Sunday, 9 March 2014

Lambing - The Ins, The Outs and The Offs!

It's early Spring. When the sun shines, it's an optimistic time of year. Daffodils bloom, birds sing, buds swell, blossom bursts forth and lambs are born.
It has to be said though, sheep are pretty rubbish at giving birth and it is not at all unusual for there to be complications. As smallholders we want the best for our ewes and we don't want to lose lambs unnecessarily.
So on 8th March several of us attended a lambing day at Church Farm Rare Breeds Centre in Stow Bardolph. The day was run by Vets1 Ltd and was free, including lunch!

Unfortunately Katherine had been called out to a farm, so Victoria gave her first ever presentation in the morning and did a very good job of it. With the aid of an excellent slideshow, she taught us everything we needed to know about keeping ewes in good condition, vaccinations, common lambing problems and delivering healthy lambs.

Body Condition Scoring - honestly!
Baby animals drawing the crowds
We took lunch in the main cafĂ© area of the farm. It was a beautiful weekend day and there were lots of cute lambs and piglets around. So the farm was very busy and it was great to see so many children learning about animals. Maybe some of them will be the smallholders of the future!

This is when the men all crossed their legs!

Tail docking - humane and
necessary to help control flystrike
After lunch, it was time to get practical. We split into two groups. One group headed off to the lambing pens, where we learned to castrate and to tail dock. This was a hands on session which really was very useful indeed. The vets and farm staff could not have been more helpful. We also got to practice scoring sheep for the body fat levels. You can't necessarily be fooled by all that wool!
Then is was back into the education barn where Katherine had a lambing simulator. We donned our long gloves and delved in, trying to remember everything we'd been taught in the morning and trying to figure out which position the lamb was in. Again, this hands on experience was fantastic.

Trying to work out which way
the lamb is presented
and how best to get it out.
But there was drama too. For Katherine was summoned to a ewe with a prolapse. This was a ewe which we had only left maybe fifteen minutes before - a coincidence which really brought it home that knowledge, experience and professional intervention when necessary are all vital to the welfare of our sheep. Fortunately all turned out well.

Vets in Action.
A real life emergency.
At the end of the day, we were all very happy indeed. Not only had we attended an excellent course, but we had been fed and we had a free pen and notepad. But there was more, for we were presented with our very own lambing boxes, complete with lube, iodine, long gloves, colostrum, digital thermometer, lambing ropes and some very useful information. In fact, everything necessary to be well prepared for the lambing season.

It just remains to once again thank the folks at Vets1 Ltd and Church Farm for their help, generosity and hospitality.
Hopefully, very soon the notes we received from the course will be on the Fenland Smallholders Website


  1. It sounds like a very worthwhile course to attend. I don't think you can be too prepared for things that can go wrong where animals are concerned, and of course, it's great to have some extra knowledge now that lambing season is upon us.

  2. Indeed a great course, Jo. All responsible smallholders should do everything they can to make sure their animals are well cared for. If only I had the knowledge of some of the old farmers!


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