In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, Clodagh Hughes, sheep farmer, discusses her 2021 lambing season, her experience over the years and a farmer’s unique skillset.
Following on from last week’s busy start to lambing, I can only say it got busier, folks!
As you may recall, I mentioned last week how much of the shepherd’s work really starts after the lambs hit the ground, so to speak.
All going well, the ewe will tend to her lambs, and within a short time, they should be up and looking for their first feed. All going to plan, that is. Now, as we all know, plans rarely, well, go to plan!
I have been flat to the mat feeding surplus lambs, assisting my first-time ewes to lamb and generally, being a constant presence in the shed.
The first time a ewe lambs can come as a massive shock to her. Like any first time experience, it is all new and not every ewe is a natural mother.
I have had three this year that have tested my patience. I was very near despairing that they would not take to their lambs at all.
Thankfully, after a few days of stubborn perseverance on my side and the natural mothering instinct finally kicking in, I now have three good ewes rearing two lambs apiece. These are the little victories that we revel in.
As each year passes, I have gotten to recognise a lot of the wee traits and signs that sheep display throughout the lambing period.
I have learned to pre-empt and intervene in some potential problems that could and have saved the lives of some of my animals.
I have discovered that above all, the other skills needed as a farmer. At the top of the list is the importance of being patient and learning to read the animal’s body language.
Obviously, the more time you spend around them, the better, you will understand them.
I have always had a lot of patience and tolerance when working with animals, not so much with other aspects of my life.
But, perhaps, when it comes to animals, I know that you have to get into their mindset and try to comprehend their world as they see it.
‘Where there’s livestock, there’s deadstock’
Something I need to discuss with you folks are the losses that we experience as farmers. There is an expression, which I dislike, but it is very appropriate in the farming world, it is: “where there’s livestock, there’s deadstock”.
I had said before now, if we got our lambs over their first 24/48 hours, there was a high chance of survival. As true as this is, unfortunately, there are going to be some inexplicable losses among the new lambs.
My first lambing season, I used to run to the vet with every little sick lamb. Now, I know that they will not all survive no matter what we do.
I lost two wee lambs this morning before I wrote this. They were flying yesterday. I am very disappointed, but four years on, I can deal with it much better and keep telling myself to focus on the positives.