March 22nd 2010

Lambing well under way

It’s amazing what happens in a week! Seven days ago the land was completely yellow and lifeless and now the warmer temperature and rain has got it moving. Spring- what a perfect description! This year everything has been behind with a longer and harder winter than usual, but hopefully we are catching up now. As they say, ‘ a  peck of dust in March is worth a king’s ransom’ and the dry weather has been ideal for getting the dung spread on the land and the spring barley planted at the optimum time.

The lambs are being born during the last week and we are probably about a third of the way through. Tim is getting a bit weary of all the early mornings but our lambing student has been helping me with the evening shifts. Most of the ewes and lambs are going well and need little assistance. When they lamb they go in a pen with their lambs to ‘mother up’ for a day and we check the ewe has milk and they are feeding ok. Then we put them in a bigger barn for another day where we can keep a good eye on them before we take them out in small groups to the fields. We get a few ewes who for some reason don’t like one of their lambs and reject one which is very time consuming trying various methods and tricks to get them to accept the lamb. It’s understandable if there has been a mix up and a ewe has the wrong lamb, but when she doesn’t like her own lamb it tries the farmers’ patience and language! As a last resort the ‘orphan lamb’ gets bottle fed. The number of orphans is increasing as some ewes may not have enough milk for 2 or 3 lambs and they need feeding 4 times a day. George, our vet student assistant here on work experience is beginning to understand why Tim is keen to foster them to mothers with only a single lamb!

We’ve also had a couple of cows calve this week although the main herd is not due to start calving for another few weeks. This Wednesday is going to be pretty important as Tim and I will be going to the South Devon cattle sale in Exeter to buy a new bull. We need a new bull every three years so he does not serve his own daughters as they go into the herd. It’s an important decision as the bull obviously makes half the herd. We want one that produces good shapely calves with excellent growth rates but not so big that the cows have calving problems, so hopefully we’ll be getting a top bull who will be fit to serve our 40 cows during the summer. Talking of summer, Tim heard on the Farming Today programme on the radio this morning that  a weather forcasting agency-not the met office –is predicting a  summer like 1976!