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.