So, we’ve three-hundred and ninety something lambed, and five left to lamb. They could spin it out over the next three or four weeks so there isn’t the sense of driving urgency.
But what about the rest? What happens to those who have lambed. Let us assume that we take the standard ‘set’ of one ewe with her twin lambs. They don’t go out until we’re happy that mum recognised her lambs (and lambs recognise mum) and she’s feeding them properly. Once we’re happy with that they go out into a field with other sheep.
At this point we have to be a bit particular. We try to put them out with ewes who have lambs of the same age, so they settle down well together. We also try to put them out into a field with not many other ewes and lambs into it. So they go out in batches of about twenty five. To anthropomorphise wildly, think about taking your toddler to school for the first time. You’ll be happier to let them join a class of twenty to thirty, all of the same age, than a class of five hundred which includes everything up to and including eighteen year olds.
And it’s at this point that things start getting complicated. Lambs have nothing to do with their time other than eat and explore. They squeeze through gaps and wander off, with mum bleating pathetically behind them. You can end up with the lamb in one field, wandering round the strange ewes, all with their own lambs, trying to work out which is mum, whilst mum is in the other field wondering where little one has gone to.
Trying to do anything about this is tricky. Evolution decided that lambs needed speed with a side order of curiosity and a dash of ‘cuteness’. Intellect wasn’t regarded as a survival characteristic. So when you try to catch the lamb to put it back it can pull moves that would make a Parkour champion applaud. Although to be fair you get the feeling that the lamb concentrates on the jump, gets the leap right, and only worries about landing as it travels through the air. They don’t tend to plan their moves out far in advance.
This lack of sparkling intellect is also shared by mum. She might have two lambs but isn’t good on advanced maths and if she decides to travel, so long as at least one of them is tagging along behind her, she feels reasonably happy.
You find that those who lose their mum, either by misplacing her or because she’s ill, tend to pinch milk of other mums when they get a chance. By the time they’re about six weeks old, they’re old enough to cope with solid food alone and they tend to wander more, coming back for a free feed and to get their washing done.
Illness is a difficult one. Sheep aren’t domesticated in the way that even cats are. They are far less domesticated than cattle. So they don’t just come and watch you, or stand and let you watch them in the same way that you can with cattle. Also there is an issue with herd animals. Evolution has designed them not to show weakness. The weak one is the one the predator picks, so both cattle and sheep can carry illnesses and even injuries and look remarkably healthy. It takes a lot of skill to spot illness in its early stages. So at the moment life consists of a lot of careful sheep watching, trying to spot trouble before it gets too far out of hand.
There are times when you ponder whether life should be so sheep centred.
As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”
To get it from anybody but Amazon go to