I make no secret of the fact that spring is my favourite time of year here on the farm. After another wet and mild winter so typical of Cornwall, spring brings welcome sunshine, new growth and all the promise of long summer days to follow. The Lambing season at Coombe Mill is deliberately drawn out in order to increase the chance of a birth while our spring holiday makers are here. We ration Rambo our Ram to one new lady a week. This way we spin the lambing season out over March, April and early May.
Each year we eagerly await the first arrival and take nothing for granted in nature. We had a note of when the first was due and moved all the sheep across the road into secure lambing fields in preparation. Then we waited, and waited. Right on the end of the three week window our first Ewe delivered healthy twins.
We breathed a sigh of relief, Rambo had done his job and the lambing season was underway. That was mid March. Since then we have had a steady stream of healthy births, some twins and some singletons, but all healthy.
Oh Dear Ebony!
The only ewe to give us trouble was Ebony. She was our abandoned lamb of 2 years ago and had to be hand raised by us. Those sheep must instil something in their young that as humans we just can’t replicate as when Ebony gave birth to beautiful healthy twins she walked off and left them. Thankfully for the twins it all happened during the morning feed run. Farmer Nick spotted Ebony down for breakfast with the other Ewes, her behind giving away that she had just delivered. Nick assumed she would eat and return to her newborn. However she finished eating and wandered off to graze. By the end of the feed run she was still alone so we searched the field for her lambs, brought them and Ebony indoors into the stock trailer to bond whilst Nick worked on a make shift pen in the shed. Before he had even finished it was clear things were not going well.
When the twins tried to feed from Ebony she head butted or kicked them away, I now feared for their safety. It was clear Nick was going to need to make a double pen and in super quick time as we held the lambs. Thankfully with odds of wood and plenty of tools and straw in the shed we soon had the pens ready with the lambs in one side and Ebony in the other.
The next job was to express some milk for the twins as they still had had nothing since their birth. Ebony may not have been a natural mother, but she is a very gentle ewe and it was relativity easy to milk her which was just as well as we had nothing else to feed the lambs with at that point. Even the guests volunteered for a go after the first few feeds.
We rigged up a heat lamp for the first night for the lambs and left them in peace. Over the next couple of days we began bottle feeding the lambs with lamb milk formula as Ebony was drying up and looking unwell.
We gave Ebony a couple of “miracle” sheep jabs but she deteriorated fast. Nick diagnosed depression and said we should let her back out into the field and see what happens. He was quite right, being kept in didn’t agree with her and while she refused to stand in the shed she bounced back to life in the field with the other sheep.
The lambs thrived and we decided they needed names. Jack and Jill was the most popular vote from some wonderful facebook suggestions.
Jack and Jill became the highlight of the feed run each day for the following weeks progressing from the shed to the nursery field with their own field shelter. We had originally planned to keep all the new mothers and lambs in here for their first week of life however Jack and Jill now needed the smaller enclosed field so the older lambs and Mums were forced to move back out. Thankfully this has worked out giving everyone more space this lambing season and as yet no losses to foxes unlike last year.
Jack and Jill will remain in the hearts of all who stay this spring just as Rocky and Sprout the goats did last year. We always do all that we can to bond mothers with their newborns, but sometimes nature has different ideas. Thankfully we are on hand to step in with cuddles and bottles.
“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.
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