Today we consider the reality of the Lambing Season; which many of our farmers are currently in the midst of.
Many people outside of the farming community do not understand just how tiring and unrelenting lambing can be. Yes, we have the have the highs as well as the lows; but unlike at harvest time, (or the tennis); bad weather does not stop play. Come rain or shine, lambing continues. A successful lambing season can make the difference between profit and loss in the farming budget for the year. Therefore, taking care of the ewes and lambs has to be the priority at this time of year.
One farmer I visited recently had just finished lambing. He had 700 ewes to lamb and had 2 extra lambing assistants for the season. They lambed 600 ewes in 10 days. This means that between the 3 of them, they were each lambing 20 ewes every day. It can be relentless at times!
The lambing in itself is usually quite straight forward. Of course, there can get breach births, triplets, still births and ones where intervention is required; but these will hopefully be in the minority, although time consuming at occasions when time is of the essence!
The real skill that shepherds have, is to keep them alive after that:
- Checking that the ewe has enough milk to feed her lambs.
- Bottle feeding these that aren’t getting sufficient from their mums or are orphaned.
- Feeding and bedding the individual sheep pens until the lambs and ewes are bonded and strong enough to go to pasture.
- Feeding the sheep once they are outside and making sure the water troughs are kept topped up.
- Checking the fields daily for any lambs that are not thriving, due to lack of milk or the weather.
- Any lambs that have been caught in the snow or wind and have to be brought back inside in order to survive are treated with glucose, milk and heat-lamps.
- Completing movement records when sheep have been moved out to pasture, off the original farm.
- Tagging new lambs and re-tagging ewes who have damaged their electronic ear tags.
- Injecting any livestock who are showing signs of illness.
- Rotation of the flock to different fields to ensure that there is always enough grass for them to eat. Not always easy when last year’s drought has played havoc with growing potential of the grass.
Once This stage is passed, then they need to look ahead to booking the shearers, ordering in drenches and medicines for treatments over the summer months for liver & lung fluke, lice, blowfly and maggots and applying them.
At 12 weeks old, the lambs are weaned from their mothers and moved to different, separate locations and the process of preparing the lambs for sale as store livestock through the marts, or to fatten at home, begins. At the same time, any ewes that will not be used for breeding next year will be sold as well – removing these from the farm as soon as possible after weaning relieves the livestock numbers on the grass; allowing it to re-grow sooner.
And then, we’re full circle by the autumn when it is time to get the ewes and rams back into condition, ready for the tupping season.