And so it begins!


When we were scanning between Christmas and New Year, one ewe was ostentatiously more heavily in lamb than the others. So she was brought in and pampered a bit.

Because the weather has been so wet and disgusting, one of the hoggs that was running with the ewes was starting to look sad and bedraggled as well, so she was brought in to keep our expectant mum company.

Then the handful of fat lambs left were fetched in as well. In spite of being fed outside they were just spending more time huddled under the hedge than they were spending eating, and they gave the impression they were losing weight rather than gaining it. So they were brought in for a final week or so. So our expectant lady didn’t lack for company.

Anyway, yesterday morning when I went in with the bucket to feed them, there she was, standing with her two new lambs. OK so they’re born a month before any of the others are expected to arrive, but she’ll not be the first lady to manage this sort of thing without enquiring too deeply into the plans of others.

Indeed she does rather give the lie to those who think that it’s farmers who force sheep into early lambing. Sheep won’t lamb earlier than they will lamb. We can keep the tups separate, put them out later, to ensure ewes lamb later in the season, when hopefully the weather will be better, grass will be more plentiful, and lambs cheaper to rear. The alternative is to let tups in a bit earlier, let nature take its course, and have the lambs born earlier. This means that you have to feed them more. On the other hand you might get them away at the higher prices you see earlier in the season.
However a quick look at the graph will show that whilst you might hope for decent prices early in June it’s very variable, and is it worth betting the farm on?


But anyway, the rest of the ladies are still out at grass, we’ve started giving them some concentrate feed because now they’ve got lambs to feed and you’ve got to build up both mother and her unborn lamb. But not too much. There’s an art to feeding sheep at this time of year. You want ewe and lamb to be in good condition, but at the same time you don’t want to have the lamb grow too big or the ewe get too fat so that you end up having a difficult birth. We’ve got to get the jelly-baby through the hole in the polo mint, without damaging either the jelly-baby or the polo.

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25 thoughts on “And so it begins!

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 7, 2018 at 3:12 pm Reply

    Okay, that last bit (what the heck is a jelly bellly? a candy?) aside, so glad your early ewe managed fine on her own with a bit of warmth and extra care. And how do you tell which sheep are more bedraggled than the others when sopping wet? Experience, that’s how.

    Even if you’re selling them for Easter dinner, lambs are cute. Yours probably have a good life until it’s time.

  2. oldhenwife January 7, 2018 at 8:02 pm Reply

    A jelly baby is a sweet – a candy, shaped like a gender-less doll.

    • jwebster2 January 7, 2018 at 9:23 pm Reply

      yep they’re the ones 🙂

  3. M T McGuire January 7, 2018 at 9:07 pm Reply

    I love the jelly baby polo analogy! Made me laugh!

    • jwebster2 January 7, 2018 at 9:26 pm Reply

      Do you remember they used to have races when teams would have to pass an upright piano through a top hat, (that had had the end punched on to make it an open cylinder.)
      Obviously you had to smash the piano up a bit with hammers to achieve this.
      I remember one vet at a trick calving describing it as like trying to get the piano through the top hat without damaging either the hat or the piano 🙂

      • M T McGuire January 8, 2018 at 7:19 am

        I don’t, but I wish I did, it sounds hilarious!

      • jwebster2 January 8, 2018 at 7:27 am

        I think it must have been something done at agricultural shows back in the 1950s if not before. There were probably a lot of top hats and upright pianos being thrown out ‘free to any sort of home’ 🙂

      • M T McGuire January 8, 2018 at 7:47 am

        You’d be collecting top hats a historical artefacts these days!

      • jwebster2 January 8, 2018 at 10:26 am

        upright pianos are getting that way as well!

      • M T McGuire January 8, 2018 at 12:49 pm

        sadly. There was a time when someone in every family could knock out a couple of tunes.

      • jwebster2 January 8, 2018 at 1:03 pm

        Yes, it was just something an awful lot of people could do

      • oldhenwife January 8, 2018 at 9:46 am

        I forgot to explain that jelly babies are like stiffish jelly (Jello for non English speakers). And, Jim, I can’t believe that you went to ag. shows in those days!

      • jwebster2 January 8, 2018 at 10:27 am

        I didn’t really, but I remember people talking about it. I think it happened in the US as well

  4. jenanita01 January 8, 2018 at 9:07 am Reply

    I love the polo mint analogy too! ( and those lambs are so cute!)

    • jwebster2 January 8, 2018 at 10:26 am Reply

      they don’t stay cute for long 🙂

      • jenanita01 January 9, 2018 at 11:04 am

        I think sheep get a bad press, but then I love all animals…

      • jwebster2 January 9, 2018 at 11:40 am

        Sheep are very different from Cattle, they have a totally different mind set. It’s when you work with cattle, sheep and dogs you realise that trying to think of them in human terms is never going to work

      • jenanita01 January 10, 2018 at 8:35 am

        I don’t think we should ever think in ‘human terms’ but that, as they say, is another story entirely!

      • jwebster2 January 10, 2018 at 10:05 am

        Oh yes 🙂

  5. jbwye January 8, 2018 at 10:04 am Reply

    I just love your turns of phrase, Jim!

    • jwebster2 January 8, 2018 at 10:25 am Reply

      well I am supposed to be a writer 🙂

  6. philwhiteland January 8, 2018 at 1:34 pm Reply

    Another good story, Jim. You should get the NFU to sponsor you for your PR work for the farming community 😉

    • jwebster2 January 8, 2018 at 3:20 pm Reply

      Hey I’m not to proud to accept sponsorship 🙂

  7. […] present. But even they slowly acquire experience. The two lambs born in early January, (photo here […]

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