Emma: Alfie doesn’t have a great deal to do with the arrival of the lambs, although of course he’s brilliant with them when they are here. Ushering them into the world, ensuring that they and their mums stay well and healthy, and helping out if necessary – that’s work for the humans. I love lambing time, but it is a very intense few weeks, and it is particularly strange when you combine it with a non-farming job, as I used to and as Foz still does. We have lots of help from all our friends at the farm, though, and although we have had some tragedies in the past, mostly we have all got through unscathed and with the flock increasing in number steadily (we started off with 6!)
Our great friend of the flock, Chantelle, came with me last Friday to our vets’ for an afternoon lambing course, and I must admit that I do feel a little more ready for the onslaught of our own lambing after it. I had done a similar course a few years ago, and have weathered 6 lambings, but Chantelle has never got so heavily involved with this side of the flock’s activities and was keen to learn. The vets we use is a large practice specialising in farm animals, and Ian, who took the course, has an interest in smallholdings and little flocks, having sheep of his own.
The thing about doing a course like that is that on one level it’s reassuring – you have a lot of new knowledge – but on another level it’s terrifying! All the ills that sheep can be prey to, and all the things that can go wrong with lambs… all detailed in gory technicolour. Of course, sheep are notorious for being very good at hiding any illnesses, although we tend to find that this doesn’t happen with our flock, who tend to let us know in no uncertain terms if there is a problem! But lambing is something that a lot of the ewes like to do on their own, and so it is hard to be on the spot if needed.
So we had a lot of information thrown our way, then did some practice on the lambing simulator (a plastic box set up so that you deliver a lamb through a sheep’s pelvis and can practice all the various malpresentations you might come up against – go here to see one!) This is very tricky, because you only have your sense of touch to help you construct a picture of what position the lamb is in, and there isn’t a lot of room to manipulate the lamb into the correct position (which is described as the ‘Superman’ position). I have tiny hands, and am always grateful for this in these circumstances! We also learned how to treat lambs for severe hypothermia, something I have not yet seen and hope I never have to deal with, and when to call the vet – always a useful skill to have.
Only 5 weeks to go now until I potentially will have to put all that knowledge into practice… Having said that, though, the last year we lambed, I did not see a single lamb born, instead arriving shortly after each had been safely delivered, so I’m hoping that this year will be the same!