Tag Archives: sheep and numeracy

A big breakfast


The ewes seem to have admitted to themselves that it’s lambing and they ought to get on with it. We had three lamb last night. They’re together inside the one building and sheep seem to be happy with that.

Cattle are different, they wander off on their own to give birth, but sheep seem perfectly happy to lamb in the middle of a huddle of other ewes. Of course this leads to the nightmare of miss-mothering where you find one ewe has pinched another ewe’s lambs, whilst abandoning her own to somebody else.

I go through them last thing at night, just to check nobody is having trouble. If somebody has lambed I’ll put her and her lambs in the side pens so they aren’t hassled. It’s interesting walking through the ewes. Some will just stand there and watch you. Some will step to one side and let you past. Some will actually push through the rest of their mates to keep away from you. Then you’ll get one who wanders up to you, sniffs you and then wanders off again to find something more interesting to look at. Finally there’s always one or two who you have to step over because they’re sitting comfortably and see no reason to move.
We’ve also started to turn ewes and their young lambs out. Some of them have been born well over a week, but the weather hasn’t been fit for them. But now we’ll have turned out over a dozen ewes and their offspring and the lambs are rapidly finding their feet and are trying to keep up with mum. At this stage you will get sheep who struggle with big numbers, as long as they’ve got one lamb with them, they cannot cope with the concept that there might be a second. So you’ve just got to keep an eye on them to make sure there isn’t a lamb wandering about on its own, bleating pathetically.

First thing in the morning, I’ll once more go through the lambing shed, and if anybody has lambed, I’ll whisk them and their lambs into the pens at the side of the shed where nobody is going to steal their lambs and the lambs have a chance to feed. Then later I’ll put feed in the troughs outside and let the ewes out of the shed so they can spend the day in the yard where they’ve more room to wander about. As the ewes pour out of the shed, Sal is desperately trying to squeeze past them, intent of seeing if the honest Border Collie’s treat is there for her. Who needs dog treats when you can get fresh afterbirth? Or if you’re a Border Collie, almost fresh afterbirth.

And that job done it’s off on the quad to check that various other sheep are OK and haven’t got themselves entangled in anything. Also there’s a group of tups who need a little feed to help build them up again. So I set off, and at one point glance over my shoulder, to discover Sal isn’t following. I get to the top of the hill and feed the tups; Sal still hasn’t appeared. So I open the gate to go in and look at the store lambs, and then I blow the horn on the quad.

Now when we’re moving sheep, blowing the horn on the quad tells them that we are actually moving them, not just driving about checking them. Now Sal knows this. So if somebody else blows the horn on their quad, she immediately sets off at speed to help out! So having blown the horn on the quad I assumed I’d see Sal moving at speed towards me.

Five minutes later Sal appears. Just in time for me to drive home again! But still she enjoys racing the quad. Not this morning she didn’t, she trotted behind it wearing the expression of somebody who has eaten a far too large ‘all day breakfast’ only to discover that they’re supposed to go for a run, when really all they want to do is sit and belch quietly somewhere.