Monday, 25 May 2020

The other side of lambing and calving

One of the first set of triplets to be born

Molly taking the lambs into the barn using our 'lamb pram'
Once we are happy the lambs are feeding well and mum is behaving we take them out to the field

Calving got underway beginning of May

Molly with the foster lambs (lambs without mums) in the orchard

Malcolm came to shear our ewe lambs (next years mums) and Heather and Harriet, 2 herdwicks who needed a home

Cows and calves up in our top field
A very different lambing this year with no visitors.  We had put up all our banners, posters and started to make our annual preparations to welcome everyone to see our wonderful sheep.  It became clearer the closer lockdown came this was not going to happen this year.  It felt really sad as we love sharing this special time of year with everyone.  We were very lucky to still have our 2 vet students who arrived just before lockdown and had been isolating with their families, but we missed our other amazing team of helpers who would normally come and help.  It was all hands on deck for us as a family as the sheep were unaware of lockdown!  The rain stopped, it was extraordinary, having rained all winter we had an amazing dry spell, which has continued well into May and of course we now need rain!  One extreme to the other. 

May is my favourite time of year, everything is bursting into life in the hedgerows and the house martins and swallows have returned and made Saddlescombe their home for the summer.  The grass is growing and the 750 lambs or so are growing as fast!  We start to move them in their groups around the farm and look after the grazing.  It is really important we don't allow them to graze the grass too short.  This can damage the root structure beneath the soil and weakens the plant.  We need the roots to grow so they can withstand any drought and act as a vital carbon sink, this can only happen if the blade size above ground is wide enough to absorb the sunlight and perform the photosynthesis process.  The last photo above shows the cows and calves up in our top field called East Hill.  They are grazing after the sheep in an effort to 'clean up'.  What I mean by this is eating the worm eggs on the grass which would affect the sheep but not the cows.  Worms can make lambs very poorly.  We do still have to worm them with a medicine but combining this grazing management with the cows does reduce having to treat them more routinely.  Another way we are planning our grazing and worm management is by planting a new herbal ley each year.  This is a delicious mix of herb rich grasses which have a good deep root structure and anthelmintic properties to encourage a healthy digestion in the sheep.  We have planted ours this year and we had a little bit of rain 2 days ago and it is growing really well.

We have 2 first time mums left to calve who are in the field in front of our house keeping us guessing and we are now thinking ahead to haymaking and silage.  If the dry spell continues we will have to feed through the summer too but chances are it will rain just as we need to cut the grass which then needs a 5 day dry spell to make the hay!

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Fly and Ted