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Ravens attacking lambs (1 Viewer)

ahoare

Active member
Ravens have moved into my area (north west Sussex/south west Surrey/north east Hants) in recent years and locally are in reasonable numbers. I was talking to a local farmer today who told me of ravens attacking his new born lambs by chewing off their tongues and pecking out their eyes. Is this normal behaviour? Sounds horrific and if it is widespread will get them added to the list of permitted birds to be killed under general licence.
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
Healthy lambs will have little to fear from Ravens or other scavengers. Ravens will scavenge dead or sickly lambs, as will crows, buzzards and all manner of other things. The easiest way into a carcass is via the eyes or mouth. The solution is same as in nearly all farmer v nature conflicts, be a better farmer. Improve one's animal husbandry and the problem goes away, plus less carrion lying about equals less opportunity for scavenging. But alas it is more profitable to have more sheep with lower successful lambing rate. Farming isn't about synchronicity with nature it is about making money.
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
Some farmers are great story tellers in order to facilitate subsequent actions, however many of our Corvids have rather unsavoury habits in pursuing their natural instincts and your example isn't an unusual tale. Ravens seem to have spread throughout the southern counties as you mention and will probably gain admission to the list where a case is made, feeding the country versus wildlife.
 

gerald762

Well-known member
England
Healthy lambs have a lot to fear from avian predators. In the first hour or two of live is a risky time, especially if the lamb is neglected by the ewe, or the ewe is distracted because she is giving birth to the next lamb. It only takes a moment for the bird to peck out one or both of the eyes. After that the lamb has to be shot. I have had to do this several times a year
 

ahoare

Active member
Healthy lambs will have little to fear from Ravens or other scavengers. Ravens will scavenge dead or sickly lambs, as will crows, buzzards and all manner of other things. The easiest way into a carcass is via the eyes or mouth. The solution is same as in nearly all farmer v nature conflicts, be a better farmer. Improve one's animal husbandry and the problem goes away, plus less carrion lying about equals less opportunity for scavenging. But alas it is more profitable to have more sheep with lower successful lambing rate. Farming isn't about synchronicity with nature it is about making money.
Your answer is logical other than the ravens in question attacked the lambs as they were being born in the field. Please give farmers a break (they produce our food or at least some of it) as I sense that there is another agenda here which has nothing to do with birds. As to making money, I recommend you to watch Jeremy Clarkson's programme on Amazon Prime. Whatever you may think of him, he has managed to highlight the reality that most farmers make diddly squat.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Your answer is logical other than the ravens in question attacked the lambs as they were being born in the field. Please give farmers a break (they produce our food or at least some of it) as I sense that there is another agenda here which has nothing to do with birds. As to making money, I recommend you to watch Jeremy Clarkson's programme on Amazon Prime. Whatever you may think of him, he has managed to highlight the reality that most farmers make diddly squat.
Probably because they spend it all on Range Rovers.

Did your farmer friend explain how he was able to see what was happening in the field but unable to intervene (a Raven won't stick around with a human running at it yelling), or was the story straightforward BS concocted after the fact to cover up his poor husbandry? Ravens have been in Snowdonia, the Lake District and Scotland forever but we haven't been inundated with stories about live blinding of lambs by Ravens. Extraordinary how they have started immediately that Ravens reach the tamest areas of the UK.

If there is an agenda here outside birdwatching it is all on the farmer's side. Perhaps he couldn't get out of the Range Rover fast enough because of those pernickety seat belt laws.

John
 

gerald762

Well-known member
England
How pathetic to assume that all farmers have Range rovers. I am sorry to say that your experience of farmers is a long way from reality. You need to to go West and North where there are many farms that are only suitable for livestock and to buy a second hand Range rover requires a lottery win.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
How pathetic to assume that all farmers have Range rovers. I am sorry to say that your experience of farmers is a long way from reality. You need to to go West and North where there are many farms that are only suitable for livestock and to buy a second hand Range rover requires a lottery win.
I'm aware it's tougher for hill farmers but funnily enough they do less complaining. And they drive Subaru Legacies.

Mind you, complaining about hill farmers goes back a long way. I remember even local people moaning about the Wasdale fell-running farmer Joss Naylor because he kept running and putting up wire fences instead of getting his drystone walls in good repair.

Cheers

John
 

Murmur

Well-known member
If one searches for ravens killing lambs most of the hits which claim this happens come from farming sites or similar.

Nature Scotland, in a piece going back to 2009, does say that ravens and other corvids will opportunistically attack lambs, but doesn't provide any support for that.

It looks like a claim of long-standing and lacking in much proper evidence to support it.
 

gerald762

Well-known member
England
Unfortunately I didn't take any photos as evidence!! I can assure you that it does happen. I once found one of my ewes, which had become cast, (lying on her back and unable right herself), with a hole in her belly with her intestines hanging out. Only corvids would have done it. Another job for my gun.
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
I have no agenda other than to the truth. Having spent large parts of this afternoon looking at papers and articles on lamb mortality, predation barely gets a mention. Ewe health, parasite control and lambing practice all have a massively bigger impact. If is precisely because of the economic knife-edge of farming that farmers can't take the necessary steps to "properly" manage their stock. If farmers can't find the time and money to do worm control, they aren't going to find time to shoot ravens. The danger in demonising predators, responsible for 5% of lamb mortality, is that it gives grist to the mill of the "Save Our Songbirds" types who want to legalise widespread predator control, "first they came for the ravens".

 

ahoare

Active member
Probably because they spend it all on Range Rovers.

Did your farmer friend explain how he was able to see what was happening in the field but unable to intervene (a Raven won't stick around with a human running at it yelling), or was the story straightforward BS concocted after the fact to cover up his poor husbandry? Ravens have been in Snowdonia, the Lake District and Scotland forever but we haven't been inundated with stories about live blinding of lambs by Ravens. Extraordinary how they have started immediately that Ravens reach the tamest areas of the UK.

If there is an agenda here outside birdwatching it is all on the farmer's side. Perhaps he couldn't get out of the Range Rover fast enough because of those pernickety seat belt laws.

John
This a forum for bird watching so I thought my original question about raven behaviour as observed locally was addressed to the right community. So I offer my thanks to those who answered my query thoughtfully.

Little did I suspect that it would dredge up an attack on farmers for whom most of us seem to have sympathy.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
This a forum for bird watching so I thought my original question about raven behaviour as observed locally was addressed to the right community. So I offer my thanks to those who answered my query thoughtfully.

Little did I suspect that it would dredge up an attack on farmers for whom most of us seem to have sympathy.
Not as widespread in the birding community as you seem to think. Farmers' pursuit of cash has all but eliminated most of our native farmland birds - Tree Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Grey Partridges and others; Yellowhammers down hugely, Linnets down, hard to think of anything up really - grubbed out hedges removing bat highways, calls for access to neonicotinoids. The list of ways in which farmers have and continue to rape the natural resources of this country is infinite.

And still they insist that only farmers understand the countryside. Pull the other one, it has bells on.

John
 

Paul Chapman

Well-known member
How pathetic to assume that all farmers have Range rovers. I am sorry to say that your experience of farmers is a long way from reality. You need to to go West and North where there are many farms that are only suitable for livestock and to buy a second hand Range rover requires a lottery win.

Of course, the real reality is that if that land isn't taken out of food production and rewilded pretty rapidly, the chronic biodiversity collapse that those without blinkers are noticing daily will properly bite even before the consequences of climate change accelerates that collapse further.


All the best

Paul
 
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