Gardening Magazine


By David Marsden @anxiousgardener

I know that I’ve posted a lot of lamb photos over the years and quite recently too (see A Happy Ending), b .. b .. b .. but I had never witnessed the birth of a lamb.  I’ve seen dozens of newborn lambs (thanks to having a farming friend), but I’d never seen the actual flop-out moment.  Until, that is, the other day.  So, whilst I didn’t plan on posting yet more pictures of baby sheep, I thought you might like to see this moment of arrival.  (Besides, what on earth would I do with all these photos otherwise).  But a word of warning: you might want to put aside that sandwich  – some of these shots are a little bloody and raw.


On Good Friday, Margaret (who owns the farm above the Priory) texted:  “I’m down in sheep yard.  Do you want to see a lamb born?  If so HURRY! ”  I usually work on Bank Holidays (that’s self-employment for you) and, busily weeding, didn’t read her text immediately.  A couple of minutes later, I got another and fished out my phone:  “I can’t tell her to put a cork in it.  Are you coming?!!”  How could I not?  I dropped my hand-fork, ran to my car and, in one long seamless blur, raced up the hill to the farm.

Ewe lambing (1)

I arrived in time – the non-corked ewe was still struggling to deliver with just a pair of tiny hooves peeping out.  She didn’t seem distressed; perhaps because of the Chopin floating through the lambing-pens.  (Margaret plays classical music to her lambing ewes.  I’d like to think that you or I would too).

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But when Margaret noticed a bluish tongue sticking out too, she acted quickly before the lamb suffocated.

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Tying a lambing rope around the feet

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her glamorous assistant, Nick, began pulling.

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You might remember Nick: he lends me a hand with hedge cutting, runs his own gardening business and helps out on the farm too.  Versatile, useful, and all round clever dick is our Nick.

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With steady pressure

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the lamb slid out.

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Nick swung the new-born to clear fluid from its lungs – a rude awakening to life’s rich pleasures –

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whilst Margaret wiped her hands on a convenient fleece.

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The whopping great boy-lamb met his mother

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and, after Nick had cleared mouth and nostrils of membrane,

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she cleaned up.

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He was far bigger than older lambs in the surrounding pens and Margaret thought that he must be a single; a ewe with such a huge lamb couldn’t possibly be bearing twins.

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Before returning to work, I got in close (after carefully checking what I might be kneeling in)

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for these five,

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scenes of a ewe

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meeting her son.

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And then I took a sixth.

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Within 15 minutes the youngster was up on his feet

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but not for long.  Being born is rather tiring.  Whilst I coo-ed and ahh-ed, Margaret had an exploratory feel inside the ewe; just to check all was normal and … felt another hoof!  There was a twin after all.

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Less than half an hour after the first, a second head appeared – still encased within the amniotic sac.  (That lower, darker sac separates the lambs in the womb.  Just how much do you learn on this blog?).

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Margaret burst the waters,

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and had another feel.

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One of its legs was twisted and so once again … and very commonly … the ewe needed help.

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I winced.  It looked dead to me.

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And also very big.  Little wonder the mother had needed help.

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I grew uneasy, thinking, “when do I stop taking photographs of a dead lamb?”

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right up until the moment he took his first breath;

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and licked his lips.

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As Nick dragged the second lamb to his mother, blood smeared the face of the older one.

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Still fancy that sandwich?

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When Margaret met her husband to be, the first thing he said to her was, “My, what small hands you have.  They’ll be perfect for lambing!”  Margaret (who wasn’t then a farmer) was a little dumbfounded and not quite sure what to make of that comment.  But he wasn’t wrong.

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