Our first lambing
Before finally finding the farm and moving here in autumn 2017 we had spent several years searching and using evenings and weekends to acquire knowledge and gain skills that we would need. This included several evenings spent lambing at the local agricultural college and a whole 24 hour lambing shift at Kate Humble's farm in Wales as well as general sheep handling and management courses at both places.
We initially bought six sheep (three ewes that had lambed once before and three shearlings that would be lambing for the first time) from a prize-winning flock in Scotland. The arrangement was that they would be run with a tup (ram) so that when we collected them in mid-December they should all be in-lamb.
After a period of quarantine in the lambing shed which allowed us to get the fencing finished they went out in the field in early January, just in time for some snow! But despite heavier snowfalls during the "Beast from the East" and having to dig out snow drifts to get to the field our little flock was doing well. As the 9th of April (our anticipated date for the start of lambing) approached reality started to hit that we would be lambing by ourselves for the first time very soon.
Following an Easter shearing course away from the farm the ewes were brought in to the lambing shed so that we would be able to keep a close eye on them in the final weeks of pregnancy. Although the sheep and their lambs are hardy enough to get on with things outside in all weathers lambing in the shed meant that we would be sheltered from wind and rain, have good lighting and all our equipment easily to hand, and be able to get across to the house for sleep and sustenance when needed.
Our friendliest shearling, Hildegard, surprised us by lambing three days earlier than anticipated. Luckily we had been alerted that they may be early by the people we bought them from as theirs had also lambed ahead of time. So everything was ready - mothering up pens set up, essential lambing supplies waiting by the door, sleeping bag looked out.
We took it in turns to do the night shift, tucked into a sleeping bag on one of the reclining patio chairs with an alarm set for every 2 hours through the night. Whoever did nights went to bed from around 6am until lunchtime while the other of us took over and did the daytime checks, grabbing a nap in the afternoon as they would then carry on to do that night. Hildegard's tup lamb (named Attenborough) was quickly followed by three more tups and five ewe lambs over the weekend and by the evening of the 9th they had all delivered.
Luckily we had relatively few problems, as would be expected with this breed. One of the first-timer shearlings was struggling to deliver her lamb one lunchtime and after resisting the urge to dive in and intervene we had to check once it was clear she wasn't progressing. But the stuff we had learned on lambing courses worked and we could identify that the lamb had one of its front legs back and wedged in mum's pelvis. What the courses hadn't prepared us for was how much less room there is to manoeuvre inside a Hebridean than a bigger commercial mule. Sorting the leg back was proving difficult and we rang the vet for help. As things turned out we managed to get the leg into the correct position by the time the vet rang back and Hadrea delivered another tup lamb (named Aragorn).
One ewe developed mastitis and needed antibiotic and anti-inflammatory injections for a few days, but her twin lambs seemed to still get plenty of milk as they weren't interested in powdered milk top ups.
By the end of the week the first ewes were ready to go out into the field with their lambs.
They were followed a few days later by the later two sets of twins that needed some more time to put on a bit of weight.