Today we went lambing. I’ve wanted to do this for years but we’ve never managed to get to the local agricultural college in time to join in. Last weekend, I spotted a sign advertising lambing and immediately booked two tickets!

A week of impatiently waiting and today was finally the day. We arrived a little later than planned as we had an emergency trip to the vet with one of our cats who had managed to rip off one of his claws. Honestly, I am surrounded by idiotic animals! We dosed up the cat on antibiotics and left him to recover. Jumping into the car, we wondered what to expect. Would we be in the pens? Would we get to hold a newborn lamb? It was all so exciting!

When we arrived, we saw the college lambing units were heaving with excited people. Eagerly, we walked around and stopped by the cow sheds to say hello to the girls. The college had a wonderful herd of Friesians and a top of the range robotic milking shed – it made me think of my friend from university who runs his family’s diary farm. Their milking parlour is a top of the range one with all the bells and whistles but the college one was on another level. Personally, I think I prefer my friend’s one as you still have to engage with the cows and see them up close.

We moved on, following the crowd around to the lambing unit. There were three massive barns, each split into different sections according to the type of pregnancy (single, twin, triplet) or the age of the foster lambs. The first barn we went into had ewes expecting single lambs or triplets. The ewes expecting triplets looked like they were going to explode! Their stomachs were so swollen! We watched them for a while, carefully looking out for signs of labour. Apparently, there are three distinct phases of a ewe’s labour. We saw some evidence of stage one, restlessness and nesting but nothing much else.

Next we walked across to the smallest barn and were delighted to find two pens of fostered lambs. These lambs may have been rejected by their mothers or had been unwell at birth. To keep them from being lonely, all fostered lambs are kept together, forming their own little family. It’s not ideal to have to remove a lamb from the ewe, not only because of the amount of work involved in caring for a newborn lamb, but they miss the emotional connection to their mother. The foster lambs are regularly bottle fed and they all know exactly when feeding time is!

Later, we made our way across to the last barn where all of the ewes were expecting twins. Slowly, we inched forward to get a better view. We spotted three ewes who had recently delivered their lambs. Extremely wobbly and all leggy, they tottered after their mothers. Quite how they stand and walk so quickly after being born is beyond me. It takes us almost a year to work out how to make two legs work – imagine how long it would take us to work out four!

At the back of the pen, I spotted a ewe baaing loudly. She seemed very restless and kept sitting down and standing up. After a few minutes, we spotted her waters going. Something was happening! Fifteen minutes later, we could see a hoof. But as we watched and wondered, several staff appeared to check on her. Lots of discussions were held and eventually, they decided to intervene. Two of the staff herded the other sheep away and the third managed to catch the ewe. He gently brought the ewe down to the ground and armed with a very long-sleeved medical glove, managed to carefully manipulate the lamb into the correct birthing position (both front legs and head facing forward). It seemed that the lamb had one front leg further back and this was causing problems for the ewe. Mere seconds after adjusting the lamb’s position, it had been delivered. It looked like a large lamb with a distinct yellow colouring. According to the staff this is due to stress but it will quickly turn back to white as the ewe cleans it.

The second lamb took much longer to arrive. Whilst I don’t want to be too graphic, it seemed to take some rummaging for the staff member to find and adjust the lambs position within the ewe. Eventually, a small head appeared, quickly followed by the rest of the lamb. Interestingly, this lamb was entirely white which showed it wasn’t as stressed as the first lamb. The second lamb was quite a bit smaller than the first and took a little longer to stand. Both were able to stand within 10 minutes of being born although they were incredibly wobbly! Leaving mum to bond with her babies, we spoke to the staff member who delivered the lambs, asking what the ewe had had. One girl and one boy! We spent several more minutes watching the little family together. By this time, we were starting to get a little chilly so reluctantly, we left them and went to find some food.

Before we left, we went over to an area where you could hold a lamb and have a photo taken. The lamb was a week old and quite possibly the most adorable thing I have ever seen. As you are not allowed to pet or touch the lambs in the maternity unit, it was our only opportunity to handle a lamb. The queue took ages but it was worth it to hold the lamb! I was very reluctant to give it back and my husband, recognising the danger signs, dragged me away before I could stash the lamb under my coat!

There’s something so special about spring and the new life that appears. Maybe it’s because this winter had been so dark, wet and cold but watching the newborn lambs frolicking in their pens was absolutely magical. I’ve wanted a small holding for several years and identified all the different animals I want to keep (Dexter cows, Tamworth pigs, chickens of all types and a donkey!) but I’d never really considered sheep. After today, I have definitely added them to my dream small holding!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: