What is Lambing Season
By Sam Wass, Medium Well
Seeing lambs bouncing across frosty fields is usually one of the first signs that spring has finally sprung on Britain’s green and pleasant land. Lambing season is well under way for our livestock farmers here at Great British Meat Company, and it will generally run until April.
For lots of farmers like Alastair Patterson, from Wall Houses Farm, near Matfen in Northumberland, it is the highlight of the farming year. While it is a beautiful time of year to be out walking across the Great British countryside, it is an exceptionally busy time for farmers like Alastair who work tirelessly to get everything right.
“Lambing season takes over your life, at this time of year” says Alastair. “It’s non-stop work, as the ewes need you 24/7. My son used to complain that because his birthday was in early April we didn’t celebrate it properly, but that’s just farming life, everything is on hold during lambing. That said you never get tired of that moment when the lamb is born and first opens it’s eyes, it still humbles me after all these years”.
There are around 32 million sheep looked after by farmers here in the UK. They comprise the lambs themselves and their parents - mums (ewes) and dads (rams). Depending on where you live in the UK, lambs are born at different times of the year. Traditionally, lambing starts in early spring but some farmers in the south can start in December while others further north in April.
Ewes and rams mating is a process called ‘tupping’, which generally takes place in the autumn and lambs are born around 5 months later. The amount of lambs born to one ewe varies, and while the statistical average is 1.3 lambs there can be as many as five per ewe. Different breeds obviously have different genetics, and most farmers will farm a breed they are familiar working with so they can deliver fit, healthy lambs.
Some ewes deliver their lambs very easily and are happy to give birth alone in the field or in the lambing shed, but others, particularly first-time mothers, need a little help so farmers, their shepherds and farm hands have to be on hand all day and night, working in shifts in case they are needed for a delivery.
While British farmers care passionately for their animals, and lambing season is an enjoyable time, it is important for us all to remember that it is also a business. These baby lambs being born now will be off to market in late summer. That’s just the reality of farming and livestock, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the joys of new-born lambs when you’re out and about in the countryside at this time of year - it truly is a magical time.