Marie Prebble runs a 93ha (230-acre) Ministry of Defence-tenanted farm with her parents, David and Diane, near Dover. Largely permanent pasture in Higher Level Stewardship, the farm is home to 400 breeding Romneys which Marie puts to high index Lleyn rams.
I type this looking at my iodine-stained fingers considering how, a week since we started, lambing is progressing.
More than 150 have lambed and I have lost fewer than 10 lambs and assisted the same number of ewes, which seems reasonable.
Most of those assisted are singles lambing outside, which, as expected, have produced good sized lambs from grass alone.
There have not been any serious culling offences yet, but the ewes know I am watching them, so perhaps they are on their best behaviour.
I have two pet lambs, cades, which is plenty. We call them ‘sock’ lambs here. A Google search offers a selection of knitting patterns, but sheds no light on the origins of the term. If any fellow Kent shepherds have an answer for me, please get in touch.
They are currently small enough to be living in an empty water trough which provides ample amusement for the many keen visitors I have had over the Easter holiday.
Friends and family always enjoy lambing time and I love showing people around. I have had a sixth form student with no prior sheep experience helping out for a week which she enjoyed. I have enjoyed having her cleaning out pens and doing straw and water.
By the end of the week, she was confident putting newborn pairs in pens and turning mothered pairs outside. Lambs are generally healthy and strong and have stayed inside for only a short time, as we have been fortunate to have great weather to get them outside quickly.
Ewes I sheared at housing have sufficient wool regrowth to protect from any bad weather we might still get, and indeed are hoping for now as the ground has become worryingly dry from a lack of rain over the past month.
We are by no means overstocked this season, with eight hectares (20 acres) planted last autumn of clover, chicory, plantain and ryegrass, in addition to other ‘temporary grass’ (TG01, according to my recently completed Basic Payment application).
I am confident grass stocks should see us through even a very dry summer. The hay crop might suffer if this drought continues though, so it is fortunate we still have some carry-over in the shed.
Lambing hopefully feels like a distant dream to those of you finished early, and I too look forward to the freedom of an empty shed.