When you go into a lambing shed first thing in the morning you never really know what you’re going to find. On some mornings I’ve made my way from one end of the shed to the other and back, to discover absolutely nothing has happened. On other occasions you’ll find that the adoring mum and adorable offspring are the first thing you see as you open the door.
This morning was a fine example of just what you can find. From the door I could see that at least one had lambed. She was a mule ewe who’d had triplets. One had been born dead but the other two were both up on their feet and looked well. So I picked up the lambs and walked backwards towards the individual pens. She is a good mother, she followed me closely and when I put the lambs in the pen she followed without hesitation. I shut the gate, now she wasn’t going to have anybody hassling her, trying to steal her lambs.
By this time I’d noticed there was another ewe had lambed so I went up to collect her. She had two, but frankly they weren’t really a set. Still she had been scanned to have twins so I collected her lambs and led her to a pen.
By this time I’d heard bleating from further up the shed. So I went back to the far end and there was a black faced Suffolk ewe with a single lamb. There was an issue here in that the lamb she had looked awfully like one of the lambs the second ewe had. It did look as if the two ewes had managed to swap lambs somewhere along the line.
Anyway the Suffolk wouldn’t follow her lamb, so I put the lamb in the pen and manoeuvred the ewe until finally it saw the lamb and went into the pen to join it. I looked round, found nothing else, and so I dipped the navels of the five lambs with iodine (to stop infection getting in) and gave them a squirt of ‘Scour Halt’ into their mouths. This protects them from bacterial neonatal disease, sometimes known as ‘watery mouth.’ Basically at that age they’re programmed to suck anything. So when they go under the ewe to suckle, firstly her teats aren’t as clean as they might be, and anyway the lamb might try sucking on a piece of wool. So this procedure saves a lot of little lives.
Anyway a couple of hours later I would feed the ewes who hadn’t lambed. This involves putting feed into troughs into the yard and then letting the ewes out of the lambing shed. When you do this you have to keep well out of the road or they’ll treat you underfoot.
But as I was filling my bucket with feed to put in the troughs it was obvious that I could hear a lamb bleating from the lambing shed. Not only that but the bleating was coming from the opposite end of the shed to the individual pens holding the ewes and lambs. So had somebody else lambed?
Anyway I decided that before I opened the gate to let the ewes out I’d walk through the ewes just to check what was happening. Otherwise the ewe who’d just lambed could be carried out in the stampede and her lamb might even get trodden underfoot.
Eventually I found where the bleating was coming from. A new born lamb had managed to creep behind the water trough and of course now it was cold and hungry and wanted mum.
So I rescued the lamb and gave it to the black faced Suffolk who only had one and who had lambed in that general area. She seemed perfectly happy to see it. But now we have two ewes who seem to have produced four lambs between them and then each picked the two they liked best without worrying about whose they actually were. Still if they’re happy then they can keep them.
Of course our wandering friend did look a bit chilled so he’s in the warming box.
This is a cut-off plastic silage additive drum (well washed out and it’s done this job for a number of years.) There’s an ordinary light bulb shining down to provide warmth. Also you’ll see there’s a fan heater there as well in case you need more heat. The metal thing to the left with a white plastic jacket is an old milk pump motor which is still there from when we milked back in the 1990s. As you can see the young fellow is up on his feet and seems none the worse for his adventures.
And should you want to learn more, available as paperback or ebook
As a reviewer commented, “Yet another quiet, but highly entertaining, amble through Jim Webster’s farming life, accompanied by Sal, his collie extraordinarie.
Sheep, cattle, government eccentricities and wry observations are all included.”