Lambing Live 2017! Part Two
This week I have been lambing again… My last lambing placement was a very large scale, intensive indoor lambing set-up but I wanted to get some experience of lambing in a different setting. So I did what any young farmer would do and hopped onto the club group chat and started begging for work experience!
I eventually managed to get myself a couple of days lambing with one of the young farmers so I went there on Tuesday ready for a whole different kind of lambing…
I spent a lot of time riding around on the ATV and opening gates which is as to be expected when you’re lambing a fairly large flock outdoors. We moved lots of ewes and lambs in the trailer, I had already seen docking and castration at my indoor placement as well as marking the sheep. (For the record I don’t have a very good relationship with stock marker – last time I ended up with completely blue arms that made me look like I had been in a bad fight! This time I ended up with orange and blue arms, but it is nowhere near as bad as last time…) But this time I also learned about crutching the ewes to prevent maggots getting to them. At this farm, the crutching is done with hand shears after the ewe has lambed and before she is turned out with her lambs.
It is a lot harder to catch the ewes outdoors when they need help than it is indoors…
My favourite part of lambing (which is definitely not most farmers’) favourite part of lambing is the cade lambs. I absolutely love cade lambs. There was probably only a dozen or so at the time I was there but they are so playful and I loved feeding them.
I also helped to feed the ewes that were being kept in for various reasons (generally birthing complications) and give them water. They were being fed silage with pellets and I can tell you know that I have learnt the hard way that there are thistles in silage!!
Something really interesting, although not very pleasant, I saw was the technique of skinning a ewe’s dead lamb to make a jacket for a cade lamb. I’m sure that most of you know about this already but for anyone who hasn’t heard of this, I will run through my limited understanding of it…
A ewe that has lost a lamb can foster a cade lamb but sometimes she won’t take to it. If a ewe rejects a cade lamb and doesn’t have a dead lamb then the most popular option is to put the ewe in a lamb adopter (which I think is the sheep equivalent of stocks – as in the medieval kind), however if she does have a lamb that was stillborn or that didn’t make it you can use the skinning method. You have to try to remove the skin of the dead lamb in one piece with holes for the head and legs, ideally without getting any blood on it. Then the jacket that you have fashioned should be fitted onto the cade lamb you are adopting. This makes the lamb smell like one of the ewe’s own and thus she is more likely to accept it. You should aim to take the jacket off within 24 hours or so to prevent a smell… (If I have got any of this wrong please let me know!)
This way of lambing was quite different to my experience indoors but it was very educational and I feel that I have got a good grip on lambing now!