Last week, we were in the depths of drifting snow and blizzards. This week, the air is still cold but the clocks have gone forward and there is some blue sky and watery sunshine. Surely spring is round the corner now.
After 10 days with our buildings jam packed with sheep and lambs while the snow fell and the winds blew, suddenly there is light at the end of the tunnel. Easter Sunday saw an improvement in the weather and a big push at the Paterson household to get the sheep and lambs outside.
At a couple of days old, and while their neurological systems are too immature to convey pain messages, a band is put on their tails to remove most of the tail. This is essential to keep their bottoms clean in the summer when flies and maggots can be a real danger. The males are castrated so that they can continue to run with their female siblings as they get older.
We like to keep them in for a couple of days to make sure that the ewe has sufficient milk and to ensure that they ewe and lamb form a close bond but this year they have had to stay in longer than anticipated because the weather has been so bad. There is always the concern that infection may accumulate while lambs are kept in. Maintaining sufficient air circulation in a building when lots of ewes and lambs are housed is always a problem. We have had to ensure that they have had lots of fresh bedding several times a day to minimise the risk.
The last job before turning them out was to number lambs to make sure that we can keep track of which lamb belongs to which ewe. This is obviously very important if they were to get separated in the next few days. Because all our sheep are pedigree, it is also important that we can register each lamb knowing its parentage. When the lambs get larger, they will have an electronic tag fitted to their ear but for the time being, we spray numbers on their flanks and carefully record each number alongside the mother’s details.
Then we took them, one by one, out to the field to let them pair up. It is amazing to see the ewe and lamb calling to each other and then run towards each other and, although the grass is still pretty grey and lifeless, the sight of lambs springing around in the field as they get their first opportunity to run around can’t help but make you feel optimistic that winter is now behind us.