I am completely obsessed with my sheep at lambing. I LOVE them! We do have our moments, when I feel very tired and stupidly worried, usually over nothing serious at all. But it is wonderful to see healthy lambs arrive and the ewe immediately instinctively licking and bonding with her baby. Then, sometimes quite quickly, other times rather slowly, the lamb struggles to stand and somehow makes its way to the teats for that first big drink of colostrum.
With new life on the farm also comes death. A ewe developed complications, the lamb was born dead. The ewe had internal problems so the vet was called and she was put down. It is awful to see an animal suffering and I wonder if I could have done something to prevent the deaths.
I took two wethers (castrated rams) off to the abattoir. But this part of the life/death cycle doesn’t bother me. I know my livestock live a decent life, and I am fortunate to have small family-run slaughterhouse only 30 minutes way.
On Thursday I collected 40 kilos of beautiful hogget from the butcher. ‘Lamb’ is under one year. ‘Hogget' is one to two years old, ‘Mutton’ is over two years. Portland sheep are small and slow maturing, not ready for market until at least a year old, and better at eighteen months to two years. It has a really excellent flavour but is not strong and greasy. London butchers charge a fortune for it.
Lambs have continued to arrive and now there are only three ewes waiting to lamb. Thirty ewes and lambs are out in the field now. Before they go out we tag their ears, give ewe and lamb a matching number and trim the ewe's feet. Evenings are lovely. The lambs start racing around in a big gang, completely ignoring their bleating mothers calling them. It is a 5 o’clock ritual!
I have one ram lamb with a problem tongue. It is swollen and hangs out and he cannot properly suck the teats. He will stay in the bonding pen with his mum until we get it sorted. I milk the ewe every four hours then put a soft rubber tube down the lamb’s throat and syringe in the milk. He is doing well, but it is frustrating for all three of us.
And still awaiting the arrival of four highland calves...
Jo Stover has daily adventures on her small farm, together with her Highland cattle and Portland sheep, bees, a few hens, dogs, and some two-legged family and friends.