If you visit Rutland at this time of year, you’ll find fields full of tiny lambs and the air full of plaintive bleats. We don’t seem to do cows, either dairy or beef, or pigs… just sheep by the tens of thousands.
Most sheep lamb indoors, where the shepherd (yes, we still call them that), can help if need be. My nearest farm lambs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the end of February to the end of March.
Some sheep are obviously great mothers, and when the shepherd picks up their lamb (usually, ideally, twins) by the front legs and walks off to the nursery pens, the mother follows quickly after. Other ewes are useless and barely seem to know they’ve ‘dropped’, so the shepherd has to impersonate the lambs’ bleating and retreats, baa-ing all the way, coaxing the new mum to follow.
After a couple of days, they’re moved out to pasture, regardless of the weather. It’s astonishing how quickly the lambs start to nibble, as well as suck, and leap about as soon as the sun comes out. But right now, it’s early days, with frosty mornings, and keen winds, and I feel so sorry for the little things out in the big wide world for the first time.
But the noise! What surprised me most after moving to Rutland, was to discover that sheep keep going all night – eating and bleating throughout. As I walked through the village last night about 9.30pm the air was full of baas and bleats from lambs and their mothers. It was deafening!