It’s that time of the year again – lambs gambolling in the fields but this year between my cataracts and wonky wrist I am just not prepared. In addition, they are a week earlier than usual.
This is how it came about. Last year when I put the cat among the pigeons (i.e. the rams in with the ewes), fighting over the females ensued. The three rams – Taffy the Gramps who is around 13-15, Tally, his great-great etc grandson to the enth, who is rather beautiful and the new blood Tudor, who has magnificent curled horns and a silver topcoat over his black woolly underwear, vied for the favours of the 24 females.
I realised something was up when Taffy came running up to the fence, horns askew and blood dripping down his black nose, bleating ‘Mam, Mam, they’re head-butting me!’ ‘Get away with you’ I replied ‘Are you a ram or a mouse?’ Off he went, dutifully, to try and get his leg over but I could see he had no luck as he limped disconsolately around the field trailing clouds of testosterone. Not that I was watching that closely (what do you take me for?) but the two others were strutting their stuff and running after the ewes like buffaloes, their necks outstretched and their noses twitching.
Now I love Taffy. He has been a lovely friendly ram. He comes up to have his ears scratched and pokes his nose through the wiring to have it rubbed. Even when a little lamb mistook his privates for teats, he didn’t butt her out of the way – he was probably enjoying the attention! Leaving rams in with the new-born is a bit of a risk because they are so hyped up they think the female is ready to mate again and don’t hesitate to knock a lamb out of the way fairly brutally. I lost a small lamb to an over-sexed ram called Brutus a few years back. Anyway, this year I decided to give Taffy his chance – perhaps his last as he is so old.
Taffy was put in with the ladies about mid –September and to be honest I didn’t really expect him to get up to much mischief but voila, I had six lambs this week. So the old boy is still able to do a good job. All the ladies are managing quite well, as this Balwen breed normally does, but I wasn’t prepared for one who dropped her lamb but not delivered the after-birth. If she doesn’t get rid of it she will get blood poisoning.
The vet, Ted and I manoeuvred the flock around to herd them into a pen, but gave up because the ewe preferred to follow the herd and abandon her lamb. Is herd instinct stronger than the maternal bond? Last year in the same situation my little Paschal was abandoned by his Mam who chose the herd over her heir. However, the herd didn’t choose to protect the sick mother when Reynard the Fox came by. The vet took off leaving me with a big needle, a phial of penicillin and some shoulder length plastic gloves, just in case.
There is a lesson there somewhere but it certainly disproves Eliot’s dictum – ‘April is the cruellest month’. February can be fatal too.