By Kirsten Houser, Assistant Farm Manager
In the wake of Storm Eunice, we were very happy and surprised to welcome over 30 visitors, head-to-toe in waterproofs, to visit our lambing shed on a grey and rainy Saturday afternoon. ‘Preparation for Lambing’ is an annual event run by the Small Shepherds’ Club, a fantastic organisation providing practical help and advice for small scale sheep keepers in the southern counties. Each year a different shepherd hosts the members, some new to lambing and others with years of experience under their belts, and this year Bedales was asked. The aim of the event is to demonstrate our system for managing the lambing shed, equipment we have on standby, essential bits and bobs to make lambing life easier and lessons learnt from our years of birthing baby sheep!
The joy of an event like this is that knowledge is shared so generously between members, and it provided a great opportunity to reflect on how we lamb here at school, and also gave us a gentle nudge to get everything tidied up and organised ready for the first of our 20 ewes to give birth after half term. Outdoor Work students did a fantastic job clearing out the Black Barn and making up pens in the maternity suite, and we received many compliments on the farm and surrounding school estate – even in it’s post-storm raincloud.
We discussed lambing bag essentials (prolapse spoon anyone?!) and the importance of colostrum in the first few hours of a lamb’s life, heat lamps, ewe nutrition and the many many uses of baler twine. We showed off our ‘lambing board’ – a dizzying chart of numbers and notes on an old whiteboard – not high tech but indispensable for keeping note of progress with lambing, any sheep who have needed assistance or medication and anything else to keep an eye on. The afternoon was topped off with cake and tea in the Outdoor Work barnyard, and a display of student work, knitted and woven items from the flock’s wool, and a tour of the spinning room.
Over the next couple of weeks Andrew and I, along with our students, will take turns to watch over the flock at night, during the day and at dawn, and we take great pride in sharing what we do with visitors inside and outside of the school community. Lambing is easily the most exciting time of year for us on the Bedales farm, and though it is undeniably stressful and tiring, it never fails to be magical as well. Look out for an article in next week’s Saturday Bulletin from our BAC students, with news of all the new arrivals, including baby goats and surprise quadruplet lambs!