An idiot's guide to lambing
Country Smallholding|April 2020
Newish sheep-keeper Mike Fry reveals what the textbooks don’t tell you when it comes to welcoming little woolly bundles into your smallholding life
Mike Fry

If you know plenty about sheep then I suggest that you skip over the next two pages as you won’t learn anything new and, indeed, you might be alarmed that at least one of your fellow readers once knew so little about your specialist subject. However, if you know very little about sheep, do please read on. And if you currently know very little about sheep and are embarking on lambing very shortly then switch off the TV now, stop looking at your phone and concentrate on the next couple of pages…

To be honest, my first idea was to start breeding alpacas, but then I heard that sheep were much simpler to begin with so my attention shifted to our four newly acquired Ryeland ewes. When I was told that the breed was known for being comparatively uncomplicated on the breeding front, my mind was made up.

In autumn 2018 I arranged to hire a fine Ryeland ram called Zanadoo from local breeder Gail Dodd. In the meantime, I’d been reading everything I could lay my hands on about the whole lambing process and so, on the morning of Zanadoo’s arrival, I was ready to apply red dye (known as raddle) to his chest to enable me to know when each of my four girls had received his attentions. In fact, I recall being startled to see that within 10 minutes of his arriving two of my ewes were sporting red backsides. Clearly Zanadoo was getting down to work, but there was a momentary thought of “goodness girls, surely you could have played a bit harder to get”. Ewe No 3 succumbed to his charms two days later, with ewe No 4 holding out until day six.

It was then — I foolishly thought — a simple matter of counting the 147 days to gestation and clearing my work diary accordingly. In fact, I thought I was erring on the side of caution when I allowed 10 days either side of the anticipated six-day lambing period before work and normal life could resume.

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