Lambing season is upon us! It’s one of the most exciting times of the year for us at RM2. Our flock of Ryelands is growing year by year, and it’s wonderful to see little fluffy white specks gamboling about on the hill with their mums.
Ryelands are small stocky sheep, well known for their mothering instinct and they generally do make fantastic mums, but every year we get a couple of orphan lambs. These are often one half of a twin set where the mum bonds to one lamb but not the other. After labour, the ewe must nuzzle and lick her lamb clean. This helps create a strong smell memory of the lamb. If for some reason this cleaning does not happen straight after birth, the lamb is likely to be rejected. The orphan lambs are called poddy lambs and unless they are hand-reared, they will die.
Taking care of a poddy lamb is great fun, but also very tiring as they need round the clock feeding. Much like a human baby, they’re not particularly interested in whether it’s night or day when they’re hungry! We feed them with milk substitute from glass bottles with red teats. Though when they’re hungry, they’ll suck on anything including gumboots, jeans and fingers!
Sheep are intensely social animals, and recognise the faces of other members of their own flock. One of the best things about the poddy lambs is that even when they have been returned to the flock, they still remember their human carers and will often detach themselves from their ovine friends to come over and say hello. They have wonderfully friendly natures and are a pleasure to take care of.
It’s always fun to decide what to call them too! This year, we have Susie and Lucy (thanks to the Facebook suggestions). We try not to give them a name though, until we’re sure they’re going to make it. It’s just too sad to say goodbye to a little friend with a name.