish to undertake resistance testing, discuss the process with your vet.
It is most important that drenching is not the only strategy for worm control on your property. Drenching should be just part of a program that includes pasture management, nutrition and selective breeding of worm-resistant sheep.

Herbal alternative to using chemicals to control worms

Below are some suggestions around using herbs etc to expell worms, this can be done along side chemical wormers or instead off where the worm burden is not excessive.  Please note however that these solutions are not effective against fluke and their use is being highlighted as a result of interest rather than fact.  It is known that sheep seek out certain plants when they are available, and it is thought that one of the reasons they do this is to expel worms from their system.
It is useful when using worm expellers to keep your sheep on hard standing for up to 48 hours after treatment.  Herbal expellers can be given to sheep in the form of a drench, in their feed, or through licks or drink. The other option is to include herbage such as chickory and plantain in the seed mix within the grazing.
Plants that have been highlighted as useful in tackling worms are:
  • chickory
  • plantain
  • willow bark (tannin levels)
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • garlic
  • cider vinegar

The dangers of introducing new sheep to your smallholder flock

All sheep that are bought in should undergo a quarantine period on arrival. They should be drenched . Following a 24-48 hour quarantine period, all of the susceptible worms should have been passed, the sheep should then be grazed on pasture recently used by the current flock so that they pick up the resident worms on the holding.
Use a “quarantine drench” to treat any sheep coming onto the property. Unless you know the drench resistance status of these new sheep, the most effective “quarantine drench” is a combination drench (ie one containing both white and clear drenches) plus moxidectin, or otherwise just one of the mectins.
Some authorities recommend maintaining a “refugia” of susceptible worms within a flock as a way of delaying any onset of drench resistance. Essentially, this involves leaving some susceptible worms (ie susceptible to your drench providing you know that the class of drench you are using is effective on your property) in the flock. The point is to dilute the number of drench-resistant worms building up in the flock.
“This strategy involves simply leaving 5-10% of the flock undrenched. Of course, the ones you do not drench must be the healthiest looking sheep in the flock.”
There is some controversy about this “refugia” strategy and it may not be appropriate in all circumstances, so please consult your vet before using it.

How to use your ground/field/pasture in managing your worm burden

The life cycle of worms includes a period in which the worm larvae live outside the sheep – that is, in the pasture. This creates both a problem and an opportunity for sheep owners. 

Sheep worm myth

There was once a common belief that worm larvae could only live outside the sheep for a short time and that destocking a pasture for 3 or 4 weeks was effective in breaking the worm cycle. We now know that larvae can survive on pasture for longer than that, especially where conditions are generally cooler and wetter. In general terms, the higher the rainfall and the cooler the conditions, the longer the larvae can survive in the pasture. 
“If a field/pasture/paddock is cropped or cut for hay or silage, worm larvae numbers are dramatically reduced.”

Effect of seasons on worm types

Species of worms change in predominance from the cooler months to the warmer ones. Drenches that may be effective against the cool season species may be less effective against the ones which predominate in the warmer seasons.

Reinfection

After dosing, sheep should be put onto dirty pasture to pick up resident worms to dilute the resistant worms that have survived dosing.

Mineral/vitamin deficiencies on your ground and in your flock and how this impacts on the sheep worm burden

Research has indicated that the supplementary feeding of certain minerals, where they are already deficient on your property, may increase the resistance of sheep to worms. Research has shown that the supplementary feeding of oats during a period of poor pasture growth (typically winter and sometimes early spring), when combined with high quality pasture management, can improve significantly the sheep’s resistance to worms.
Research has also shown that improved energy nutrition can increase a sheep’s “resilience” to worm infection, allowing animals to maintain growth rates and milk production even if they have a worm infection. When a pasture is in a period of poor growth, energy nutrition can be improved by the supplementary feeding of grains such as oats, barley and lupins. Note, however, that a sudden introduction of grain into their diet can kill sheep. Grains need to be introduced gradually.

Liver Fluke in sheep

There are two conditions that have to be met for sheep to be at risk of Liver Fluke Disease (fasciolosis). Firstly, they must graze an area that is constantly damp. Secondly, freshwater snails must be present in that area to act as intermediate hosts for the liver fluke.

What are the signs of liver fluke?

The signs of Liver Fluke Disease are weight loss and anaemia. In chronic cases, scouring often occurs (but not always) and the sheep suffers obvious abdominal pain and is reluctant to move. Infected sheep may also develop “bottle jaw” – a swelling under the bottom jaw. Unfortunately, in some cases, there are no obvious signs before the sudden death of the infected sheep.
“Liver Fluke Disease is more likely to occur in summer and early autumn.”
Drenching can be an effective means of preventing Liver Fluke Disease. Note, however, that most worm drenches do not contain a flukicide (ie a drench specifically for the treatment of liver fluke), so check the label to ensure that the drench you are using is registered as a treatment for liver fluke.
Drenching with a flukicide is typically carried out three times a year (late winter or early spring, summer and late autumn). Drenching more often than needed is expensive and may lead to drench resistance. Normally, drenching is only necessary for sheep that graze paddocks with fluke-prone (ie constantly moist) areas. 

Triclabendazole is highly effective at killing all stages of flukes responsible for acute fasciolosis. Drenched sheep should be moved to clean pasture or re-treated every three weeks for the next three months at least as prescribed by your veterinary surgeon.  Nitroxynil and oxyclosanide are less effective against immature flukes and should be used only in the treatment of subacute and chronic fasciolosis. Once again, treated sheep must be moved to clean pastures.  Improved nutrition is essential.

Draining or fencing off fluke-prone areas will help reduce the risk of liver fluke disease. Chemical control of snails in fluke-prone areas is generally a poor option. Snails reproduce very quickly and will repopulate treated areas. And the use of poisons so close to waterways is likely to be dangerous to the aquatic environment. For a small additional cost, you can check for the presence of liver fluke when you do a Worm Test.
websites used in the making of this post:
  • Drenching http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/webpages/cart-6396qk?open
  • http://www.fwi.co.uk/academy/article/126167/worms-in-sheep.html
  • organic http://www.skylinesfarm.com/parasitecontrol.htm
  • herbs for worming http://reedbird.com/articles/herbsfordeworming.html http://lavenderfleece.com/herbals.html
  • http://www.smallstock.info/tools/disease-nutrition/7424.htm
Mar 062012
 
scotland flag

Scots country terms, dialect, or words for country matters.

 

 

  • ben – mountain
  • blackie – blackbird
  • blue bunnet – blue tit
  • brae – hill
  • brock – badger
  • cauf – calf
  • clippin – sheep shearing
  • coo – cow
  • corbie – raven
  • craw – crow
  • crock – old ewe sheep that has stopped lambing
  • croft – smallholding
  • donie – hare
  • dou – dove or racing pigeon
  • dug – dog
  • gimmer- a 2 year old ewe sheep
  • gress – grass
  • hen – chicken
  • hurcheon – hedgehog
  • kye/kyne – cows/cattle
  • moose – mouse, click here for a link to my favourite poem about a mouse
  • pous or pousie – cat
  • souk lamm – bottle reared lamb
  • speug – sparrow
  • tod – fox
  • tuip – male sheep ram
  • windlestrae –  A tall, thin, withered stalk of grass.
  • yowe – ewe female sheep

 

source:

Jan 282012
 
hand woven willow heron sculpture

Willow cuttings available for sale from Fifesmallholder

  • Salix Viminalis – very fast growing and ideal for firewood etc.

  • Continental yellow

  • Zwarte Driebast

  • Flanders Red

  • Noire De villaine

  • Continental Purple

  • Brittany Green

Our willows can be used for different purposes 

 
 “there is a willow grows aslant the brook
that shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream”
 
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
 

Benefits of willow

  • Properties of Willow 

    Willows will grow in a range of habitats and survives in most localities.  In soil of pH 6.0 – 8.0  Most soil types. Most topography.

     

    There are species of Willow, which are adapted to different conditions:

     

    S. alba – low lying conditions

    S. fragilis – river bank

    S. herbacea – mountains Scotland

    S. repens – colonises sand dunes

 
Willows are the fastest growing & highest yielding tree or shrub in Britain. When grown as Short Rotation Coppice they can produce as much as 10 to 15 tonnes of dry wood per hectare per year and often more on the better sites.
 
Farmers are now growing willow to supply power stations with a natural, renewable and carbon neutral source of energy. It is usually harvested on a 3 year rotation then chipped, dried and loaded into giant hoppers to be fed automatically into the boilers to produce electricity and/or heat.
 
For a smallholder or householder though, logs are more useful than woodchips. Known as the 5 year Coppice Rotation, a site is divided into 5 beds and 1 bed is harvested each year, providing a regular supply of firewood year on year.
 
Using this system, 500 plants on 750 sq m (less than a fifth of an Acre) can produce 1 Tonne of dry firewood every year.
 
To read more about firewood click here.

Planting willow

These plants are delivered as setts – unrooted cuttings.  Willows should be planted during the time when they are dormant, i.e. after the leaves have dropped and before the sap starts to rise again.
 
As they need to develop a good root system, before they can afford to develop leaves, willow cuttings should be planted between December and the beginning of April and willow rods should be in the ground by the beginning
of March.
 
They establish rapidly in any soft earth, free of weeds.  Soak them in water overnight, then plant them to about half their depth, coloured end pointing upwards. Cut back half the new growth in the winter after planting to make them bush out.
 
Planting willows link 
 
  • Healing

Country folk have been familiar with the healing properties of willow for a long time. They made an infusion from the bitter bark as a remedy for colds and fevers, and to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism. Young willow twigs were also chewed to relieve pain. In the early nineteenth century modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, which was also found in the meadowsweet plant. From this the world’s first synthetic drug, acetylasylic acid, was developed and marketed as Aspirin, named after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria.

  • Bee Fodder

Willow benefits pollinating insects in early spring. Willow plants when flowering produce both nectar and pollen. Females give only nectar, but male plants give both nectar and pollen. Planting a variety of willow types, will give an extended flowering season. The Salix Viminals often flowers in April, at the end of the period that is crucial to honey bee brood building time.
 
click here for more information 
 
  • Willow is a good supplementary feed for sheep and lambs, it also helps them cope/expel/resist worms.

 

Willow links with Scottish place names 

The Gaelic words for willow are shellach, or suil, and feature in Scottish place names such as Achnashellach in Ross-shire, Glensuileag in Inverness-shire and Corrieshalloch on Speyside. These names would have referred to both the presence of willow and the attendant industries utilising the willow’s gifts.

 

Willow folklore

 click here for some folklore 

Links

Jan 202012
 
grantown on spey 031

“It is a common myth sometimes believed by novice smallholders that sheep don’t need to be given water”

As with people, water is the most important “nutrient” that sheep need. How much they consume depends upon their age, and size, as well as temperature of the water and the amount of moisture in their feed. Sheep consuming wet grass or wet feeds (e.g. silage) won’t drink a lot of water because they are getting plenty of water from their feed. Conversely, they will drink more water if they are eating dry hay or dry, mature grass.

“Sheep don’t like to drink dirty water.”

Pregnant Ewe

For pregnant ewes, water intake increases by the third month of gestation, is doubled by the fifth month, and is greater for twin-bearing ewes than for ewes carrying a single foetus. A lack of water accompanied by a severe depression in feed intake predisposes ewes to all sorts of problems, namely unthriftiness, malnutrition and, possibly, pregnancy disease in the case of multiple bearing ewes. It is estimated that lactating ewes require 100 percent more water than non-lactating ewes.

Summer/Warm Weather

Sheep may consume 12 times more water in summer than in winter. Adequate intake of good-quality water is essential for ewes to excrete excess toxic substance such as oxalates, ammonia, and mineral salts.

How Much Does A Sheep Drink? 

 How much a sheep drinks depends on the sheeps growth stage, if she is lactating (producing milk for lambs), the ambient temperature and the moisture content of the feed they are eating.    

Daily Water Requirements

——————————————
Adult sheep 1-2 gallons or about 4 litres
Lactating ewes 2-3 gallons or up to 10 litres
Feeder lambs 1-2 gallons
Baby lambs 0.1-0.3 gallon or about 1 litre
——————————————

Temperature

Try to maintain water temperature above 35 F in winter and below 75 F in summer.

 Running Water

Sheep actually prefer to drink from running water rather than from still water . Running water is generally much healthier and less polluted than stagnant , still water .  Furthermore, sheep are afraid of water.  If they fall in, their coat of wool will soak up the water and pull them to the bottom. So they gravitate to water that is still. If the water is moving, the shepherd makes a dam that will cause the water to be quiet and still. Once that water is still, the sheep drink and are refreshed.

Health

Always keep clean drinking water available because sheep, unlike cattle, do not drink dirty water. If the water is not clean there will be a decline in the production of sheep. This will cause them to eat less, have trouble digesting food properly, be more likely to get digestive and metabolic problems.

Coccidiosis in sheep & goats

Illness such as coccidiosis can occur as a result of drinking water contaminated by sheep faeces or droppings.  This is a common disease of sheep and goats, especially when they are placed under stress:
  •  putting too many sheep and goats together
  • keeping sheep and goats in dirty, wet pens
  • sudden changing of feed
  • moving sheep and goats to a different location 
  • weaning (removing lambs/kids from their mothers).
It is an important disease because it leads to economic losses as a result of deaths, poor growth and treatment costs. It usually affects younger animals. The disease is most severe in
  •  lambs/kids 2 to 8 weeks of age
  • lambs/kids 2 to 3 weeks after weaning
  • adult sheep and goats moved to a new location or experiencing some other form of stress.

Kidney Stones In Rams

Having sufficient water also helps prevent the development of kidney stones in male sheep. Sheep and goats get sick by eating food or drinking water contaminated by the droppings.  It is also claimed that cider vinegar given regularly to stud males (tup/ram) will help prevent urinary calculi (stones).

Rain & Dew

When sheep feed on large amounts of new growth and there is precipitation (including dew, as sheep are dawn feeders), sheep need less water. When sheep are confined or are eating large amounts of hay, more water is typically needed. Sheep require clean water, and may refuse to drink water that is covered in scum or algae.

Winter & Snow

In the winter if there is snow, as long as it is not hard, sheep will eat enough of the snow to get all the water they will need.  However they do prefer warm water to cold water and may reduce their intake.  Drinking cold water slows the function of the rumen and can lead to loss of condition.   If you ever wonder why ewes are not producing enough milk for their lambs, don’t overlook the possibility that they’re not drinking enough water because it’s too cold.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Adding a little AC vinegar to the drinking water or storage tank will help to prevent algae growth, especially in the summer. ACV is a well-known water purifier, we add ACV every time we re-fill the water trough.  It also acts as a natural antibiotic, and we find it helps the sheep maintain their health in every season.
Cider vinegar helps maintain the correct pH in the body, which is probably one of the reasons it is so useful. Due to its potassium content, it is invaluable for all animals just before breeding, because potassium deficiencies cause blood vessel constriction, affecting the extremities and also it seems the cervix and uterus in the final stages of pregnancy; dystocia (difficult birth) is the result.
Apple cider vinegar can tarnish metal watering containers over time; only use it in plastic containers.

Garlic

 Do not add the raw garlic juice to the sheep’s watering trough. It will become rancid in a short time, additionally the natural oils in the garlic juice will rise to the top of the water and the rest of the juice will mix in the water. Both the juice and garlic oils are essential in treating parasites. Adding to water is not a recommended method.
Jan 152012
 
timber damage after storm at fife smallholder

The relationship between Beech, Bats, Woodpeckers, Owls, and Pigs on our smallholding

‘Piglet has his own house, a “very grand house in the middle of a beech tree,” which he gave to Owl when his house was blown down on a very blustery day’ .
Winnie the poo
large beech trees in winter
We have some large Beech sentinels in our wood that are estimated to be 190 years old, and one of them suffered damage in the recent high winds that hit Central Scotland.  The limbs on these trees are very large and although unfortunate it does offer opportunities from the adversity.
fallen tree trunk from beech tree

Firewood

Beech wood is an excellent firewood, easily split and burns for many hours with bright but calm flames.

Woodlander

Beech wood burns well and can be used to smoke herrings and cheese. Chips of beech wood are also used in the brewing and making of some beers. 

Wildlife

Although a fallen limb or tree is good for firewood, it is also a part of the natural process within a wood and many species depend on this happening to maintain the balance and ecosystem that exists within a woodland.  The larger the concentration of old trees in an area and the longer they have been present on site the richer the variety of species you will find among them.
Many species live here all year round. Some are visitors and some live here permanently. Some come for the spring (Great spotted woodpecker), summer (Insects: Hoverflies, Birds: Green woodpecker), autumn (Fungi), and others for the winter months (such as Brambling birds ). Because of the variety of habitats available. A range of birds use the broad leaved woodland, evergreen conifer, open rough grassland and low bog areas.
nest in beech tree

Beech mast and Beech leaves

Beech mast is also a favourite food of many woodland animals such as badgers, deer, mice and squirrels and birds. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars.

The laughing woodpecker

The Green Woodpecker is the largest of the woodpeckers and has been known to visit our woods and its collection of fallen and rotten timber. It has a heavy-looking body, short tail and a strong, long bill. It is greeny-grey on its upperparts with a bright green rump and red on the top of its head. They have an undulating flight, and will climb up tree trunks and branches and will move around to be on the side away from anyone watching. It has a very distinctive call in that it sounds like it is laughing.
rotten wood and timber

Relationship between bats and woodpeckers

Tree are vitally important for our bats. The majority of British bat species have been recorded roosting in trees and some, such as the Noctule, rely almost exclusively on them. Noctules are often found in Woodpecker holes appearing to prefer them over natural cavities. Some researchers have suggested that Noctules may be dependant on woodpeckers to provide suitable roosting opportunities. Read more about bats.
potential bat roost in old woodpecker hole in tree
The picture shows an old woodpecker hole which could be used by Noctules for roosting. The hole is formed in a soft section of the stem of a tree. The stem has been infected by a decay fungi which has caused the wood to become soft enough to allow the woodpecker to create the hole. This potential roost has been created by a complex ecological relationship between Beech tree (Fagus sylvatica), Tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius) and woodpecker, possibly the Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).  It isn’t just roosting opportunities that make beech trees useful for bats. The trees attract insects and therefore provide valuable foraging habitats.

Bats and Beech

Bats roost in trees, in obvious cavities, cracks and splits, but also in less obvious places such as under ivy and under loose bark.  The damaged parts of a tree are the most likely places to find roosting bats.  Any tree can be used for roosting as long as shelter is provided,  but old oak, beech, ash and Scots pine are most frequently used. Bat roost sites can be at any height, although the upper trunk and branches are favoured. Entrance holes may be narrow slits on the underside of a branch that can be easily overlooked, as well as more obvious old woodpecker holes in the main trunk.

Owls and Beech

One of the best trees to attract owls is the beech tree. That’s not because owls eat the beech mast, or beechnuts, but because the mice eat them. In this way, the carnivorous owls get nice, fat, juicy mice to eat to keep them in the area.
beech nut casings
“As long as owl’s habitat is left alone by man and in such a state as to produce a great number of rodents, there will be no loss of owls in a region. One of the things that those people managing woodlands can do is not to clear out all of the undercover where mice live. Tawny owls will particularly benefit from this practice. Wood left on the ground and a pile left to rot will draw all kinds of insects which also feeds owls.”
decaying wood attracts insects that are predated by owls

Livestock

Pigs and Beech

Livestock were once released into beech woodlands to feast on the beech’s oil-rich bounty. The nuts were also important as a source of food, particularly for pigs. They are energy rich and could be used to fatten pigs up for market. The period when the nuts ripened and fell was perfectly timed to fatten swine for late autumn butchering. A farmer with access to oak or beech mast could thus convert calories present in nuts into calories in pork with little or no additional effort and at no additional cost in fodder. Indeed, by using mast rights a farmer was able to make use of a resource that would otherwise be unharvested or very inefficiently harvested.

Pheasants, Poultry, Turkeys and Beech

Beech mast has also been used to feed pheasants, poultry, and turkeys.  Beech nuts should never be fed to horses.
fifesmallholder beech trees in autumn

Smallholder

It is commonly accepted that the foods used to feed and to finish meat livestock affect the final flavour of the product. Pigs  fed on oak mast, chestnut mast or beech mast has a reputation for producing exceptional finished meat. As a result, with the new interest in artisanal and high quality foods as well as humane stock handling, there is a resurgence of mast-fed pork.
While beechnuts are nutritious for humans, eating too many can cause headaches or giddiness, as vast amounts of potash are contained within the tree.

Beech Tree facts

  • Beech trees are shallow rooted, and mature trees are at risk of being uprooted in high winds.
  • These trees grow slowly, eventually reaching a height of up to 120 feet, with branches spanning 50 feet.
  • The nuts are encased in a spiny bur and are favored by birds and other wildlife. Beech has a full crop of nuts every 5 years but does not really start producing a good crop until it is at least 50 years old.
  • The timber is practically pure white and is used to make furniture and toys.
  • The tree is best known for its many and low branches that create a deep shade.
  • Beech leaves take a long time to decay, so few nutrients are released to nourish ground plants. Consequently, there is little undergrowth in a beech wood, unless trees have been deliberately thinned out (coppiced).

Folklore

names on a tree trunk

Magically, beech is specifically useful for making wishes. To do this write a or scratch your wish on a piece of beech wood then bury it in an appropriate spot.  As your written wish is claimed by the earth so will it begin to manifest in life.  Beech is also popular with lovers, as witnessed by the many hearts arrows and names carved upon the smooth trunks of beech trees.
beech leaves in fifesmallholder wood

Recipe

Beech leaf Noyau

1 bottle vodka
225g (8oz) caster sugar
1 glass of brandy
Collect young, fresh beech leaves and strip them from the twigs.  Half fill an emptly bottle or jar with the leaves  and then pour on the bottle of vodka.  Seal up the container and keep leaves in it for 3 weeks, before straining them off.  Boil the sugar in half pint of water and add this to the vodka with a good sized glass of brandy.  You should end up with 2 almost  full bottles of noyau for the price of one bottle of vodka.

Links

Jan 042012
 
hand washing

The risk of cryptosporidium salmonella and E.coli on the smallholding

A smallholder can be very busy and multi-tasking is something you get used to.  It is therefore very easy to forget to wear protection, gloves, or wash your hands properly.  Especially at this time of year when it can be very muddy.

Your hands are permanently dirty from being outside, and can often have cuts or wounds from some mishap or other.  Or you are bottle feeding young lambs or hatched chics, and people (especially children) want to come and see them.  What is the risk in that?

The bacteria Escherichia coliand Salmonella and the protozoa Cryptosporidium are among the organisms that have the potential to cause serious disease that may be found in animal droppings and on contaminated surfaces around smallholdings.

What is cryptosporidium?

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan (single celled) parasite of human and animal importance, which if ingested, can cause an illness called cryptosporidiosis.  It can be transmitted through contact with soil, food, water or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected human or animal faeces. The most common symptom is watery diarrhoea, which can range from mild to severe. Cryptosporidiosis is most common in children aged between one and five years, but it can affect anyone. People with weak immune systems are likely to be most seriously affected.
Over 45 different species of animals including poultry, fish, reptiles, small mammals (rodents, dogs, and cats) and large mammals (including cattle and sheep) can become infected with Crytposporidium parvum.  The reservoir for this organism includes people, cattle, deer and many other species of animal.
Oocysts are shed in the faeces and can survive under very adverse environmental conditions. The oocysts are very resistant to disinfectants. People can re-infect themselves one or more times.  Human infection may be acquired by four main routes: from other people, from animals and their faeces, from untreated drinking water contaminated by either agricultural or human sewage sources, and from swimming in contaminated water. 
Cryptosporidiosis can be prevented by using good personal hygiene. Hands should be washed with soap after using bathroom facilities. Only clean or filtered water should be consumed, and food must be prepared properly.
“Individuals who work with animals should wear protective clothing, and washing hands after handling animals is essential.”

Farm animals at risk 

A number of different Cryptosporidium species infect animals. In humans, illness is mainly caused by Cryptosporidium parvum and Cryptosporidium hominis. In animals, illness is mainly caused by Cryptosporidium parvum.  
Young farm animals can also suffer from Cryptosporidium diarrhoea.”
 The disease in calves/lambs/kids
  •  One to four weeks old
  • Diarrhoea, anorexia, and weight loss
  • Often occurs with other diarrhoea-causing bacteria and/or viruses, or in animals that have a compromised immune system
  • Re-infection can cause relapses, chronic infection and death
  • Infected calves/lambs/kids pass the organism in their faecal material
Humans can become infected with Cryptosporidium parvum through exposure to young ruminants with diarrhoea. Take proper precautions when treating calves/lambs/kids with diarrhoea.
  •  Wear protective gloves
  • Wash hands
  • Clean the environment

What is E. coli?

 Escherichia coli (E. coli) are common bacteria which live in the intestines of warm blooded animals. There are certain forms, or strains, of E.coli which are normally found in the intestine of healthy people and animals without causing any ill effects. A number of E. coli strains cause illness but E. coli O157 is associated with more serious illness. For the majority of people the infection is usually self limited and clears within seven days, but children under five are vulnerable to more severe illness. Symptoms can range from mild through to severe diarrhoea, to a serious condition called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) that affects the blood, kidneys and in severe cases, the central nervous system.

What is salmonella?

Salmonella is found in a range of food products, including meat, produce and eggs. Salmonellosis is an infection of animals and man caused by a group of bacteria called Salmonella. These can live in the digestive tract of a wide range of mammals including people and birds. Over 2,500 strains (serovars) of Salmonella are known most of which rarely cause disease. However certain strains, such as S.enteritidis and S.typhimurium, may cause human disease if, for example, foodstuffs become contaminated with animal faeces.
“Eggs from infected hens and milk from infected dairy herds may also contain salmonella.”
Infection may also follow contact with infected animals. It is usually fairly short-lived and often does not cause any obvious disease. However disease may occur with high temperature, diarrhoea and blood poisoning. In a few cases infected animals or people may carry certain strains of the bacteria for prolonged periods. 

Prevention

 Cryptosporidiosis is highly infectious so proper sanitation and good hygiene practices are important measures in the prevention of cryptosporidiosis.  Such measures include: 
  • washing hands thoroughly with soap (I prefer to use ant-bacterial) and warm water before eating or preparing food, after using the toilet, cleaning up after others with diarrhoea, after contact with domestic or farm animals
  • washing or peeling raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating 
  • avoiding unpasteurised milk and fruit juices

Sanitiser hand gels

Reliance on sanitiser hand gels instead of hand washing is not effective in killing bugs such as E. coli O157 or Cryptosporidium. Visitors should be made aware that using sanitising gels is not a substitute for washing hands with soap and hot water and drying them, as gels may fail to remove contamination in the way that soap and running water can. However it is likely that using sanitising gels following handwashing with soap and water may provide extra benefit.

Handwashing 

 “Hand washing is the single most important prevention step in reducing transmission of gastrointestinal infections after handling animals and it’s crucial that hand washing in young children should be supervised, especially after touching or petting animals or their surroundings on a visit to a smallholding. ” 
There are five basic ways to manage diarrhoea and vomiting and prevent the spread of diseases:
  • Careful hand washing is the most important prevention measure that you can take. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water and dry afterwards. Do not share towels.
  • Use gloves when handling soiled articles from ill people. Wash soiled clothing and bed linen on ‘hot cycle’.
  • If looking after someone with gastroenteritis, carefully disinfect toilet seats, flush handles, wash-hand basin taps and toilet door handles daily and after use. Use a bleach-based household cleaner, diluted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene and hygienic preparation and serving of food.
If you have gastroenteritis, don’t return to school or work until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours. Look what happened in the Archers.  Don’t visit patients in local hospitals and long-term care facilities. While many people tend to feel better sooner, illness can still be spread if they return to work or school within 48 hours since the last symptom.

Other tips for a safe smallholding visit include:

  • Don’t put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while petting animals or walking round the smallholding.
  • Don’t kiss animals nor allow children to put their faces close to animals.
  • Don’t eat or drink while touching animals or walking round the smallholding, including sweets, crisps or chewing gum.
  • Don’t eat anything that has fallen on the floor.
  • Only eat and drink in picnic or designated areas.
  • Remove and clean boots or shoes that might have become dirty and clean push-chair wheels.

Useful information

  •  A leaflet detailing advice for the public on avoiding infection on farm visits can be found on the HPA’s website 
  •  The Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for those running and visiting petting farms can be found on the HSE’s website 
  • Information sheet 
Oct 232011
 
scotland flag

If you are a smallholder in Scotland who has animals or livestock then read on.

 

Did you know?

“Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, must not attend to them unless that person has access to all relevant Statutory Welfare Codes relating to the animals while that person is attending to them, and is acquainted with the provisions of those Codes.”

Says who?

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (S.S.I. 2000 No. 442), Regulation 10.
It also states that :
– Any person who employs or engages a person to attend to animals must ensure that the person attending to the animals:
• is acquainted with the provisions of all relevant Statutory Welfare Codes relating to the animals being attended to;
• has access to a copy of those Codes while he is attending to the animals;
and
• has received instruction and guidance on those Codes.

How do I get access to the welfare codes?

In order to secure a high level of welfare in livestock and other animals, various codes of recommendation and practice have been issued on the Authority of the Scottish Parliament pursuant to section 37 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

click here for a general link or:

 The Five Freedoms 

The five freedoms are a set of recommendations for the welfare of animals in all environments.

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst; 

by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

2. Freedom from discomfort; 

by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease; 

by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.

4. Freedom to express natural behaviour; 

by providing space, sufficient facilities and the company of the animal’s own kind.

5. Freedom from fear and distress;

 by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.

“The Five Freedoms are basic ideals of welfare for farm animals, wherever the animals may be, such as at farms, markets, slaughterhouses, or in transit, and should be applied by anyone in charge of the animals or handling them. “

 

 

Sep 272011
 

We love our sheep at Fife Smallholder.  

Please check out our new page that shows the diversity of colours and sheep breeds we have.  Starter flocks are sometimes available for sale.

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/sheep

smallholder sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 September 27, 2011  livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Aug 272011
 

Why do chickens lose their feathers?

Now that it is coming into the colder weather on my smallholding, my hens are starting to moult! This makes no sense to me – why not do it in the warm summer when they won’t get so cold?

Check out this link which gives an explanation about moulting chickens.

 

moulting chicken at fifesmallholder

Brrrrrr


When a chicken is about a year old she will start to lose her feathers but don’t panic, this is meant to happen. She is moulting. This is a completely harmless process of plumage rejuvenation and takes between 4 to 6 weeks. 
Make sure the birds are well fed during this period as it takes a lot of energy to grow new feathers. I also give them poultry spice at this time. 

Because of all the energy taking up with moulting, your chickens will stop laying until their new feathers have grown. It is also important to remember not to clip your chickens wings when they are moulting, but also that clipped wings will regrow after a moult and may need attended to again.

moulting chicken feathers

 Fancy making a jumper for your moulting chicken or rescue battery hen?  

Check out this link http://littlehenrescue.co.uk/jumpers.aspx

 August 27, 2011  autumn, livestock, post archive, poultry Tagged with: , , , ,
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