Vaccinating the sheep turns out to be a doddle

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With lambing just over a month away, we brought all the sheep home yesterday to vaccinate the pregnant ewes against clostridial diseases.

These are organisms, which actually occur naturally in the soil, but which can affect lambs during their first few weeks of life.Badly. It usually manifests itself in infections of the intestine, butalso as pulpy kidney. None of it nice.

Normally we would bring the sheep for vaccination into a gated enclosure between fields, but the land is so wet it would just be a mud bath. Becoming even claggier by the time we chased the sheep round to try and catch hold of them for injections. So the easier course was to bring the whole flock back to the farm and do the job in a nice dry shed. Makes sense for us and the sheep.

As it happens the job was a doddle. Our lane is closed again as the contractors are back once more, this time to put in passing places.

They resurfaced the lane a few months ago but did nothing to widen what is essentially a road built for 1920s width cars. Now tractors, lorries and massive 4x4s attempt to get past by running each other off the road into muddy roadside verges.

These currently resemble, from my recollection of history, the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme or Flanders mud. John has been called out countless times to pull vehicles out of the mud since the original resurfacing work was done and the verges left in such a chaotic condition. Must be costing the council far more to come back and repeat the job. Even then the new passing places are very narrow and short and your average lorry, which in theory is banned on our lane, would still run off them.

Our big worry for the flock is the Schmallenberg virus which can affect sheep and cattle and of which there has been reported cases of deformed lambs being born on a farm only a few miles away from us.

There is no vaccine available to farmers for their stock yet. The disease is carried by midges and the affected lambs in our area were all from flocks which started lambing early, and which must have gone to the tups at the end of summer.

Our tups went in early autumn, but there were still a few midges about. The disease is a mystery. It suddenly emerged in an area of Germany and the disease vector is a midge, more commonly associated with transmitting diseases such as Bluetongue in Africa, Asia and Australia.

There were big concerns about a Bluetongue outbreak several years ago, but now the UK is considered free from the disease.

But while we worry about theoretical threats to the sheep, the real threat to our fish and ducks has returned. Mr or Mrs Otter. John has sighted him, or her, down at the pond, feasting on a carp. No idyllic evenings fishing this year I fear. There will be no fish left.