Why should I be lambing? Because I have six sheep, chewing happily in the field at home, which I look over as I write. I have 2 lambs and 4 ewes (mature females). The ewes, as well as being great characters, are supposed to deliver lambs. Eating and escaping are not supposed to be their only purpose in life. Lambing is an emotional roller-coaster, time spent on the edge of sleep deprivation, time run on adrenaline, coffee, long waits and elation. When else would you be sat in a field at 3 am sipping mint tea watching a sheep?
Bringing new life into the world is an amazing experience and sheep always seem to need a little human help in the process. We’ve had lambs come out every way you can imagine, head first,bum first, two legs forward, two legs back, one of each, sideways and more. We like to lamb out of doors. Its better for the Ewe and for the lamb, although it can make it hard for us, as, if a Ewe needs help, we need to catch it first.
Once a Ewe is on the way the first stage is observation. When we had our first child the midwife said ‘The best tool a midwife can have is some knitting. It keeps your hands busy so you can sit back, observe and let nature take its course.’ A stool and a warm coat are also helpful when its a lamb coming, and a cup of camomile tea when its 3 am.
For some Ewe’s nature takes its course and that unforgettable experience of a lamb coming into this world happens. We have to then move in very quickly to ensure it’s breathing, which they often need a little help to get started. Then we back away to let Mum and lamb begin to bond. It’s only minutes for most lambs before they’re trying to get on their very wobbly legs and only a few minutes more before they’re looking for milk. The poor things never know where to find it and are usually found suckling a piece of damp wool hanging from Mum, hoping that it will miraculously produce milk.
So why are we not joining in this wonderful life-affirming season again this year? There are always many strands to life and lambs (especially just ten or so) don’t make you a living. Since last year a lot has changed. My eldest daughter has moved to secondary school, my wife has changed jobs and is now working in Peterborough, my business has grown and we have just gained a puppy. A beautiful labrador cross just twelve weeks old. Family life is always a balance and priorities need to be juggled. Can I manage to get the children where they need to be, train and walk a puppy, look after the sheep and chickens and run my business? So far the balance is holding up well with priorities varying from day to day.
Could I manage all of that while lambing? Getting up and checking on the Ewes every two hours through the night, losing some nights sleep and possibly some lambs? I think that might be a step too far, I like to think I know my limits.
I hope as we move forward that we can do it again. There is nothing like seeing a mum with her lambs as they take their first shaky steps and first suckle of live-giving milk in the early morning light. It’s an amazing start to the day.