When lambs are born dead or have died the ewe is given another lamb to keep her happy and healthy. The lamb adopted on to the ewe is generally a twin. By lifting the twin lamb you then have two singles which fare better on the hill ground, you’ll hopefully end up with two good lambs rather than two average lambs. Twins off gimmers are often lifted first, a gimmer is having her first crop of lambs and it is deemed kinder to let her run with one if possible, however, there can often be something which needs lifting, a pair of lambs struggling due to lack of milk from their mother, these lambs will have priority for being set on over a gimmers lamb as they need a fresh mother.
So you have a dead lamb. The mother will usually be standing over the carcase or be nearby. Occasionally they are nowhere to be seen and so a hunt ensues, invariably in this situation you will be looking for a gimmer (first lamber), or a very lean sheep which has no interest what so ever in being a mother, she just wants to survive, in this case it would be pointless setting a lamb on.
There are many approaches to getting the ewe gathered up. Catch her with your stick, dog her down, carry the lamb and hope she follows. I’m lambing cheviots which are notorious for being wild and feisty, I’m also lambing on steep ground, sheep do like to run down hill and also catching them with the stick takes a fair bit of strength on steep going. I learnt the hard way as stick and sheep careered down the hillside as I was practically pulled off my feet
The parrack is actually a small pen in which to confine the sheep whilst the lamb is being set on. The net is an enclosure – often posts and sheep net – into which the sheep and set on lamb can be released into prior to being let out into the big wide world again.
This episode all happened on my first lap in the morning. I left them and set about the rest of my herding. Neither ewe or lamb would be going anywhere and I most probably had more important matters waiting to be found, I also had my breakfast to get. I would return on my second round with a lamb to set on.
First lap the following morning the skin came off the lamb, I reached in with my lambing stick and dragged the lamb close enough to reach it by hand, lift it out of the parrack and remove the skin and place it back in the parrack with its new mother. By this time, less than 24 hours, the body heat of the lamb had caused the skin to start to go rancid, the lamb would no longer smell as it did originally but the ewe had become accustomed to the new odour as it gradually ‘matured’. At this stage I also opened the parrack and quietly walked away.
The second lap after I had had my breakfast both were more than content. I opened the net to the hill ground and walked away. At their leisure both ewe and lamb would walk out into the big wide world. Just 24 hours from having been first set on they were united as mother and offspring. The bond had been made and all was well. During the whole episode I had never laid a hand on the ewe. Cheviots are indeed very kind creatures, they are also extremely kittle (touchy), where possible it pays to keep off and treat with the utmost respect. Treat them right and they’ll treat you right.
Even the ones that I have to turn down the hill and steer with the dog into a net down at the bottom, they are agitated due to the interference of the dog but if you treat them with respect, don’t show the whites of your eyes, as quietly and quickly as possible get them into a parrack and then leave well alone the results are quite rewarding.
At the tender age of eighteen I recall coming in for dinner one day and relaying to my boss the difficulties I had experienced trying to get a ewe and lamb out of the stell after I had successfully set it on. The boss looked at me and with a wry grin said “you open the gate and walk away, at their leisure ewe and lamb will saunter out” Sound advice I have never forgotten.
- ► 2012 (65)
- ► 2011 (87)
- ▼ 2010 (110)
- ► 2009 (59)