Category: Farm

Sheep and lambs

Springwatch at Litton

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a prolific list maker – a holiday cottage will do that to you! I love making lists, shopping lists, to do lists, you name it I will make a list. But one of my very favourite lists is the one I have just written and its ‘The Lambing List’.

The Lambing List is a list of all the due dates of our expectant ewes, detailing their name – yes they do all have names and they all do look different to the trained eye of the farmer, which date they are due to lamb, and probably most important of all how many lambs they are expecting.

Each year in December the sheep scanner visits to scan each of the sheep, to see how many lambs she is carrying. It’s very similar to the scan which a human would have in pregnancy, but instead of the excited father present, there is an excited farmer instead!

Sheep and lambs
Lambs at Littonfields Barn holiday cottage

Sheep will usually have anything from one to three lambs, with the occasional set of quads. The ideal number is two, as the sheep only has two teats so if there are three, then one lamb always gets pushed out, and it usually the smallest one.  As one old farmer once explained it “the table is only set for two!”

When a sheep gives birth to triplets, we try to foster one of the lambs onto another ewe who only has one lamb, as she will usually have spare milk and it gives the lamb a much better chance of thriving.  Not all sheep are happy about this arrangement but we can usually win them around in the end!

So, getting back to my list, this is laminated or should I say lambinated (sorry) and hung in the lambing shed ready for the action to begin. The information is also important when caring for the sheep prior to lambing as the ones expecting triplets will next extra feed and TLC, whilst the ones carrying just a single need to be give less food. This it to prevent the single lamb growing too large, which can lead to difficulties when giving birth and in extreme cases we require the vet to perform a caesarean.

So with just a few more weeks to wait for lambing to begin, the shed is cleared out, the pens are washed, the Lambing List is ready to go – I can’t wait!

We have a weekend or two of Availability in the holiday barn if you’d like to come and meet the lambs and young animals, and explore springtime Derbyshire.

Lambing Time

After quite a few sleepless nights and some tense moments, most of our sheep have now given birth to their lambs, and we are catching up on our sleep.

Many of our lambs are born as singles, or twins, however we do get a few sets of triplets, which isn’t ideal. Sheep only have two teats, so when there are three lambs one always gets pushed out and it’s usually the smallest one. We like to foster such lambs onto a sheep that has either lost her lambs or has just had one and so has milk to spare. Our sheep are great mothers but are rather particular and will usually only let their own lambs suckle which can make fostering difficult. We have to have a few tricks up our sleeves to convince the sheep to take on the new lamb!

A sunny afternoon is the ideal chance to let them all out into the field for some fresh grass and chance for the lambs to run around as only lambs can. They form little gangs to have races up and down the field, much to the consternation of their mothers who are very protective and like to keep them close by.

Watching the lambs racing about in the sunshine makes you feel that spring may just be around the corner, or at least we hope so!

lambing-time

Red Sky in the Morning, Shepherds Warning

As we start the new  year and the days are just beginning to lengthen, thoughts on the farm turn to new beginnings and in our case lambing time. The pregnant ewes are starting to look heavy with lambs although they are quite happy out in the fields all winter. In fact they don’t like being inside if they can help it and their amazing thick fleeces keep them nice and warm.

We do have to keep an eye on the weather though, because if it snows they can get buried in deeps drifts when they lie in the shelter of the field walls. If the forecast is bad we bring them close to home and give them extra hay to eat whilst the grass is covered over. There was a beautiful red sky this morning, which our shepherd wasn’t very happy about, but hopefully it’s just going to be wet and windy this time.

Lambing is due to start on Valentine’s day.  It really isn’t my idea of a romantic night out:  soft lighting in the lambing shed, helping to lamb a sheep, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

red-sky