Every lambing year brings something different. One year, I faced toxoplasmosis which resulted in weak, feeble lambs. Another year I met Schmallenberg and had to deal with deformed and dying lambs. Last year we had a myriad of mal-presentations, so much so that I gave up counting but reckon that of the 40 ewes in the barn, only 5 or 6 lambed normally. I put this down to the fact that I had to keep the ewes in the barn during and between the 2 snow storms which meant not enough exercise and natural movement during the final stages of pregnancy. But who knows? It might have been some other reason entirely but it is rather satisfying blaming it all on the Beasts from the East.
But no matter what, there was always 3 particular sorts of lambs and this is a constant year on year:
The first is that lamb that arrives normally and all looks like it should be just fine. But it’s not. It has a look in its eyes that says “I don’t want to be on this planet”. And no matter what it has or what you do – a wonderful, caring nurturing, milky mum, heat lamps, colostrum, anti-biotics, spectam, kick-start, warming boxes – you name it, but that little lamb will still just slip away. Not meant to be.
The second is the exact opposite. This lamb might have had a really bad time coming into the world – mal-presented and needed lambing ropes and all manner of human intervention. Its mum probably then rejected it – usually butting and kicking it viciously for no apparent reason. Once rescued from the infuriated ewe, the lamb ought to give up but it has a look in its eyes that says “nothing is going to stop me from living”. And it does. Against all odds, it grows up into a stonking great healthy sheep. Just meant to be.
And then there is the third type of lamb – outwardly like any other but there is just something special about the little creature and it wins your heart. It might be the way it holds it head as it nods off to sleep or waggles its tail as it feeds. Often its allure is intangible but it’s the lamb that I imagine in my mind’s eye when after a full night of exhausting lambing, I am finally in bed at 5.30 in the morning and trying to get a couple of hours sleep before it all kicks off again the next day.