Monday, 5 February 2007

First lambing Oh My!!!!!!!

In February 1995 we were preparing for the first lambs, I am not sure if I have mentionned this before but we were not farmers before moving to France so this was a whole new experience and pretty scary. I had read the book from cover to cover and we had bought another one which went into a lot more detail about lambing including some fairly gory photos of when things went wrong Yeuk!!!

The OH was in England on business and also doing a half day course at an Agricultural College on Lambing. He was due to return to France a couple of days before the first ewe was due to lamb. At that time we had decided to lamb outside just bringing the ewe and lamb in for a couple of days for "bonding", i.e. ensuring that the ewe and lamb recognised each other.

I was keeping a fairly close eye on the ewes even though they were not due for a week, the OH was set to return the next day with his newly learnt lambing knowledge. Taking a stroll amongst the ewes it was apparent that one of them had STARTED!!!!!!!!
Panic is an understatement. I went and phoned the OH, he told me to calm down everything would be fine, well it was alright for him he was in England and I was literally left holding the baby/lamb. I read the book again and it basically said not to panic either, the process of lambing can take several hours and it was best to leave the ewe alone and let her get on with it at her own pace. So I left her alone but obviously kept an eye on her, after several hours and several more phone calls to England I decided that I had to have a closer look to see if anything was happening. I managed to coax her into a small building and then I got the lubricating gel as I had to have a feel inside, I won't go into too much detail at this point. Luckily for me this ewe was being very well behaved she stood quietly while I did a quick feel.


It was a head only presentation, the lamb cannot be born like this, the head has to be pushed back into the uterus , then you have to find the front legs in order to deliver the lamb. On my own and as a complete novice this was beyond me. I rushed back indoors and phoned the farmer that we had bought the ewes from, explained as best I could the problem and not for the only time he dropped what he was doing and came straight over.

Unfortunately for the lamb it was too late, the ewe had been trying for too long,and the cord had come away so by the time the farmer delivered the poor little thing it was DEAD. The good news was that she had twins and he delivered the second lamb and it was fine. He checked that the ewe and lamb were okay then he left me to it.

I went indoors and burst into tears our first lamb and because of my ignorance it was dead. I then had a large glass of home made Cherry brandy before phoning the OH with the news.

It was not a good start but I consoled myself with the idea that things could only get better. We named the ewe Number One not very original I know but it just seemed right for her to be acknowledged in that way.

I had started learning the hard way that in looking after sheep you have to be able to cope with not always being able to save them and even when you do everything right there will be losses and if you can't accept that then you might aswell quit straight away.

I didn't quit then and I hope you will follow my progress from complete ignorance to a certain degree of competance. It took me ELEVEN YEARS but I am condensing it to one year. I could talk about my sheep non-stop but do realize that not everyone finds them quite so fascinating.
The photo was taken recently and is Number One confirming her position including bossing the Sheep dog Mist [more about her later]. Number One has been retired from lambing for the past few years and spends her days recounting past glories to the younger ewes. We have a very close relationship and have a little chat most days, she has never blamed me for the loss of her first lamb,but when she got the opportunity she bit the Farmer who had delivered it!!!!! I think he was more surprised than I was. Over the nine years that she lambed she had 4 lots of twins 4 lots of triplets and one set of QUADS!!!. And thanks to both our hard work they all survived apart from the first one. 24 lambs over 9 years I think she deserves her retirement. I shall write about some of the other ewes who are equally amazing in other posts.


Caroline said...

I can't begin to imagine how you must have felt being alone and experiencing your first dead lamb. This is such a good read. Your adventure is fascinating.


Ms Melancholy said...

I think I might have felt quite panicked too. Such a responsibility. I am loving these stories x

liz fenwick said...

I think I would have consumed the whole bottle of cherry brandy!!!

JJ said...

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit here - still I've confessed other things on my own blog - but James Herriot is my favourite, FAVOURITE writer. He makes me laugh out loud and it's a special combination of content and the way you tell 'em. I love your stories; there is something unbelievably special about witnessing these things. Herriot talked about never failing to be amazed at the births he witnessed and aided, despite being a vet for DECADES. Wonderful.