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Lambing time is here again, well it’s nearly over actually, but we’ve been too busy tending to the flock to blog about it. We have a small flock of about 25 ewes to lamb this year which are mainly Texel cross ewes, which produce a good butchers lamb.
There are some 32million sheep that graze the fields in the UK, comprising lambs, their mums – called ewes – and their dads, rams.
Depending on where you live, lambs are born at different times of the year. Traditionally, lambing starts in early spring but some farmers start in December whilst others are as late as April.
The amount of lambs born to one ewe varies. The average is 1.3 lambs per ewe but can be as many as five, although this causes problems as the ewe only has two teats to feed them. In such cases we have to take some of the lambs away to bottle feed them. these are called Cade lambs.
Some ewes deliver their lambs very easily so are happy to give birth alone in the field or in the lambing shed, but others, particularly first-time mothers, require a little extra help so farmers and their shepherds have to be on hand all day and night in case there’s a difficult delivery.
Here at Hoe Grange farm it all begins in the Autumn; as the old saying goes “Bonfire night tupping brings April fool lambs” . We put the rams in with our flock on Bonfire night and with our ewes and rams in prime condition it doesn’t take long for nature to run its course!
The weather was not too kind this year so we bought the sheep into a shed for lambing, as if the new born lambs get cold and wet they struggle to get up and feed and can die in those first few crucial hours. Inside the shed they are warm and dry, and it’s easier to check them in the middle of the night. However lambing inside has its disadvantages as the concentration of animals in a small area means more chance of catching bugs for the new-borns before the immune system gets strong enough to fight them off.
When checking the sheep, particularly at night, we always stop and listen before entering the shed as the noises the sheep make when starting to give birth are the best signs of imminent arrival. Once you disturb them, it takes their mind off the job and they go quiet.
Lambing normally goes on for about 6 weeks, although all ours lambed in 3 weeks this year so we were very lucky as getting up 2 times every night for 6 weeks can be exhausting.
Once born they are put into individual pens for 48 hrs to bond, feed and get going. Then they are let into small groups inside for 24 hrs before being turned out into the field if the weather is fine.
The best sight is a group of 20-30 strong healthy lambs all gamboling around the field at top speed in the sunshine. Time then to lean on the wall and wonder at the marvels of nature!
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