Lambing is an exceptionally busy time for our family, it is unrelenting and requires everyone to be on their ‘a-game’ to ensure the season runs smoothly. It takes all three generations hard work to ensure a successful season. Once our Rams have done their job it’s important to regularly check the ewes to ensure they have enough grass and are safe and well. This is referred to as ‘the checks’ and is carried out several times a day by Steve, on foot and on the shepherd’s most useful bit of kit – our 4×4 quad-bike.
When a ewe is with lamb, nutrition is incredibly important to ensure the health of both mother and her offspring. Deep-rooted pasture full of ‘5 a day’ nutrients make the best food for ewes to convert into energy for their growing embryonic lambs. We regularly move the mothers around the farm to maintain the right amount of food and allow the pasture to continue to grow.
Everything is calculated like a military operation on the farm. Twelve weeks before the ewes are due to lamb, they are scanned to determine the lambing percentage. We mark the ewes with a colour spray paint to determine whether they are carrying singles, doubles or triplets. The expectant mothers will then be sorted into groups. A few weeks before lambing is due to begin we calmly and quietly walk the ewes that are expecting 1 or 3 lambs into our barns. They are then fed on our silage and hay cut from our summer grass. Ewes expecting 2 lambs remain outdoors.
The mothers carrying triplets will not rear all three lambs, as this will often put too much strain on the mother and her milk resources; as an age-old solution to this, the third lamb will be adopted by a mother with a single lamb. This has to be done very carefully to make sure the new mother successfully adopts the second baby as her own.
Any lambs that cannot be adopted are hand fed by one of our gang. We always liken it to having a new born baby again. We feed these lambs (Cade lambs) every 2 hours throughout the day and night to begin with – it is exhausting but many hands make for light work.
On our farm most of the sheep will lamb outside in the field without any need for intervention, with regular ‘checks’ we keep an expert eye on each mothers progress. Many people ask us how we know when a ewe is due to lamb – the usual signals; laying down, panting and the ewe’s udders bulging with milk, but in truth we just know “our girls”. A shepherd’s eye is deeply in-tune with their flock. Instead of concentrating on munching grass, you can see they start to focus on what’s happening inside. You can see it in their eyes. The anticipation of giving birth.
Our hardy native Lleyn breed make excellent mothers, they are capable of lambing healthy offspring with minimum fuss. Once the ewes have given birth they will ‘mother’ the newborn by licking their new babies completely clean. This stimulates the blood circulation in the lambs. After a few minutes, the newborns will gainly wobble up on their new legs and stumble towards their mother’s to suckle the vital colostrum (the first and incredibly nutrient-rich milk a new mother produces) from her full udder. It never ceases to amaze us how quick any newborn offspring on the farm look for their mother’s milk.
Once the Ewes have begun lambing, the work doesn’t stop there. The new flock is vulnerable to predators like foxes and badgers which means the checks on the nursery are increased. We rush between feeding, ‘the checks’, birthing, adopting, nurturing and turning out the young stock. We are midwives and parents to ensure a healthy and strong return from our flock.
We couldn’t possibly achieve a successful lambing season without the help of the entire family and the veterinary/agricultural students that come to join our gang each year.
Huge thanks to Sara, Isabella, Fynn and Jamie who joined us this year, we hope they gained lots of experience for their future careers.
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