Home » Country diary: I’m up with the sun, to check on the lambs and yows – The Guardian

Country diary: I’m up with the sun, to check on the lambs and yows – The Guardian

by Arifa Rana

Tebay, Cumbria: Some are bouncing around already, some less so. I will only intervene if there is something wrong
Today is the first official day of lambing and I have three weeks off from my day job to fully concentrate on it. The alarm goes off and I roll out of bed and into some work clothes, rattling the ash out of the range cooker as I go past so that the kitchen will be warm when I return, past the sleeping dogs and out into the sunrise. The first check of the day is done quietly, just me on foot with my shepherd’s crook.
The sheep have been put into four big fields for lambing; two have sheep expecting twins and two have sheep expecting singles. It is quite cold and there are three sets of fresh steaming twins in the first field that I go into. The yows have everything under control, so I do not intervene. I stand and watch from a distance as they clean their newborns and welcome them to the world. My job is to help if there is difficulty – if a yow is struggling to give birth, or if a lamb is unable to feed.
I will go back later in the morning to check that all the lambs are full of warm milk. I will be able to see by the shape of their tummies if they have fed well. Meanwhile, I press on to see if there are any new single lambs in the furthest field. It is about half a mile away, a flat meadow on the banks of the River Lune. The river curls around the meadow and there is a gentle mist rising from it into the valley. Two pairs of oystercatchers are sitting in the field between the sheep.
One new lamb is bouncing around already. He runs over to see me, and his mother calls him back. She is a young sheep and this is her first lamb. She wants to keep a close eye on him, so I walk past and leave them to it. At the far end of the meadow I see a sheep stood over what looks like a dead lamb. It is not moving.
The yow is an older one who trusts me and does not mind as I lean over and pick up the lamb. I’m about to check his airway – but no need, he splutters into life. I put the lamb back on the ground and step away. He shakes his head and ears, and I know they will be fine from this point. As I stand and watch, a conversation strikes up. The yow bleats a low muttering sound, then pauses while the lamb replies.
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