Just two years after its inception, the closed Facebook group, Ladies Who Lamb UK, has reached the milestone of 8,500 members. Angela Calvert reports.
Ladies Who Lamb UK was founded by mother and daughter, Debs and Jess Roberts, in 2019. Since then, the group has become a safe place on social media for women farmers and smallholders to share their love of sheep.
Australian-born Debs has farmed near Auchterarder, Scotland, for 25 years with her husband Jamie.
She says: “Ladies Who Lamb UK really started when Jess was 21 and was moving away from home for the first time to start a shepherding job.
“I thought about her being alone in a lambing shed at night and realised there were a lot of other women in the same situation who would really like to connect with each other.
“Since then it has really taken off. It is a support network which is available 24/7 and 90-95 per cent of members actively engage with it.
“You might expect that at this time of year, when many people are busy lambing, it wouldn’t be so active, but the reverse is true. It is a time when our members really need support and advice.
“There are more posts than ever and it really is somewhere where any kind of question can be asked and no-one is judged.
“We do have basic behaviour rules which are essentially ‘be kind’ and supportive of each other, and we have a
small team of admin and moderators who help keep the ethos of the group.”
“We share tips, experiences, laughter and sometimes disasters all wrapped up on one group”
Candice Bell, member in Northumberland
Jess agrees that the group brings a whole host of benefits to its members.
She says: “Ladies Who Lamb is much more than a group for cute pictures of lambs. Our members ask tricky questions, share expertise and support each other at all times of day and night.
“What started as a group to support loneliness in the lambing shed has now become a vibrant and dynamic group of women who ask for solutions to problems and get a wealth of shared experience.
“We have members with flocks ranging from a few pets to thousands of ewes and hundreds of breeds, so we cover the full breadth of the sheep industry.”
Member Candice Bell from Northumberland agrees.
She says: “Ladies Who Lamb is the best group on Facebook. We share tips, experiences, laughter and sometimes disasters all wrapped up on one group.
“I have met some superb people on here that I can now call lifelong friends and I trust this group to be safe and not judge. We are all joined by an addiction to sheep.”
The membership also extends internationally, with members from Canada, America, Australia and Europe. Lucy Greenfield is from Co Kerry, Ireland.
She says: “There are members of this group from every conceivable circumstance and background and our joint experience and knowledge-base would put an encyclopaedia to shame.
“I am originally from Suffolk and through the group I have made friends and learned enormous amounts. The group never gets stale, as every day there is something new to amaze, delight and, on occasion, move one to tears. Being part of this community has changed my life.”
The success of the Facebook group has led to other Ladies Who Lamb initiatives being developed, starting with a website.
Debs says: “We have had no funding and operate on a not-for-profit basis, but I provided the initial investment to get us started.
“We have developed our own brand, logo and merchandise, mainly clothing, which is available via our online shop and this also includes books.
“We realised, through the group, that ladies were struggling to find sheep-related books, such as The Veterinary Book for Sheep Farmers, and if they could find one, it was very expensive. We were able to contact the publishers and get them to run a reprint, which shows the power of the group.
“We have also run some online training sessions on a range of sheep husbandry topics and sheepdog handling, which have proved popular.
“We have also been actively campaigning to raise awareness about the devastation of dog attacks on livestock.
“I do believe that by helping each other we are also contributing raising sheep health and welfare standards.”
In April 2020, the group launched its own private ‘Buddy Network’ [pictured], where the ladies volunteered to be located on a map so if someone needed help with animals due to Covid-19, they could refer to the map to find help.
The Buddy Network now comprises more than 600 ladies who are on-hand to feed, look after stock and lamb for a nearby ‘lady who lambs’ if she needs help.
Debs says: “The ladies are truly an incredible bunch of supportive women who would otherwise be stuck in lonely places with little or no social support.
“This group is a safe and rewarding place for them. Here, they are not overlooked by mainstream agriculture and their contribution is valued.
“They are smart, intelligent and funny and are always coming up with great ideas to do more. It is a great example of Facebook being used in the way it should be.”
More information at: www.ladieswholamb.co.uk
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