Sal is less than happy. Normally when I go out on the quad she runs behind me (because the lanes are narrow) or even tries to outrun me when we’re in a field.
But at the moment we’ve got a lot of ewes outside with youngish lambs. The lambs have got to the adventurous stage. When I feed their mothers this means the ewes gather together, running in from all over the field. The lambs obviously run with them. But they meet up with a lot of other running lambs and of course, they just keep on running together. I suspect the technical term is gambolling. It does have a certain charm.
From my point of view it isn’t actually a problem. Yes I’ve got to make sure none are gambolling around the quad or trailer, because they tend to change course pretty much at random. The other thing that can happen is that they decide to race the quad. I’ve known people who’ve driven out of the gate into the lane, suddenly to discover that they’re surrounded by a sea of lambs who proceed to split up and run in different directions. So you have to make sure that by the time you need to leave the field the lambs are interested in something else. To be fair this isn’t too difficult, a lamb doesn’t have all that long an attention span. Give them a couple of minutes then they’ll head back to mum. Provided they can see her!
But from Sal’s point of view, she wanders into the field and swings wide to keep out of everybody’s way. Unfortunately on this occasion her wise actions brought her too close to an elderly ewe who wasn’t going to stand for any canine nonsense. Sal managed to dodge her, but still she wasn’t happy about it.
The other thing we had was lambs in the ‘wrong bit’. When you’re the size of a lamb, fences are something larger people worry about. So we have two lots of ewes and their lambs in two paddocks, separated by a wire netting fence. Two lambs got through the fence somehow. They seem to use a form of Brownian motion, just moving about and suddenly being on the wrong side. The fact that they were on the wrong side of the fence was brought to my attention by their pathetic bleating. Mum was bleating back, but she couldn’t get to them because of the fence, and of course now they needed to get back, the lambs found the fence to be an impassable obstacle.
By now it was 10pm, black as the ace of spades and a cold rain was starting to fall. Something had to be done now, because lambs of this age can suffer badly if they go hungry, cold and wet, overnight.
So we opened the gate between the two paddocks. The problem is this is being done by torch light. Mum cleared off when the torches started shining in her direction. The lambs were confused because some places were light and some weren’t. Obviously they didn’t stick together. There are probably excellent evolutionary reasons for running off in different directions, but under the circumstances I do wish there was an override code we could input.
Anyway, by accident, the lambs went through the gate and I shut it after them. We switched the torches off and mum, reassured by the absence of ostentatious witchcraft, came back to join her little darlings.
But anyway that was the day before yesterday. Today was so warm I was walking out in shirt sleeves. Is spring about to happen? It’s not been a bad day.
Ask the expert
As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”