Spring animals on the farm are such a delight, I make no secret of the fact it is my favourite time of year here at Coombe Mill, yet I forget from one season to another the heart break that can come with it too. While our little star Rocky the goat is making amazing progress we have had much less luck in lambing. Last year I was rejoicing in our first ever year of not losing a single lamb or mother, just having to hand raise Ebony.
What a difference a year makes. We followed all the new procedures we put in place for 2014 with the same feed, supplements, and the same combination of field rotation and brought the ewes down to our most secure fields to lamb.
It turns out nature had different ideas. This was the first year we had one of our own young ram boys from 2 years ago service the ewes over the autumn. There is always a worry that he is perhaps not up to the job until the first lambs are born; I had my concerns right from the start when he met his first lady friend. Yet at the beginning of March the first lady gave birth overnight to twins. Sadly they were still born and looked to have been aborted. Nick always checks the farm in the early hours of the morning so that our guests never find anything distressing. We were encouraged that the Ram was in working order but sad to have lost our first lambs.
More than a week was to pass before the next lamb was due; this is expected as we like to stagger our lambing in order for as many guests as possible to be able to enjoy seeing a newborn. However Farmer Nick’s early morning rounds showed that while the next lamb had been born healthy it had been savaged within hours that same night by a badger. We couldn’t believe our misfortune. With deterrents in place for the badger we hoped it would be third time lucky. We were rewarded with triplets from the same mother to deliver them last year; two boys and a girl, named of course after our triplets Guy, Jed and Clio. They were all healthy if a little scrawny and all captured, tagged and placed with Mum in the nursery. Here they had a snug shelter, fresh grass and secure fencing that a badger couldn’t tunnel through.
They thrived on their first day all feeding perfectly from mother with no help needed from us. Nick made sure they were in their shelter before bedtime and had no reason to worry over night. Yet on his morning rounds the lambs were gone and Mum was bleating. No left tail or insides, no struggle evident, just three missing lambs and a dejected looking mother. After the morning feed run we scoured the field for any clues as to what could have happened. Eventually we found a trace of blood on the fence and a little on the pathway. Being so small something had dragged them through the fencing, all three of them, but what could it have been? We were speculating on the possibility of an otter, stoat or weasel; whatever it was had to be small to have made it into the field or strong and timely enough to have dragged three lambs through from the outside. To find out more Nick set up his night vision camera over the now empty field and places some cat biscuits just inside the fence to see if the perpetrator would return to the scene of the crime for second pickings and sure enough when we downloaded the recording the following morning, look who we saw sniffing around.
Now we had racked up 3 failed lambing attempts, 3 sad mothers and 6 lost lambs and no live ones on the farm, thank goodness for Rocky the goat entertaining the guests.
There followed four more tense days of checking and counting sheep each morning before one gave birth just as Nick was on his early rounds. We were hopeful that as it was already morning there would be no predators watching, apart from perhaps a lurking magpie waiting for a chance to peck out an eye, their favourite tipple! Mum and daughter were soon tagged, stamped and ringed with the guests on the feed run and this time moved into Peacock world where the rabbits had been housed over winter.
Nothing was going to be dragged through this fencing, there was a roof to ensure nothing could swoop in and the door was bolted so that only we could enter to feed Mum and change her water. It is not the space we would have liked for them but at least they were safe. Rocky was fascinated by the new arrival dancing up close to the enclosure then jumping back when the lamb moved.
It was then to be musical fields as within the week twins were born up in the main field. Our already strengthening lamb and Mum moved into the Nursery in the knowledge she was now far too big to fit through the fencing and newly born Solar and Eclipse, twin boys moved into Peacock world. No prizes for guessing when they were born in the cold and dark morning light, but by the time we had tagged and moved them it was warming up into a beautiful spring day.
It has been a long month already, nature can be so cruel, but I’m hopeful we are now on our way to a success for the rest of the lambing season. Mr fox and Master Badger it is time to look elsewhere for your next meal!
If you fancy seeing our new born lambs and goats we hope to have them arriving all through April and into early May. We still have some spaces and can accommodate short breaks at this time too so please do ask or visit our price and availability page.
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares the funny and interesting happenings on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. A behind the scenes look on balancing family, farming, the holiday business and cooking for all.