Spring lambing is in full swing at Grange Farm, and it’s all hands on deck with our shepherd, Ewan, and lambing veteran, Mel, on call 24 hours a day to monitor the ewes’ progress. Lambing can take up to a few weeks so Sue, Grange Farm’s housekeeper/baker extraordinaire, makes sure we’re stocked up with plenty of coffee and cakes to get through the long nights. Many of the ewes are more than capable to lamb on their own, however, on occasion they may need a little help so we have to be ready on the side lines to lend a hand; for instance, shearlings (first time mothers) are more likely to need assistance. Whether new mothers or experienced ones, we do everything we can to ensure easy lambing, this includes lambing indoors to keep the ewes safe, warm and comfortable, to protect against pesky foxes, and pneumonia.
No matter how prepared we are though, pet lambs (aka orphans) are an unfortunate inevitability on any farm. Typically, these lambs belong to a set of triplets, and their mother is unable to feed the lamb successfully as they only have two teats. Occasionally the mother may die during lambing or reject her lamb and not let it feed. When this happens Ewan and Mel try their best to get the lamb adopted by another ewe – if this is unsuccessful however, the pet will be fed on a bottle made up with powdered milk. It’s not all sad though, these pet lambs get more than their share of attention and hugs from the office staff who sneak down to the lambing sheds on their breaks. Even our butchers can’t help but give them a little cuddle!
The sheep we lamb in April are Mules (Blackface ewes crossed with Bluefaced Leicesters), and Mule crosses (typically we cross a mule with a Texel sheep). It’s important to pick a breed that is native to the area so it can withstand the North Yorkshire weather, then carefully cross them to ensure a good number of strong and good sized lambs. Once weaned at three to four months, the lambs will live off a diet of hay, grass and whatever they can pick at on the moors. These lambs will be ready for our butcher’s counter from around Christmas time, and their diet of mother’s milk, summer grass and hay over winter results in a fabulous deep, rosy pink meat with a fuller flavour which goes well with the more robust flavours of anchovies, garlic and rosemary.
We met some of these adorable lambs earlier this month, here are a few snaps: