Lambing usually heralds the start of Spring, but in our case, breeding pedigree sheep we wish to show and sell later in the year, lambing begins in early February. The winter Olympics were in full swing, and I often think there is a definite comparison with those athletes and lambing. Okay, so we didn’t have to cope with temperatures of minus seventeen, but it sometimes felt like it on night duty, when a bitter force eight gale whipped up sleet showers, the wind direction driving them straight into the sheep shed. This was usually when several ewes decided they should give birth, even though I’d had the conversation with them about leaving it until the weather settled down.
After a stormy night, the wind can drop, and dawn be quite a pleasant change. As the sun creeps up through the valley, birdsong vibrates around the yard, a follow-on from the brash dawn chorus, more definite of one or two species. Another day, and with better weather lambs can be turned out into the fields during the day.
This is where our little athletes come into their own. If the weather has been inclement for days, they are simple delighted to have the space to run and gallop, some testing out their athletic skills, others taking a break during training. I’m not sure I rate the four-lamb bob sleigh team!
The Blue Texels are lambing ahead of the whites. Not intentionally. Last year all the rams went out at the same time and the Blues were last to lamb, so we put the blue rams out a few days prior to the whites, and they’ve changed tactics completely this year. Always something new to test us. They’ve also been very prolific, and I have ten lambs on bottles or the warm milk machine. Wet adoption, the only really successful way to adopt extra lambs, has been foiled by ewes having singles overnight and triplets being born the following afternoon. If the other way around, a triplet lamb can be covered with birth fluids from the ewe having a single, and she is usually happy to accept she has twins. Synchronisation is needed for this to work.
To add to the mix a pair of rejected piglets have moved into a stable. The adjacent ewes were a little surprised, but little puts them off their food. The piglets were very cross this morning though, as while topping up the bottle lambs I managed to knock a jug of warm water over the electrical connection attaching their heat lamp. Obviously I fused all the lights, but repairs were done rapidly by an irate husband.
Lambing can take its toll on relationships, especially when we both take shifts in the lambing shed. Hours roll into days, although we often have to question which day we’ve reached! Then suddenly the light appears at the end of the tunnel, sheep can be turned back to the fields and the work load lessens.
Spring is definitely on its way. The storms of the past two weeks have given way to sunshine, although still quite chill, and both ewes and lambs are delighted to be out in sheltered fields away from the confines of the barns.
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