Hello all and welcome to the Livestock Farming blog. This post is one of a 3-part series about #Lambing16, with sheep farmers from around the UK sharing their stories and experiences. As guests we have Jodi, James, Gillian & Ian, and Rachel & Shaun – all of whom are farmers from various areas of the UK – including the UK's remostest island!
This week’s post is a gentle introduction as we explore how they would describe this season and if they could go back, what would they do differently.
Qu: How would you describe #Lambing16 in one word? Why?
Jodi (JF): Pivotal. A strange word to use I’m sure you’re all thinking, but for me, #Lambing16 marked several pivotal milestones, the first being the end of a turbulent year for me, the second the start of a better year and the third the growth of my little flock by 50%!
Gillian & Ian (G&I): Educational! We have been growing the flock for several years, so with ever increasing numbers come new and challenging mal-presentations or situations to have to deal with. When I first started lambing, I had a neighbouring sheep farmer on speed dial for help at all hours of day and night but in recent years have not had to call on him, being able to sort out most things the ewes can throw at me. I love the challenge and reward of pulling off live lambs who wouldn't have made it without assistance
James (JR): Awesome! because I've met some great people who have helped me and taught me so much. I've gone from being an utter newbie, to being confident and knowing how to deliver lambs and care for them and the ewes correctly.
Rachel & Shaun (R&S): Educational! For the simple reason that we've never done this before! Neither Shaun nor I are from a farming background and we moved to Fair Isle just under a year ago to take on a croft. We've read books, watched videos, observed a few ewes lambing on our neighbours' crofts, but there's no substitute for hands-on experience and so we've learned a huge amount as we've gone along. Luckily we have fantastic support from the community here and help is always only ever a phone call away.
Qu: If you could go back and give yourself some advice before #Lambing16 started, what would you say?
R&S: When choosing which field to keep the ewes in before they lamb, think more about the logistics involved with getting the ewes and lambs from there into the lambing pens in the byre: carrying twin or triplet lambs and dealing with a ewe that doesn't want to follow you, then having to negotiate four gates in order to get them into a pen, on your own, probably wasn't the best idea, even though that field is the one that the house overlooks so has the best view of the sheep throughout the day. Also, try not to be so worried! I think we scared ourselves by listening to too many lambing horror stories and thinking that every ewe would need assistance lambing, when the reality has been that the majority have lambed themselves with absolutely no problems.
G&I: We lamb several different pure breeds. For various reasons (mostly time) I did not get to dagging one of the groups before tupping and they were not on the best grass so were not flushed well either, and it showed in the scanning results with more singles than normal and several empties, so will definitely make sure attention is paid to every group this season.
JF: I don’t think I have any words of advice for myself other than continue to follow my gut instincts. As I am very close to my girls, I can tell a couple of days before they are due to lamb, whether they’re off colour or in need of something extra, this has helped me no end.
JR: Don't beat yourself if a lamb dies on you and you did everything you could for it. It happens. Also if you don't ask anyone anything, you'll never know who may be able to help you out if should you need anything.
Some really interesting stories here and some good advice to take away for any new or future farmers. In the next post, the farmers will be explaining in (very honest) detail about the best and worst moments of #Lambing16.
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