In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, sheep farmer, Clodagh Hughes discusses the passing of time, lambing 2021, sponging ewes and the arrival of show.
Years ago, as a child, my father would tell me to stop wishing my life away whenever you were bored and fed up with being a child, well, boy was he right!
Where has the year 2020 gone, never mind the first six weeks of 2021?!
Perhaps, for some more than others, it has dragged but, in my opinion, living and working among animals is one of the best ways to keep busy, get fresh air and exercise and most importantly, it beneficial for the old head health.
Do not get me wrong, it is by no means a walk in the park. If you are a farmer yourself, or read any of my weekly articles, you will know that there are serious ups alongside the serious downs.
Last week and this week, I have been sorting out my shed for the upcoming laming, I could have lambs by the weekend if any of my ewes decide to go early! So, I have set up a few pens to ensure I am ready in any case.
Going by my scanning results, and my extremely precise maths, I reckon I have 3/4 ewes that will lamb a bit before the main group and then a couple of stragglers at the end.
Of course, Mother Nature has a big hand in these entire goings-on. This is fairly normal in a flock where the use of rams is employed, and no extra artificial fertility aids are implemented.
Some farmers will ‘sponge’ their ewes to ensure a more compact lambing down period. It is a very interesting process that involves the inserting of small sponges, which have been infused with progestogen into the ewe’s vagina.
Progestogens are a synthetic version of the naturally occurring sex hormone progesterone. These sponges are used to bring all the ewes in the breeding flock into season or oestrus at the same time meaning they will all be lambing down in and around a very specific time frame.
This process has many obvious advantages to the farmer, but it wouldn’t suit my setup here. You need at least one mature ram per 6/8 ewes, because he is going to be one very, very busy boy! And the big issue for me would be man, or woman power. Plus, space.
As it is my wee flock are spread out so that I can manage to lamb on my own, and even then, you’re flat out if a few of them decide to lamb at once with triplets or quads. And this is not even taking into account any complications.
You can imagine the chaos if there were hundreds of ewes lambing all around the same time! So, a bit like life, it’s each to their own, it’s all about finding the right fit for your enterprise.
I cannot go without mentioning the snow…I was waiting for days and finally it came on Saturday! To be honest, I knew it would only last for the day so after feeding and chores, myself and the pups had some serious snow fun.
Read more of Clodagh’s diary entries.