As many of you out there are gripped by 'Lambing Live' on the telly, i thought i'd finally get around to doing my lambing blog for this year. Luckily for you i'll have to make it quick, because i have to go out again soon!
Firstly - i know you all wonder what the affectionately named 'hovel' looks like where i spend a lot of my time during the wee hours, so here's a picture: The 'cosy' hovel
I know a lot of people wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to lambing time. Why can't we just let them get on with it themselves? Well, two good reasons are
1 - sheep really do tend to be a bit stupid, and
2 - it's a well known fact in the farming community that sheep have one aim in life, and that is; to die...!
The other reason, of course, is that wherever you have several hundred or thousand animals giving birth at the same time, there are bound to be problems. On my first night 'on duty', i came across many of the common problems. On my second to last night, i was there until 6am, because the vet had to be called out!
So, i thought i'd run through the fun and games of the sheep sheds (with some pictures to help!)
Problem 1 - Prolapsing
This is where the ewe pushes the 'lamb bed' out, which is understandably uncomfortable for her. It is often caused by ewes being too fat before lambing. It is easily noticed, because the ewe will lie down and strain, with only a kind of pink protrusion to show for it. They often do this several weeks or days before they are due and the problem is remedied by putting a harness on the sheep which holds the prolapse in and stops the urge to push. It can make lambing tricky though and you have to spot the ewe lambing in good time so you can take the harness off to make way for the lambs!
Problem 2 - Tight cervix. (Sorry, this is a bit graphic!)
Sometimes ewes don't 'open up' properly, or if they haven't lambed before, they can be quite tight. This means they require a fair bit of assistance, which can range from massaging the cervix to help open it up, to having to pull the lamb/s out a bit more forcefully - helped by a lot of lubricant! If the ewes were left by themselves, they would become exhausted and the lambs would certainly die inside, followed by the ewe, if left long enough.
Problem 3 - 'bags' over heads.
The membrane that the lamb is born in should break at birth. If it doesn't, the ewe will lick it off. BUT, sometimes neither of these things happen and an otherwise healthy lamb will simply suffocate inside this membrane. This is an incredibly frustrating thing to happen, as it is so avoidable - as long as someone is watching! All it takes is to be checking round another shed, or penning up some other lambs, and when you go to check again, you find a dead lamb. Very frustrating.
Problem 4 - Ewes stealing each other's lambs!
This seemed to happen a lot this year! When sheep are close to lambing, they tend to look for their lambs, even though they haven't had them yet. This often leads to them going to lick and 'mother' another ewe's lambs, and will end up convinced they are theirs. This means the real mother may reject their lambs as they smell different, and you walk into the shed greeted by one ewe with 5 lambs and another with none! Obviously one sheep cannot support 5 lambs, so it means you gain more pet lambs or you have to try and 'adopt' the lambs back onto the mother - a process which takes time and doesn't always work.
Here are some pictures of 2 particular sheep, who had obviously decided to be birthing partners!
Penned up, out of the way, so she can lamb in peace. A healthy set of twins :-)
This one lambed a bit later on..i think i had to help her...and as you can see, she wasn't even all that interested in the end!
So there we have it. I hope you found it interesting and informative!
To see more pictures of various lambing times - including Adele's night of work experience (!) click on the link below (Or copy and paste it into your browser if it doesn't work.)