Lambing time is always hard work but this year we feel it has excelled itself with what it has thrown at us. When we moved down from 1000ft to the Porlock vale we thought we had escaped the bad weather, so we are a little surprised to have had snow twice this year during lambing, causing us to have fun extra jobs such as battling frozen waterpipes, carrying buckets of water from the house, sheltering the ewes and lambs indoors in every place possible and quads deciding to be born at 3 am as we hit minus temperatures, were just a few of the fun times so far this year.
The sheep despite the bad weather and the cramped conditions lambed well, we did not have to assist much, and they are mainly lambing during the day which makes life significantly easier. Unfortunately, we have had the case of a few ewes not producing milk on one side so this has meant we had to take a few lambs off and bring them into the pet lamb group which is now feels like a very demanding and noisy flock in their own right, I am not a fan of pet lambs but luckily my mum is here to take them into her care.
Pet Lambs causing mayhem
Lambing most definitely stretches you out physically and mentally, and although it has generally gone smoothly this year, one particular early morning pushed me hard, I went out to do my usual 3am check and found my mums ewe Ma had given birth to a lamb, all good but Ma has had triplets for 4 years in a row now so I penned her up and took a seat expecting further lambs to arrive. But 20 minutes later still no water bag or contractions had arrived which struck me as odd, by now I am freezing cold from the snow blowing into the lambing shed and I had done my classic of putting my waterproofs over my pyjamas, which turns out is not the best thermal gear. I decided to an internal check of Ma because something just didn’t feel right about her, and sure enough as I slid my hand in I was met with an upside down head and feet, so back in it goes, turned around and then delivered the correct way up and the third lamb followed shortly, I rubbed them all down, thinking great I will run in have quick cup of tea to warm up while she dries them off being an experienced triplet mother and I will pop back out in 10 minutes to see how they are all doing.
10 minutes later I return to see three lambs at her head and Ma lying down, but as I wandered across the pen I realised I couldnt see the one who resembled the first born, as I climbed into the pen I just saw the tip of its nose underneath Ma, I have never lifted a sheep up so fast, I grabbed the lamb and could immediately see it was lifeless and floppy, I cried out not able to believe it and feeling immensely guilty for that warming cup of tea, as it lay in my hands I felt the flicker of a heart beat and without thinking I gave it mouth to mouth and for what felt like the longest thirty seconds it suddenly gave a gasping breath, my heart lurched inside, slowly the lamb took a second breath gasping horribly as it fought for air to get to its lungs, slowly its breaths calmed and it gave a little bleat, I have never felt so happy to hear a lamb bleat.
While this was occurring, I could hear a lamb in one of the pens making a bleat that has a particular tone that I have called the death bleat, it is not what you want to hear from a lamb they only do it when something is badly wrong. I sought out the noise from the pens and there in one of the pens I found a lamb flat out, gasping and stiff from the cold. I knew it was very close to dying and I hesitated about what to do, do I cause further distress trying to revive it or leave it in peace, because to me it looked to far gone to save but luckily instinct and good sheparding kicked in and I grabbed the lamb and ran into the house to be met at the kitchen door with Mark holding a screaming Fergus at 4am. So between us we juggled Fergus and the stiff lamb as we ran a bowl of warm water dunking it in trying to bring its core temperature up quickly. I then went back outside to check on the quads, and realised in the freezing temperatures two had deteriorated fast in the short time I had been away so two more lambs were run into the house. With the hair dryer in action, wood burner blazing and all the lambs were tubed with colostrum, Ferg fed and now asleep, we finally had a moment of peace an hour later. Amazingly all the lambs were ok, they needed significant care over the next 24 hours but I have never managed to save two lambs in one night when both I believed were dying. It felt like a miracle had taken place that morning or maybe the lambs just responded well to fergus’ treatment of poking them in the head saying “sheep” and looking very happy to have them in his house.
Lambing has its ups and downs and it is hard sometimes to make spur of the moment decisions and to keep an eye on everything at once, and I make mistakes but what I do know is I am constantly learning and hopefully improving all the time.
So our first year lambing at Horner in all honestly has been pretty hard with my mum out of action the first week with the flu, an ear infection for Ferg, mastitis for me, and Mark out at work, coming home to a grumpy wife and child having to try and keep it all going. But with the help of antibiotics for Ferg and I and my mum went back onto nights, we are all started to feel human again as we reached the final weeks and it already is starting to feel like a distant memory. So now that the spring sunshine is hear and all the lambs and ewes are doing well out on our grass it makes all those days when you felt like you couldn't take any more worth it.
One of our North Country Cheviot x Lambs