Posted 2nd May 2017
Keeping a flock of sheep on your smallholding is one thing, knowing what to do at lambing time is another story. We spent a day at Kate Humble’s Humble by Nature farm to learn how to deal with this annual spring event
Tucked away in a peaceful part of the Wye Valley is the Humble by Nature farm where our day in the lambing shed takes place. Our group of would-be lambers meet in the converted barn that houses the classroom and dining room to get to know each other over a cuppa and homemade cookies, while dyed in the wool (if you’ll pardon the pun) sheep farmer Tim Stephens welcomes us and tell us a little about what we’ll be doing during the day. But nature waits for no man and there are ewes about to lamb imminently so we waste no time in heading out the lambing shed to get to work. Tim explains the signs to look for when a ewe is about to go into labour, from stargazing to pawing the ground and making a nest. One ewe is showing all the signs he describes so we move in closer to watch her give birth.
Tim shows us what to look for as the lamb begins to arrive, such as its nose and front feet coming out first. A soon as its born he demonstrates how to ensure it’s breathing properly and takes it up to its mum’s face so she can lick it clean and form that all important bond. He checks her teats to remove the wax plugs at their tip to ensure the lamb can get its vital first mouthfuls of colostrum. In just a few minutes, this newborn lamb is up on its, admittedly rather wobbly, feet and finds its way to its mum’s teat to begin feeding. It’s such a privilege to see new life being born. After checking on the other lambs which had been born earlier in the day, who were tucked up with their mothers in lambing pens at the sides of the shed, we go out to look at some of the other sheep on the farm. After a final check on the ewes in the lambing shed, we head back to the classroom, where Tim goes through some of the theory of lambing, talks us though some of the equipment we’ll need to become familiar with and describes how to deal with difficult situations, such as prolapses.
We break for lunch in the dining room, which is hearty, delicious and home-cooked and we chat as a group about what our sheep-keeping experiences and why we’ve all come along to the course. There were folk there from all sorts of backgrounds, some with smallholdings or small flocks of their own, others who just loved the countryside and wanted to experience the joys of lambing for themselves. But, while we were eating and chatting, the ewes were getting ready to give birth to more lambs, so we ventured out to the lambing shed once more. Throughout our time in the shed Tim told us about the processes involved in mating and lambing a flock and what healthcare we might need to administer during and after lambing. His knowledge and obvious passion for his flock was wonderful and his relaxed yet expert teaching style made it easy to learn. We were lucky enough to see seven lambs born during our time on the farm, so we had lots of opportunities to see what was happening and ask questions. As four o’clock approached we went back to the barn to discuss the days’ events over tea and biscuits and ask any questions we might have had. Tim gave us all a set of notes from the course to take away with us. But that’s not all we took away, whether we had sheep of our own or just wanted to be involved in lambing, we all took away a new-found knowledge and cherished memories of seeing new life come into the world.
The Humble By Nature courses on lambing are held in spring, but there are a number of sheep-keeping and shearing courses available throughout the year. Prices start from £105 per person including refreshments. For more information or to book visit www.humblebynature.com or call 01600 714595
Feature by Anna-Lisa De’Ath