10 Things Every Shepherd Experiences at Lambing Time

6th February 2017

James Rhys Baylis James Rhys Baylis SolwayShepherd

Bearded Welshman shepherding Lleyns and Blackies in Scotland. Blogger and writer. Coffee fuelled contract shepherd.

Please note: the views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SellMyLivestock.

As a contract shepherd, lambing season is an especially busy time for me. Alongside working with our flocks here at home, I also take up residence in lambing sheds up and down the country to assist other farmers, stretching my lambing season to a looooong five months for 2017.

As lambing 2017 begins to pick up steam, I thought I’d put together a light-hearted list of things each and every shepherd from John O’Groats to Land’s End will be sure to encounter over the next few months.

1. The lack of sleep

Lambing, feeding, turning out, cleaning, bedding up, night time checks… there never seems to be enough hours in the day at lambing time! As a result, a good night’s sleep becomes something of a rarity. Power napping on the bales or grabbing a snooze in an empty pen are a must, otherwise you’ll find yourself face down in your dinner!

2. Your new best friend

For all the reasons outlined above, caffeine will become your new best friend. Whether it’s in the form of coffee, cola or a brightly coloured, e-number riddled energy drink, your intake will increase by at least 2000%. Personally, I’m looking at getting a drip fitted.

3. Your greatest foe

Iodine is an essential addition to every lambing box, but while it does a fantastic job of drying out and disinfecting lamb navels, it will destroy your hands. Learn from my mistakes and wear gloves, or you’ll find yourself with hands like Albus Dumbledore circa The Half Blood Prince.

4. It is ALWAYS too quiet

The lambing shed is quiet. Too quiet… You take your chance to grab some lunch, get a bucket of cake, check on the sheep out in the fields or use the toilet. You’re gone no longer than five minutes, but you return to absolute carnage. You’re up to your armpits in lambs and now need to work out who belongs where and get them all caught and penned up.

5. The warm, fuzzy feeling

With all these cute lambies running around, you will inevitably get that that lovely, warm feeling spreading across your body. Unfortunately, it’s usually because one of them has done a wee on you.

6. The reincarnation of Harry Houdini

History’s greatest magician is back. He may be a little smaller and woolier this time round, but he is just as adept at escaping. The tiny escapologist will be found bouncing around the lambing shed, bothering other expectant mothers or in an nearby pen trying to steal milk.

7. Praying to the weather Gods

Whoever your chosen deity, be it Carol Kirkwood, Tomasz Schafernaker or Michael Fish, you will find yourself building a small shrine complete with baler twine idol and kneeling before it in the hope they will bless you with a few hours of good weather to get those lambs out in the field.

8. Where’s the first aid kit?

Beaten black and blue by stubborn ewes, the odd broken bone, I’ve even seen a pet lamb bite clean through my girlfriend’s finger nail. We’ve had it all here over the last few years. You better get stocked up on those waterproof plasters.

9. e = mc2

I have always been truly terrible at Maths, but at lambing time I become the second coming of Archimedes. Mixing up some Colostrum, whisking up some Lamlac and working out the correct dose of Alamycin at the same time soon helps you brush up on your mental arithmetic. Watch out for me on a future episode of Mastermind; specialist subject? Milk replacer measurements.

10. What happens outside the shed, stays outside the shed.

You will become oblivious to the outside world as the lambing shed becomes your life. Theresa May securing a ‘soft Brexit’, Scotland winning the Six Nations, flying pigs… if it happens outside those four hallowed walls, it’s probably not that important.

Best of luck to every one lambing in the next few months. I’ll see you on the other side!

Favourite breeds: Lleyn, Hereford, Kunekune pigs

Further reading:

Is your child really ready to take over the farm?

Thinking about marrying a farmer?

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