Doesn’t time fly when you get older? Perhaps it has always gone this fast, and I’m simply getting slower. We seemed to arrive at the beginning of June at speed. The show season is now well underway and we were off on our first judging spree of the year, a relief to leave the farm for a few days.
Lambing seemed to go on forever this spring. We started on 8th February. Typically the first to lamb was the only ewe scanned carrying quads, who then proved to only milk on one side, so very rapidly I had three lambs in the bottle department. This wasn’t a problem, simply made me engage my brain a little quicker than planned.
Our ewes are synchronised to lamb at the same time, or very close, so the first session of lambing is swiftly done within a week. By the end of that week I had twenty lambs on a warm milk machine, which is then rapidly cooled off because they stand less chance of bloating through over eating cold milk.
Our early ewes were very prolific and most of the bottle lambs were the result of triplets, although a couple had been spurned by their mothers who had decided they only liked one of their pair. In all honesty, with Texels, the breed we have, it’s easier to take the disliked lamb away and rear it artificially as the ewes are quite adamant if they decide not to care for one.
Now we have eventually finished lambing I have over thirty well grown, healthy lambs who run out in a field in the daytime, but come to call at night and run back into their bedroom in the sheep shed.
But the final few weeks of lambing were testing. To our horror at the end of January we discovered a small, insignificant ram lamb in with the ewe lambs. Insignificant he may have appeared, but he had definitely made his presence known, with twenty of the seventy ewe lambs pregnant. Usually our ewes produce their first lambs at two years, so having twenty at only twelve months about to produce lambs was far from exciting. But little could be done at that stage, other than managing their feed to limit the size of the unborn lambs.
Thankfully the majority lambed successfully and took to motherhood immediately. Typically, the last one to lamb late in May refused to have anything to do with her lamb. But I was adamant, she had to look after it as I really didn’t want a bottle lamb in May, and neither did anyone else. Now, four weeks on, after being tied up for several days, then kept in a small pen while her friends were skipping about in the fields with their lambs, caring for them happily, she appears to have come to a compromise. While she eats the lamb is able to suck, although, unlike the other ewes, she never calls to it or invites it to have tea. She, and one other who appears to be feeding her lamb on the same basis, will now have to live in the home paddock and be fed twice a day so the lambs can cope. Once they reach six weeks old I will wean them with the ex-bottle lambs and everyone should be happy. At least I can leave them under the watchful eye of Mark T, who looks after our livestock when we venture away, and be happy they will survive now.
We were bound for the Suffolk Show at Ipswich. Not the easiest trip from Gloucestershire but, as a short holiday, was most welcome. We drove up the day before judging, then took a further day to travel home, by a different route. A dinner invitation prior to show day and two nights in a luxury hotel had been looked forward to for a while.
It’s always a privilege to be invited to judge a county show, and my husband judged the Texels while I judged the Blue texels later in the day. The following day our breed champions took Interbreed and Reserve so we looked to have got it right!
Suffolk is part of our beautiful English countryside we don’t know well, so a chance to sightsee also had to be taken. Constable country. Flatford Mill, where he painted The Haywain is barely ten miles from the showground, so we fitted in time to visit there. Then home to prepare our own sheep for our local Royal Three Counties Show at Malvern, which celebrates its centenary this year.
And so the farming year goes on. Fun at summer shows once again; haymaking, often challenged by the weather and preparation for the sheep sales.
Come the autumn the rams go out again, but more care must be taken to remove stray ram lambs and contain the following years lambing to three weeks rather than three months!
More enjoyable articles from Sue Andrews can be read here
If you would like to know more about life on a sheep farm, we’re positive you’ll enjoy reading Sue’s very entertaining books, all of which are available here on Amazon.