Apr 23 2019

Lambing Days are Done……!

Lambing Days are Done……!


…..or are they! As I brought in a set of beautiful twins with their mother from the field yesterday afternoon, I pondered on the final lady; just one ewe still left to lamb but still no sign of milk. Will she, won’t she, we wonder, we’ll see, maybe we have indeed finished!

The last twins

Lambing began with a difference this year. “I’m away at the beginning of March” said Paul way back in October “So I’ll put our ram in later than usual so you won’t be lambing alone!” Good idea, I thought, as Millie and I walked up to the top fields, our daily routine, to check the ewes. Almost at once I found myself face to face with a beautiful Suffolk ram! “Hello. Who are you…..oh dear!”

Our neighbour came at once to retrieve his handsome boy but not before the fellow had given us some truly wonderful, strapping Whiteface/Suffolk lambs: an unusual addition to our pedigree flock!

Our beautiful Suffolk surprises!

Now at last, weeks later, tired and happy, we can dare to begin to relax. Strange though it seems, lambing routine doesn’t change, regardless of numbers. Even though we have reduced our flock considerably, we must still be as vigilant as ever. Be it with just thirty girls or a hundred and thirty or two hundred plus, the routine is the same. Up at dawn, down at midnight!  And, of course, the usual daily rota of chores continues.

Moving to pastures new
Out at Last

Each morning the alarm goes before dawn, Paul climbs out of bed, feeds yawning dogs and makes his way to the yard, wondering what will greet him:  a ewe in labour or newly born babies, maybe. Any ewes with new lambs will be penned up in the big barn for the first few days after birth. This gives us time to make sure the lambs are feeding well and mother and baby are thriving.  They must have ear tags attached in each ear according to MAFF regulations, navels sprayed with antiseptic spray and ewes feet trimmed.

Time for a manicure

The remaining Ladies in Waiting go out for the day into the big field near the yard we call Sunday Orchard. Whiteface Dartmoor’s’ are robust, strong ewes and excellent mothers. Rarely do we have a problem. This year we are feeding just one set of twins for a mother who suffered mastitis and had insufficient milk. A visit from the vet and several injections later and she is recovering, but the babies still need a twice daily top up from the bottle.

A little extra to help mother!

Once sheep and lambs are fed, donkeys let out into their paddock for the day and the chicken house opened, it is time for breakfast. Then it’s back to the yard for the daily routine of mucking out, scraping the yard and gradually moving lambs and ewes from the barn up the hill to the top fields onto fresh grass. Dogs and I walk up the hill and feed mothers and children every day. We feed the yearlings too, that is to say last year’s ewe lambs, grazing in an adjoining field. Some of them will join our flock in the autumn and lamb next year. Others will be sold at the big Whiteface Dartmoor sheep sale in August, joining other flocks to improve the blood line.

Yearlings coming for tea!

Then it’s back for a lunchtime snack and time to catch up on paperwork: birthing records, ear tag numbers etc. Late afternoon and back we go to bottle feed lambs and check the ewes in Sunday Orchard again. Any new mothers are brought into the barn with their babies as soon as possible. The corvids: crows, magpies and ravens, are our biggest threat. They will attack a new born lamb and even sometimes, the ewe too.

Next we feed all the ewes in the barn with sugar beet and oats, hay and fresh water. We check all lambs are feeding well and ear tag any new babies.

Nutmeg Christos and Tiny Freddie

In come the donkeys and while they eat their tea I fill their rack with hay and shut their barn door for the night. These desert animals are not waterproof like horses and too much rich, sugary grass will lead to laminitis. They are as greedy as our Labradors so caution is best!

By the time we have filled the sheep troughs in the yard, the Ladies in Waiting are queuing at the gate baaing loudly for tea! Once in they will stay in the yard and sheep barn for the night away from night time predators.

Time for bed

Time now to shut up chickens for the night, collect eggs, water the greenhouses and sit down at dusk with a glass of wine!

Supper and a little tele and then it’s back to the yard to check everyone, deal with any new births, bottle feed any lambs and come home to bed!

Time to Relax

So,  happy at last, with our beautiful new flock safely up on our top fields overlooking the river Dart and Dartmoor in the distance,  we can look forward to a long night’s sleep!

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