Lambs, trees, lambs and more lambs...
Emma Heseltine - 21 March 2012
Lambing is due to start this week at Houghton and sure enough, Monday night one of our girls is early. I’ve been sent to bring the sheep up to the field just by the house so that we can keep an eye on them easily; I’m doing this by jiggling a bucket of wheat. They all obligingly follow except one which I can see a small woolly blob orbiting. I call Susan and we find the Ewe has had her lambs and one is fine, buzzing about full of beans but one is lying down but is looking about. We get them up to the pens and have a go at reviving the weak lamb with a heat lamp and some TLC but it seems it is too far gone and unfortunately it doesn’t make it. Early the next morning I’m greeted by the news that Susan has just delivered a mal-presented lamb and its fine, I’m on my way to Willowford so go round to the pens to have a look, it's fine and completely black although I’m told it probably wont stay that way. Then right in front of my eyes the Ewe has another lamb, somewhat surprised I give her a little hand and soon the second lamb is up and looking about like its twin. What a great way to start the morning
At Willowford we are planting trees. The new woodland areas are all fenced off now and volunteers have been at the weekend and have planted most of the 650 trees in the two bank sides. We have about 50 of the bulk trees Willow, Blackthorn and Oak and about 50 special trees like Rowan, Damson, Wild Cherry, Scots Pine and Juniper. We roam up and down the bank digging and planting each tree with a stake and plastic tube to protect it. I feel I am getting lots of Karma points planting all these trees; it will be a mighty mighty forest someday.
When I get home there has been twins, a single and, unfortunately, dead triplets. More excitement awaits no doubt.
On night patrol at Houghton we are not expecting anymore little surprises, but of course that’s when they come. Philippa (who is a vet student who has come to help out) and I are walking round the front field and suddenly the torch catches two small shapes, twins! It looks like the Ewe has got it all under control so we just scoop up the lambs and lead the Ewe back to the pens. One of the lambs is extremely vocal about its opinion on being scooped up by a human in the middle of the night when it has just been born. We get them in the pen and the lamb continues to complain bitterly at full volume for about 20 minutes. There is nothing wrong with that lamb, especially not with its lungs.
Its 6.30am on Saturday and I get woken by the phone, it's Susan; there are triplets being born, do I want to see? Of course I do, so I throw on some clothes and hurry out to look. The ewe is doing a fine job and as I arrive the third is just being born. Philippa comes to help me scoop them up to take to the pens. Sheep are not really set up for triplets, having only two teats, so we decide to tube number two and three to make sure they get some colostrum before number one scoffs it all. We milk mum and after Philippa does the first one I get to put into practice something I learnt last week, feeding a stomach tube into a lamb. It’s easier on a live lamb, they swallow the tube and would let you know if you got it down the wrong pipe. Soon all three are doing great, full of beans, or more accurately milk.
At the end of the first week we are a bit behind, 13 Ewe’s have lambed and we should have 19 by the end of Sunday. Only 35 to go…
Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.