My favourite time of year lambing , calving and new life everywhere. Spring in North Devon is simply stunning. The hedges and woodlands are just full of wild flowers and the bird song on the farm is incredible. When Dani and I first moved to Loxhore in Feb 2000 it was the bird song we noticed as soon as we got out of the car. We had come from rural Gloucestershire so we were used to peace and quiet and the sounds of the countryside but the birds here were just fantastic.
Lambing is a full on business and the whole family helps. For me it's18 hour days for several weeks grabbing a few hours sleep if you can when you can. I love it. Normally we time lambing for the start of the Easter holidays when the girls and Dani can help but this year we went a little earlier. Our first lambs were due 23rd March. We have the ewes scanned in January so we have a good idea who is having singles, twins,tripples or quads. The ewes will be fed accordingly so that they have enough energy to supply themselves and the growing lambs inside them. Its a delicate balance as ewes need enough energy to keep themselves going, keep the lambs going and start the production of milk for the lambs at birth. Ewes can, if not supplied with enough food, start to utilise their own body fat and energy reserves in order to keep their lambs alive, and eventually will go into a coma and die. Ewes in too good a condition and eating extra feed but only having a single lamb can over feed the growing lamb so it is too big at birth and difficult to lamb. With the constant rain and the snow the ewes need a lot of care, attention and feed to get them to lambing and for us scanning is a vital part of the ewe welfare.
The first few weeks were difficult as the sheds were filling with lambs and ewes that we could not put out immediately and we were running out of space. Just as we were getting totally full the weather broke and it started getting dry. There was no grass to speak of, but at least we could put some of the lambs out. All in all Lambing went very well and the lambs were healthy and full of vigour. Several of our older ewes had not enough milk to rear all their lambs so we have a lot of pets this year, which are a nightmare and I will never do so many again. We have a friend who has rearing pet lambs down to a fine art and Dani went to see how she does it but we have decided that selling them to her to rear next year is the sensible option. Pet lambs absorb so much time and are very expensive to rear. You need to have a slick operation to make it cost effective.
The weather has just got better and better as May has gone on and the grass is growing, the muck is on and lambing is over. Our farm is classed as part time so I have several other jobs. I have a small gardening business cutting the National Trust holiday cottage gardens around North Devon and I also do two morning milking sessions on a local farm.