One word “Lambing.”
When we left Ireland for England we were headed back with the intention to start work. We had acquired a job for a reasonably large farm twenty minutes drive from Luton airport. The farm is a mixed breeding property which includes a stud flock of Primera sheep.
The Primera sheep are a hybrid terminal sire purpose bred in New Zealand. (a sheep that grows fast for a solid lamb roast.)
Conveniently these happen to be the same breed of sheep Royce was working with in New Zealand. This of course has nothing to do with how we got the job *cough.*
Along with the sheep stud the farmer Rob Prat and his wife Ellie also have Wagyu Cattle, some pigs and Rob runs a small catering and butchery business. (Marbled Meats)
This became a quite an attractive job offer for us as Royce is very interested in other aspects of farming business and seeing how a catering van and butchery is run.
Left: An unexpected newborn piglet unimpressed at being picked up.
Right: Mumma Ewe chilling out before she’s moved from the maternity wing of the shed
We arrived at Breeding Vision Northall just in time to start the lambing season. Rob has had ten years of kiwi shepherds coming into help him so is no stranger to our accent, and numerous colloquialisms to boot. Or our insistence on wearing jandels in all seasons, and of course our disbelief at English farming systems.
He promptly put us to work in what can only be described as a baptism of fire. Lambing In England is quite different to New Zealand, as it is predominantly inside sheds and with less sheep.
For this farm we can cancel out sheep numbers as Rob lambs roughly 1800 sheep total and nearly 600 of those are part of the Primera stud which go through the shed. This is by English standards is ALOT of sheep.
In short the reasons for lambing indoors are mainly because; The infrastructure for indoor lambing is already set up. The margin for losses is very small, recording can be made much easier in this system. Not to mention the predator problems outside, with foxes and ironically buzzards. (We are living in the outskirts of Leightion Buzzard) badgers, crows and all manner of birds of prey, domestic dogs and even black panthers if you believe the news. Plus to top it all off as we are not far from London, so you also have large amounts of overly concerned members of the public. However all the rest of Rob and Ellie’s sheep are lambed outdoors, and do manage fairly well if not for a bit of natural selection.
Left: New born chunk of a lamb and his mum after being moved to their post natal pen.
Right: One of many pet lambs having a drink.
So why you ask amidst all this have I not had a precious sleep-in in so very long? That is due to the nature of indoor lambing. Sheep are routine animals. Being inside in what they would consider cramped confines, is quite a stressful endeavor when you are heavily pregnant. We as shepherds are in charge of making said sheep as comfortable as possible. And minimizing as much of that stress as possible. One of ways Rob does this is to have only one person feeding the sheep nuts. (The ewes LOVE these things, to the point of climbing out of the pens to feed themselves for you.) The concentrate nuts are a complete food that is fed out every morning. I got nominated with this job and so every morning I enter the shed to a chorus of ‘baaaaaaaaaaaing!!!!!!’ (Which in sheep means ” FEED ME”!!!) first up, I collect the ewes that have lambed overnight with their lambs and carefully move them to a small single ewe pens. I do this so;
- The lambs don’t get squished by the over excited ewes during breakfast. and
- So the lambs can be recorded against the ewe and we can give special treatment to anything that needs it.
After this while i am slowly going def from sheep screaming, I feed out the concentrate, bed down with straw, fill up buckets with a mineral infused sugary molasses mix. For the ewes to have something to munch through the day. Ensure everyone has adequate water, then move record, tagged lambs and ewes to ‘grass-ward bound’ pens. And then hope the weather stays fine so i can get their whingey woolly buts out of the shed.
Left: Mumma and lamber have a snooze
Top right: hungry ewes waiting for there morning meal.
Bottom right ‘Maddie’ the kelpie working doggo helping in the sheep yards.
The downside of the lack of sleep-in’s amid 7 days a week of work and being literally screamed at by sheep on a daily basis is STRESS. Stress levels need to be managed for both sheep and shepherd. I however in the middle of lambing didn’t manage this particularly well as Robyn at Tidden foot leisure center can attest to, when I burst into tears at the gym *insert face palm,*
but that is a story for another time.
Left: Ewes where I like them (on grass) chewing on some concentrate nuts before they come into the shed.
Right: Madame helping herself while I feed out the evening hay.
Thankfully lambing is almost over and I will be able to soon go back to looking at sheep from a distance and moving them from grassy patch to grassier patch. As opposed to having lambs try and eat my pants and being covered in after-birth and all manner of sheep goo.
Thanks for reading this is my first attempt at blog writing so please leave a comment and let me know what you thought. Any ideas for more posts or what you did/didn’t like would be much appreciated.
Till next time, Courtney