Farming Insights – Lambing

This month’s edition concentrates on the reality of the Lambing Season which many of our land based clients have recently experienced.

The majority of people outside of the farming community do not have an understanding of just how tiring and unrelenting lambing can be. We have the have highs as well as lows but unlike at Harvest time, (or the tennis), bad weather does not stop play and we have certainly had our share of bad weather again this year!

One farmer I visited recently had just finished lambing. He had 700 ewes to lamb and had 2 extra pairs of hands for the season.  They lambed 600 ewes in 10 days. This means that between the 4 of them, they were each lambing 15 ewes every day.

The lambing itself is usually quite straight forward. Yes, we can get breach births, triplets, still births and ones where intervention is required but these will hopefully be in the minority. The real skill that shepherds have is to keep them alive after that:

  • Checking the ewe has enough milk to feed her lambs
  • Bottle feeding those that aren’t getting sufficient from their mums or are orphaned
  • Feeding and bedding the individual sheep pens until the lambs and ewes are bonded and strong enough to go to pasture
  • Feeding the sheep once they are outside and making sure the water troughs are kept topped up
  • Checking the fields daily for any lambs that are not thriving, due to lack of milk or the cold weather
  • Dealing with any lambs that have been caught in the snow or wind and have to be brought back inside in order to survive. They are treated with glucose, milk and heat-lamps
  • Completing movement records when sheep have been moved out to pasture
  • Tagging new lambs and re-tagging ewes who have damaged their electronic ear tags
  • Injecting any livestock who are showing signs of illness
  • Rotating the flock to different fields to ensure that there is always enough grass for them to eat (not easy when the snow and cold wind/ wet have played havoc with growing potential of grass).

It’s at this stage that the value of correct insurance cover can come into its own.

  • The value of the Livestock on farm will be at its highest, post-lambing and the sums insured should reflect this
  • There will be more frequent journeys, moving sheep to different pastures. This is sometimes by float but can be on foot and if this involves the crossing of a main road having extra people on either side to warn oncoming cars is essential.
  • Theft of ewes and lambs does happen and farmers should be aware of the risks and try to mitigate any exposure they may have. Likewise the loss of lambs by vermin and by worrying can occur. While many farmers do not claim on insurance for an individual loss, if these incidents are on a larger scale, a discussion with your insurance broker can often put minds at ease.
  • By the end of the lambing season, exhaustion has set in and this can lead to more on-farm accidents, both by the farmer and seasonal staff. Ensuring that the farm’s liability insurance is up to date and that any temporary staff have the correct level of training to operate machinery and implements, including quad bikes is essential.
  • Extra staff often mean extra accommodation and extra wages at a time where money can be scarce. It is important that the right level of support is there for the farmers at this busy time.

Jean Arnott-Glennie from our Farm & Estates Team took time off from insurance last month to help with the lambing at the family farm in Aberdeenshire.

We hope that this is useful and as always, should you wish further advice on anything within our Farming Insights or insurance matters please do not hesitate to contact us on [email protected].