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TheSheepSite Blog: A Look Back on Lambing

14 April 2016

Clare Smith discusses a successful 2016 lambing season on the Luscious Lamb farm.

Lambing is over. Phew. It ended this year with a dead lamb but we have not let that get us down. At least its finished now and that knot of nervousness in our stomachs is easing.

Now starts the real hard work of examining each udder on our daily checks to try and catch any mastitis cases early, and the treadmill of electric fence escapees, weighing lambs and vaccinating lambs on the ten different sites where we have ewes and lambs grazing.

Our lambing this year has been our best yet and so we want to do justice to the ewes and lambs and keep the lambs healthy. So after a long conversation with our vet we are going to treat the lambs against coccidiosis.

A couple of years ago we had a group of lambs get to the scouring point but the last two years we have not had this. We do however often get to a point with some groups where their weight gain just stops and in some cases goes backwards.

This results in us selling more store lambs than we would like by then end of the season and we are aiming this year to improve our proportion of fat lambs sold this year.

We have put this growth check down to coccidiosis and so will try to stay ahead of the game this year and treat at about 4-6 weeks old. Long enough for the lambs to have been exposed and develop their own immune response but not too late for them to succumb to it.

Clare and Rupert on the farm (Photo credit: Ben Pike Communications)

Each year after lambing we have a little meeting together. Our first question is always “Do we want to keep farming?” We have both seen farmers continue on farming because it is all they know but not seeming very happy.

We never want to get to that point and so we agreed at the beginning that each year we would give each other and opt out clause. We are yet to have this chat for 2016… I’ll update the result shortly!

The second thing we do is write up all of the problems we encountered at lambing and how we would do things differently.

We then forget all about lambing for a while to ease the pain but before Christmas we dig out the document and make sure that all the things we wrote down while fresh in our minds are going to be sorted before the next lambing.

2015 lambing saw us list out a few problems which made us think we had made lots of mistakes but actually most were linked to ewe nutrition.

This year we focused heavily on getting the ewe nutrition right (including going on an AHDB ewe nutrition course) and this has resolved many of the problems we saw last year.

Our watery mouth and joint ill was virtually zero as the colostrum quality was so much better and we have seen much fewer mastitis cases. We are still getting more mastitis cases than we would like but are not sure why. Some have been on ewes carrying single lambs with no real reason as to why they have got it.

With our NSA membership we get the Mordun updates and there has been a report on mastitis recently. We have put all the prevention strategies in place but we still seem to get cases. An area which requires more work I think.

We always get a few lambs which suffer with exposure and we follow the typical course… bring the lamb indoors (300 of our ewes lamb outdoors) and it goes under the heat lamp.

This year we trialled some lamb rugs from ICU Small Animal Rugs which are made by an Australian farmer. They are waterproof but also breathable and so the lambs don’t sweat like they do in the lamb macs.

The real genius though is that they have a pocket where you can insert a specially designed heat pad which warms the lamb over the kidneys, slowing down the speed at which the brown fat is burnt.

Some of Clare's lambs in their Small Animal Rugs

We used the rugs outdoors and indoors on either lambs which were small or born late in the day and we would normally use a lambmac and also on more serious cases when lambs would normally go under a heat lamp.

We found them really useful and some small vulnerable lambs wore their jackets for up to a week but it meant that they could stay outdoors in the fresh air with mum which was much less stressful than catching ewe and lamb to bring them into the shed to get the lamb under a heat lamp.

They obviously cost more than lamb macs and we were sceptical but they have got though this lambing being washed a few times and look like they have a good few years left yet and so far I think they are a good investment. The theory that the less energy spent keeping warm, the more energy goes in to getting strong and growing seems to work in reality too.

Our wedding came and went in the calm before the storm of lambing. The weather was terrible but we figured that was the great thing about a winter wedding, there was no expectation for sunshine!

The lamb rolls were a good alcohol soaker upper in the evening and we have one friend who managed to eat three whole rolls so took this as positive feedback and that our lamb must taste OK!

The lamb rolls featured at Clare's wedding


Luscious Lamb Blog

Luscious Lamb

Luscious Lamb started farming in 2012, buying their first 150 Lleyn ewe lambs and securing their first grazing licence. They now farm 400 Lleyn ewes in a share farming agreement with a local landowner and graze across 21 sites, from river meadow and common land, to pony paddocks and polo pitches.