This weekend, spring has most definitely sprung, and what better proof than newborn lambs? Each year around the UK, lambing events take place and we headed along to a local one to see some baby lambs taking their first tentative steps in the world.
We headed over to Reaseheath College, an agricultural college in Nantwich, Cheshire where barns and polytunnels were filled with pregnant ewes ready to drop; lambs less than an hour old with their mothers; and nursing and sleeping lambs with siblings and mothers.
Sheep normally have two lambs, although some will have triplets and others will just have one lamb. Sadly there are always those who don’t make it through – both lambs who are stillborn and mothers who die in labour. It isn’t always the end of the line though as these mothers can become foster ewes for orphan lambs. Lambs without mums can be bottle fed and kept warm with heat lamps and the companionship and shared body heat from other orphans.
Reaseheath held their first lambing weekend on 1st and 2nd March and this weekend, 8th and 9th, brought the event to a close. Over the week-long period, the college was expecting around 60 lambs a day to be born, so the chance to see new lambs being born was very high. We got some fantastic photos of lambs only a few minutes old, still shaky on their legs and bemused by kids and adults staring at them with a range of cameras trained on them.
The main barn was a hive of activity. Some pens were set up for ewes that had gone into labour so people could see the lambing taking place. Three pens had ewes with their newborn lambs in; one with two and the other two with three. The remaining pens were empty but the swollen bellies of the ewes in the barn told that they wouldn’t be empty for long! Some ewes were starting to lie down and were beginning to lick their lips; signs that they were anticipating the births when they’d be licking the birth fluid off their babies.
One of the cutest sights is the tiny lambs having their first drinks of milk. This is really important because it contains colostrum; milk with more protein than normal and which gives newborns a dose of antibodies to help them fight off diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea. When they feed, the lambs waggle their tails, which are quite long to begin with, and it’s believed to be a sign of happiness.
Most lambs are docked between 12hrs and 6 weeks of age by the placement of a rubber band around the tail. This cuts off the blood circulation and the tail will drop off once it ‘dies’. Docking is carried out to prevent fly strike in lambs and sheep, especially in flocks where it’s not practical to carry out daily checks on each animal individually.
There were some very cute little characters and it was great seeing how many families went along to enjoy the seasonal lambing event. Here are our three favourite lambs of the day: