Bruce Stevenson insights – lambing season

Although the Pedigree lambing season is now past, many of the country’s sheep farmers are getting underway with their commercial lambing. Although the days are starting to get longer and the weather is supposed to be improving, there can still be periods of heavy snow or rain, storm strength winds and a wind chill factor that can cause havoc to new born stock.

Many farmers will bring the expectant ewes into a shed for protection from the elements where it is practicable, and also will have pens erected to isolate the new mother and her lamb so they can bond. A close watch on the ewes is required to ensure that if any assistance or intervention is required it can be provided immediately. The local vets are also geared up for this time of year and often may take on extra students for the work experience. This vigil does not stop because it is at night or because the weather has broken. Unlike crop work, rain does not stop play. As a farmer once said; “You need to check the ewes every half hour, for 30 minutes!”

However difficult and tiring the lambing season may be, this is really only one part in the cycle. Once the lambs are born, they need to be medicated and the ewe may also need some medical treatment – especially if it was a difficult lambing. Once the lambs and ewes have bonded and are strong enough, they will be turned out to pasture. The stock that are out on grass will need to be checked regularly to ensure  they haven’t been separated from each other and that the lambs are getting enough milk. The ewes also may need additional minerals, calcium or feed supplements. In addition to this, there are sheep tagging and birth records to maintain, sheep movement records to update and the inevitable deaths to be dealt with by the fallen stock disposal companies.

Due to the amount of work that is required to have a successful lambing, many farmers will recruit extra labour specifically for this time of year. Often these seasonal workers come from various parts of the UK, EU and even from Australia and New Zealand. These lambing assistants often arrive with a wealth of experience but do not always know how to operate the various items of farm machinery at their disposal. It is always worth noting that sheep farmers have a responsibility to their workforce at all times and especially when there are new staff on the farm.

The issues that tend to be taken for granted but need to be addressed are:

  • Washing facilities need to be made available to prevent contamination.
  • Training and PPE in respect of ATV’s and Quad bikes
  • Training in tractors/ trailer operation and front loader/ telescopic handlers
  • Medical Records and Sheep ID records

Any comments or questions?  Please contact [email protected] or call her on 07881 093485.