“Is there anything about farming you cannot stand?” I asked Robert, my new neighbour 12 years ago, sitting around his farm house kitchen table. I had just bought the farm next door and suddenly the reality of what I had rather rashly taken on was dawning on me. Robert clearly knew this but was too polite to mention anything about fools rushing in and angels fearing to tread. “I cannot tolerate a bad Mum,” he stated emphatically. To be honest, his answer didn’t mean much to me but now, with a dozen years of farming under my belt, I know exactly what he was saying.

Take Orchid – a huge Southdown ewe with lovely conformation which should suggest a successful lambing. Last year, I came down to the barn to find her standing over her perfectly formed lamb, absolutely beautiful – except for the fact that he was dead. Orchid hadn’t bothered to clean away the amniotic membrane around his face, so he suffocated. She ought to have known better but being an inexperienced first timer, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. This year I kept an eagle eye on her and was around when she lambed. I ensured that all went well this time but noticed to my sadness, Orchid showed absolutely no interest in her lamb. It was as if he didn’t exist and I was left with raising him as a milk lamb. Successful but that is not the idea.

Contrast this to Ginger, a lovely hen who regularly goes broody. Now Ginger is no spring chicken and, because of her advancing years, doesn’t lay much anymore. This means that hatching her own eggs is not an option but she will faithfully sit in a nest for 28 days during which time she patiently tries to hatch absolutely nothing under her. As far as I am concerned a good Mum does not go unrewarded and every year, I acquire a clutch of 1 day old chicks which I gently tuck under Ginger. And with that, her life is fulfilled. She immediately adopts them all and carefully raises them as only a great Mum can. Bravo Ginger!

So after all these years, I agree with Robert. When it comes to farming, mums the word!

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