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Preparing the lambing barn

Enough rain already, please stop now! After the floods last week, the trauma to the girls, and the fact that it is STILL raining, we have decided to bring the girls into the barn early. Ideally, the first group of 50 would have stayed out for another week, possibly even two.

Ideally, the second group would come in another three weeks after that. Ideally, the youngsters and “odds and sods” not lambing this year would not come in at all. But that’s in an ideal winter, and this one could hardly be farther from that. We lambed through Beast from the East two years ago which was memorable for all the wrong reasons, but apart from that block, the rest of that winter had been pretty normal. Typical amount of rain, a bit of snow, a couple of dry weeks. But this winter it seems to have started raining around the end of October and hasn’t stopped since. Literally, I don’t recall a single day in the last four months that it hasn’t been raining. The grass has all gone, the fields turned to mud. Our main gateway resembles scenes from Glastonbury, that squelchy liquid form of mud that you struggle to maintain your footing in, made particularly challenging when carrying a feed bucket and being mobbed by an overly-friendly gaggle of a hundred animals each weighing more than you do.

Anyway, I digress. We’ve decided to bring them in early, and all at once. I hadn’t planned on housing so many in a single sitting, so we’ll have to juggle things around. The area planned for bonding pens will now be a standard pen. The fodder storage corner will now be bonding pens, and the fodder will just have to go down the central gangway. No doubt it will be forever in the way but hey-ho, needs must!

The whole team pull their weight today. When not lambing, we store most of our kit in the barn and, with that amount of space, plenty of bits appear and are just tucked away. The central gangway has been the cricket pitch for the last three months ever since the youngest pulled all his savings together and bought a bowling machine. Amusingly, as we start to clear the kit away, a number of his cricket balls reappear from the oddest of places so he’s delighted to once again have a full complement of balls.

I’ve never quite worked out on days like today how Phil always manages to bag the big machines and sit comfortably in a cab while I wield the pitchfork and do all the heavy work manually. Note to self …. Become super-proficient with the big machine throughout this year so next time we come to clear the pens, I can bag the comfort of the cab 🙂

By the end of today, we are almost ready!!! Exciting!!! Everything has been found a new home, the steelwork has come back in and been bolted into place. Each pen has had a layer of lime which helps to neutralise the urine and ward off bacteria, followed by a thick layer of pine shavings which are very absorbent and create a lovely base. One year, we only used shavings but can you imagine what happens when a new lamb emerges, wet and slimy, onto a lovely bed of clean fresh shavings? Suffice to say that that is the year that I started using all the dog towels, stuffing them under the new lambs as they hit the ground before they touched the clean shavings and turned into something resembling a yeti. The poor mums, cleaning off their newborns and getting a mouthful of shavings!

Our good friend and near-neighbour Nick has delivered a super-sized bale of straw. This was due to arrive in the week ready for all this prep work next weekend, but this is just one area where farmers are amazing and drop everything to help out a neighbour. Understanding our desire to pull forward the job, he appeared late in the day bearing the goodies and one bale is now sat on the shavings ready to create a lovely deep topping. I haven’t the energy to spread this tonight, tomorrow morning will be fine. They’ll need a deep layer to help them dry out - it will take some of them with the thickest coats around 3 to 4 days to get properly dry. It’s always best to bring sheep in dry as they can get pneumonia if they come in wet, so we’ll be careful to put in deep straw and keep as much ventilation as possible.

We’ve had a camera running for much of the day, so you can watch our preparations this weekend on our YouTube video here…

Can’t wait for tomorrow, getting the girls in!

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Preparing the lambing barn