Lambing Time In The Peak District
We were invited to the birth by the local farmer, Ann and I. Well, more than one birth, 1500 in fact. The soft, silent, bouncy walk into the barn was over a mass of straw. Around the perimeter, 100 birthing pens had been created using bales. Hay, which could be reached by the ewes, perched over the barriers. Ann, with decades as a midwife, seemed an appropriate observer. However, me, with over 100,000 funerals under my belt, less so. The ewes were a revelation. These normally skittish animals, programmed to flee, or quietly suffocate under snow drifts, looked utterly different. Consequently, they showed no signs of stress, as if they knew exactly what was happening. They were North Country Mules, a cross that the shepherd considered good mothers. Lambing time in the Peak District is uplifting.
Top & tail
We were given the tour. In the first individual pens, the births occur, usually two lambs. Not being a midwife, I thought it a little mucky. Consequently, two writhing slimy creatures drop out, programmed to expect a milky teat but not not sure where. Mum constantly licks the lambs and dries them off. However, this confuses the lambs. Human hands are needed to get the mouth on the teat because it is essential they feed on the colostrum. As a result, the lamb tails vibrate with joy. The cord is treated with iodine, a rubber band applied to shorten the tail and a special treatment reserved for the males. What looked like secateurs snipped off their testes. They did not respond to this excision and it was only me who flinched. Mum and lambs were then numbered with spray cans and moved to the final pen.
Lambing time in the Peak District
Above all, the sheep need to spend a total 48 hours in the barn before being put out to grass. Consequently, the process, of collecting sheep, lambing and getting them back to the fields, is intensive, hard work. Staff have to be there 24 hours a day for about 3 weeks. Each night, the unbirthed are shunted into the barn overnight. The care apparent for the sheep was quite emotional for me. It was a symbiosis, the sheep needing the people and vice versa. As a result, the lambs are converting grass into food, local food produced by local people. Damn those soya and almond crops that people imagine as a better diet.