The latest monthly update from Michael Harding, a young sheep and cattle farmer based in East Sussex
The temperature has dropped in the last few days, bringing some beautiful frosty mornings and even a short-lived covering of snow, but for most of January the temperature was unseasonably warm, and the rain persistent. Although the warm temperatures have kept the grass growing, the saturated ground meant that my sheep soon poached and stamped the grass into the mud, so I have had to move them much more frequently than I expected to. The warm and wet conditions are also ideal breeding conditions for various bacterial infections and diseases, as I found to my cost. In a group of 60 ewe lambs I discovered two that had gone down with something. Their front legs seemed fine but they could not support themselves on their back legs, and they could not get up. In their struggles they had churned the ground into a mud bath, and they looked to be in a pretty bad state. Worried that this was something contagious that could pass on to the rest of the flock, I took one of the lambs in to the vet, and he diagnosed it as Listeriosis passed on through the soil. He prescribed a course of Pen and Strep for the lambs, and said that it was usually passed on through bad silage but that the bacteria could survive in the soil as well. One lamb did pull through after some heavy doses of the antibiotic, but the other unfortunately did not. The ewe lambs have since been moved and no more have gone down with Listeriosis, lets hope it stays that way.
Apart from that episode, my ewes are looking fine. Some hard culling earlier this year to get rid of any ewes with recurring foot problems has paid off, and the sheep’s feet seem fine despite the mud.
I completely forgot to book someone in to scan my ewes and only remembered when I saw Mike Owen busy at my neighbours yesterday. I have heard that many people have scanned good percentages this year, but I will have to wait and see what mine are like.