While lambing in our hills and uplands is drawing to a close, those on kinder, lower-lying land have been finished for some time. With the hectic workload of lambing over, you might think that sheep need little attention for the rest of the summer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Lambs need to be dosed for stomach worms and vaccinated against a range of diseases, while the whole flock needs to be checked at least twice or even three times a day. Farmers need to be on the lookout for diseases like milk fever or mastitis in their ewes, and couping. That's where sheep with itchy backs roll over to give them a good rub on the ground only to find they can't roll back over again because of their full bellies and the way their fleeces spread out.

Sheep tend to coup more in warm, humid conditions, and particularly in showery weather. That's because a wet fleece drying in the sun makes their skin particularly itchy, and their heavy, wet fleeces help to anchor them to the ground more securely once they have rolled over onto their backs.

A coupit sheep may look silly as it lies there helplessly on its back with its four hooves pawing at the sky, but its predicament is life threatening. Sheep can't ruminate properly when upside down and the methane gas that soon builds up in their stomach kills them, sometimes in a very short space of time.

The cure is relatively simple - you simply roll the sheep back over, stand patiently with it until it regains its balance and then leave it to get rid of all that life-threatening gas.

Don't think that daft sheep that have been couped will have had such a fright that they remember not to do it again. Quite often the same sheep will coup several times in the space of a few weeks, until eventually she achieves her life's ambition and dies.

There are ways of preventing ewes from couping that meet with varying success. Some farmers leave an old trailer parked in the field where sheep are grazing. That way they can then go under the trailer and rub their itchy backs on the under-surfaces. Others attach a long, rough log to two vertical posts so that it lies horizontal at slightly lower than the height of a sheep's back, so that it also acts as a back scratcher. The best method of prevention is to shear them, but it's too early in the season to shear ewes nursing lambs.

Another problem at this time of year is that spring grass is very rich and nutritious and gives sheep diarrhoea, or scour as farmers call it, particularly in a wet spring. Scouring sheep soil the wool on their tails and around their backsides, which, if not clipped off develops into a mat of filth, or dags. Not only does that make shearing more difficult in June or July, but the festering, mucky wool against the ewe's udder can lead to sores and infections like mastitis.

Dags are fertile ground for maggots - they are warm, wet and smelly - making them attractive for flies like green bottles to lay their eggs on. Those maggots will literally eat the sheep alive if it is not caught and treated in time.

Some shear the wool off of the udders and tails of their ewes before they lamb, but, like many, I preferred to leave the wool on them until later in the spring to protect their udders from cold winds.

Dagging sheep at this time of year is a back-breaking, tiring job. The idea is to secure each sheep by the neck, and, working bent over double, clip all that soiled wool and dags away from the backend of the sheep using electric or hand shears.

That task used to leave my finger nails with dried sheep muck well and truly enamelled onto them. No matter how long and hard I scrubbed my fingers and nails at the end of the day, there was always some left in the crevices at the edge of the nails. Bearing in mind that sheep faeces are a notorious source of E. Coli 0157, a potentially fatal disease that could be passed on to other members of my family as a result of my contaminated hands coming into contact with food and surfaces in the farmhouse, that was a far from ideal state of affairs. I eventually solved that problem by wearing the sort of tight-fitting, but supple, rubber gloves that surgeons wear.