It can go on for six to eight weeks which, on the face of it, doesn’t seem too bad. When you are in the thick of it though, that time can seem like an eternity.
Here are the seven stages of lambing.
1. Preparation. Before we start lambing, we make sure we have everything in place. The pens are made, straw is put on the ground, ewe replacement milk powder is purchased, medicines replenished and high protein sheep feed is ordered. At this point I think we feel that we are super organised and ready for any eventuality.
2. Anticipation. This is the part when we are ready. All we need is lambs. The anticipation period seems to have gone on forever this year. Our first lambs came a whole month before the main flock started. We get excited to begin then a bit fed up of waiting.
3. Denial. This usually happens a couple of weeks after lambing has started. Nerves are in tatters. Tempers are short and, at one point, the farmer will declare he is never buying any more sheep, ever. I liken this stage to when you have a hangover and say you will never drink again. There is a reason why stock sales are a good few months after lambing. It gives you just the right amount of time out to forget how hard this time of year actually is.
4. Total immersion. This is the stage when we knuckle down, stop most of the moaning and get on with it. The lambing fatigue has set in but we are powering through. We are eating, breathing and speaking about one thing only during this time and we all have a smell of ewe replacement milk powder about us.
5. Second wind. You have got over the denial phase and quietly think to yourself, ‘we can do this’.
There are more ewes and lambs than expectant mothers, the first lambs are out in the fields and there is light at the end of the tunnel. You mentally fist pump the air.
6. Fatigue. Are we nearly there yet? You think the hard work is over then the 17 remaining ewes all drop triplets and there are lambs running all over the place. Gone are the days when you skip put of bed in the morning to see how many lambed over night. You have to tear yourself away from the duvet. Not long now but it feels like an eternity.
7. Relief. It is over. You may start talking about maybe it not being as bad as it seemed. Discuss the successes and failures. One year the biggest failure was the breed of ram we used. This year we found our pet lamb system to be a godsend.
When it is all over for another year and you just have to feed up the pet lambs and make sure the ones with the ewes are safe, you can breathe a sigh of relief and them go through it all again the next year.
This is farming.