From my kitchen window I look out on a lovely pastoral scene. The sheep have been brought down to the orchard to allow the grass to grow in the fields above. That land will be let in the summer for grazing. My landlord is a retired farmer now and he just keeps small flocks of sheep to keep the grass down.
This was a dairy farm until the TB outbreak of 2002. After that my landlord gave up and retired.
Obviously there are conflicts with having Badgers on the land and a history of bovine TB and it is better if the Badgers keep a low profile but the 2002 outbreak had nothing to do with Badgers.
In 2001 there was a major foot and mouth outbreak in the UK. Movement of animals was stopped and hundreds of thousands of animals were destroyed. When the panic was over the government relaxed testing of imported animals to allow British farmers to restock. They stopped testing imports for bTB, Hundreds of thousands of untested animals were brought into the country and the following year there was a TB outbreak. No Badgers were involved but mud sticks.
This isn’t going to be another post about Badgers though, this is going to be a post about Lambs tails. My next post on this blog is going to be about the flowers and catkins of the Hazel tree and before I write that I thought it was important to establish my credentials. so Lambs tails.
It all started on March the 6th.
In a small flock of twelve black faced cross breeds we knew that three of them were carrying lambs. They were brought down to the orchard and cared for and soon we had newborn lambs.
The three ewes produced five lambs and they were a lively and noisy bunch.
Everything was good in the world and it felt like springtime.
On the fourteenth I was going down to pick up Fizz for a walk when my landlord stopped me and asked for my help with something.
Unexpectedly a fourth ewe had a lamb and it was a weakling. Half the size that it should have been, it couldn’t stand and it couldn’t feed.
I held the lamb upright in my arms while he forced a tube down it’s throat and we fed it. When I gave it back to it’s mother it was able to stand for a while.
But the farmer wasn’t going to sugar coat things for me. The lamb didn’t stand a chance. That is just the way it happens some times and there was nothing that we could do about it. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day, we decided that it was best to let it die quietly in the sun with it’s mother, it wasn’t in pain.
We went out to see it that evening, it was lying on the grass on it’s own.
It had got out of the orchard and so the farmer asked me to pick it up and put it back in the orchard with it’s mum and he would clear it up in the morning.
When I picked the little animal up it’s body was stiff and rigid and I knew that I was carrying a dead animal.
That evening the lamb’s mother made a heck of a noise. They normally go quiet when it gets dark but I could hear her bleating for hours. I thought that she was keening for her loss but she wasn’t.
She would not give up. She was calling her lamb, forcing it to get up and come to her and she kept it up, she kept the lamb moving.
The next morning I took Fizz off to the forest. I didn’t bother looking for the lamb, I had no doubt at all that it couldn’t have survived and I just told myself that everything must happen for a reason, I just couldn’t see what that reason was.
When we got back that evening they were there, the pair of them and the lamb was feeding. I couldn’t believe it, I rang the farmer and told him but he wouldn’t believe me.
“I am taking it’s bloomin’ photograph! It’s alive,” I said.
I had to go and get him and he had to touch it before he would believe it.
Even then he would only give little lamb a few days at most but the lamb survived.
I like to think that I had a hand in that animals’s survival, that first feed must have been crucial but really it owes it’s life to it’s mother and her absolute determination that it should live and her refusal to quit.
Two months on and it is a healthy little lamb, still only half the size of the other lambs but it chases around the field with them.
A good mum.
So now you understand that I know a little bit about Lambs Tails and I feel qualified to write my next post.