Spring has finally sprung. And if the beautiful, sunny (if slightly erratic) weather over the last couple of weeks and the primroses and bluebells weren’t enough to confirm spring has arrived, then the arrival of lambs in fields across our countryside is an even better indication. Lambing is in full swing and from the looks of things so far, it’s looking like quite a good year.
Whilst our stalwart farmers are used to dealing with the vagaries of the British weather, we’re all crossing our fingers for a marked improvement from last year when freezing winds and snow swept in just as lambing on the hills got underway. Farmers were in the late throes of lambing with new stock out in the fields, only to be thrashed by the snow – an estimated 20,000 sheep dying as a result.
So far it may have been the wettest winter for decades, but generally ewes are going into the season in really good fettle. It’s been a mild winter so there is a lot of grass around, which often poses the biggest challenge.
In Europe, Britain is the largest producer of lamb and mutton. Lambing is big business – it’s worth around £625 million to our economy every year – but for farmers it’s always a risk. Sheep prices go up and down, diseases hit and weather can heavily dictate condition.
To many, lambing season is nothing more than an annual event on The Archers that causes a few sleepless nights for David and Ruth. The bleating of ewes and newborn lambs is background noise to their domestic conversations about which fences need mending at Brookfield.
In real life it is one of the busiest, most exciting and often nail biting times in the sheep farming year. All over the country the UK’s 77,000 sheep farmers will be having sleepless nights and frantic days to ensure that we’ve got meat to put on our table and there is good breeding stock for the future.
After a rousing success two years ago, we’re thrilled to see Kate Humble back on our screens this week with Lambing Live.
This year filming comes from the Dykes’ family farm on the Borders. Third-generation farmer Hamish and his wife, Susie, run the mixed hill and upland farm of about 1,000 acres. The family have a crossbred flock of nearly 600 ewes and around 75 Simmental cows.
It details the highs and lows of the lambing season, and there’s only two instalments left of the four live shows. So if you’ve ever wondered how to pick the best ram, how to raddle, how to spot the first signs of labour in a ewe, what watery mouth is and most importantly where that sunday roast comes from, then don’t miss it.
Having grown up lambing since I can remember on my family’s sheep farm I’m going to tune in. You may just be surprised how many shepherds are also doing the same…