So my lambing posts on Instagram have prompted quite a few questions in my DM’s so I thought I’d write a quick blog post answering the most asked…hope its useful – if I’ve missed anything else, as always, I’d love to hear from you! Thank you for all of your lovely messages about lambing – I love receiving them, so please keep them coming!
How many lambs are you expecting from the flock?
Overall our flock scanned at 181% (with a high twinning rate) – which means that we are expecting just under 2,500 lambs this lambing season!
If you lamb outside, why do you still have some pens indoors?
All of the sheep are left outside to their own devices to lamb outside, however, when we check them at various points in the day, naturally, we do have to bring some in if they have had any difficulties. We’ll bring any ewes and lambs back if we have had to help them lamb, if they have weak lambs, or if they have lost any lambs. They’ll usually have a couple of days respite in the barn being waited on, and then they’ll be popped back out in the field as and when they are ready.
Why do you lamb outside rather than inside?
We have New Zealand Romney sheep, they’re are a hardy ewe with a very maternal instinct which allow us to lamb them all outside with little intervention. As we have the land and the right sheep it works really well to have them all outside and left to their own devices. It also enables us to have fewer staff to help (ie just Andy, Will and I!)…although sometimes we could do with more helpers (especially in the weather we’ve had!).
Why do you lamb a bit later in the year than most?
We lamb in April because technically the weather is meant to be better (2018 not being the case!). But usually the sun’s out alot more, the grass has had a chance to grow in the lambing paddocks and its nice and dry…’usually’ being the operative word! If someone could tell 2018 that its actually spring, that would be great!
How does an ‘orphan/pet lamb’ come to be?
So the term ‘orphan’ is a bit morbid isn’t it. It doesn’t mean that the ewe (its mum) has died, it simply means that the lamb has either been left alone in the field, has a overarching condition, is weak, or the mum hasn’t got enough milk to feed on. So in that case, we’ll pick them up from the field and take them into the orphan pen and bottle feed/eventually get them onto the ‘milk feeder’ (a fake teat that is hooked up to luke warm milk on tap for them to suckle from).
How are ‘orphan/pet lambs’ fostered onto new mums?
So, disclaimer alert (this may sound gruesome…but it IS for the best intention, to pair an orphan lamb up with a new mum). So if a ewe has lost a lamb, often, if its still fairly fresh, we will take one of the orphan lambs and ‘wet foster’. ‘Wet fostering’ is basically rubbing some of the afterbirth over the orphan lamb, so that they smell like the ewe. We then pass the orphan lamb off as the ewe’s lamb.
At times if its an older lamb that has unfortunately died, we will ‘skin’ the dead lamb and pop the skin (like a jumper) over the orphan lamb, and again, pass it off as the ewe’s lamb. It usually is quite successful.
Generally how many lambs do your ewes tend to have?
We aim for a really high twinning rate. We love the ewe’s to have twins, as its the perfect number for them to raise any more than two is quite hard on the mum as they only have two teats. Then when a ewe has one, sometimes if its later in the season and they have eaten alot of grass the single lamb can be too big and sometimes get stuck. We have had a couple of quads (4) this year! But only a couple thank goodness!
I hope thats answered some of your questions surrounding lambing. I’ll be doing a full lambing post next month when we have finished talking about how this year has gone! So I’ll let you know when that post is up!