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The stuff you don't see in the fields...

We put the cam in the lambing shed for a while to give an insight into what goes on behind the scenes.

This clip is quite a long one and features the following situation....

We thought we would reveal some of the less-fluffy side of lambing time with this clip by installing the cam in the lambing barn overnight. Much of the focus was on a shearling sheep, who had unfortunately produced two lambs, one of which was still-born. Both lambs were premature and the second was not in the greatest of health. For 12 hours it showed very little sign of life, keeping it warm and tube feeding it with colostrum (the vital early nutrition required to kick-start a lamb, which it normally gets from the first milk it gets from its mother), in order to get it going. It didn't respond at all and having done all we could to ensure its survival, it died overnight. It was always going to be a long shot. Normally a lamb will be up and drinking within half an hour of being born so when this one didn't respond, the odds were always stacked against it.

This morning we attempted to "mother on" a spare lamb onto the mother, who now had no lambs of its own left. In order to maximise the chances of success, this process involves doing everything we can in order to "fool" the mother into thinking the spare lamb is one of its own. This is a common process during the lambing season and you may have seen this talked about on BBC's "Lambing Live" series.

As the sheep had given birth some time ago, we had already cleared up all of its cleansing so the only option left was to skin the dead lamb and put it on the spare lamb, just like a coat, covering as much of the spare lamb as possible. It's all about the smell and this process makes the spare lamb smell like its own lamb.

The skin we obtained from the dead lamb was actually a good fit which was quite fortunate, leaving only the spare lamb's head and neck uncovered. This meant that when the sheep had a sniff of the spare lamb's head, it wasn't happy and you will see on the clip the mother sheep butting the lamb in rejection. When the mother sniffed the back of the lamb, it accepts it. Imagine the confusion for the poor mother as it tries to understand what is happening!

It's a slow process, but in time, and with a bit of luck, the mother will start to accept the lamb and talk to it. There is a difference between the stressed bleat of a sheep and that which it makes when communicating with its lamb. You will see that towards the end of the clip, the sheep's bleats turn from being a stress bleat to a softer noise as it starts to consider accepting the lamb.

Anyway, if we are fortunate enough for the mother to accept this lamb, the lamb then has to accept this mother! This involves putting the lamb to the mother to try and get it to drink. For a while, the lamb wasn't interested (as it already had quite a full belly). We left it a while and tried again later, and we had a bit more luck.

So at the time of writing the signs are positive, but we will not be certain until we see it springing about in the field with all the others! If it doesn't succeed we will have a spare lamb to bottle feed, which requires a lot of time, effort and expense, so we are hoping it doesn't come to that!

We will keep you posted with the family's progress...!


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Thanks for the update. I'm very glad to know that the signs are positive that the sheep seems to be accepting the lamb and hopefully the lamb will start feeding from the sheep even after being butted by her. I was glued to my lappy this morning watching and hoping that the two would bond. I hope the outcome is good and we hear that the lamb is feeding from her adoptive mum.

Oh, my! I thought the process had been a failure, but will keep hoping now that this will work. I had watched off and on, all night, as Howard checked the lamb each time he came to the barn, and was sorry it had died. It's such a lot of work for you all, with major disappointments. So I hope this feisty little orphan will finally succeed in being "mothered on".

Quick update from the orphan: it's looking more hopeful now, the lamb is drinking from the mother and they are bonding well. They are now in ben's garden where we can keep an eye on them whilst they have some fresh air

What a shame, I felt sorry for the lamb when it was being head butted. I hope all is well with the two of them now. A lot of work for you.

My next question is: how long will the lamb have to wear someone else's "coat" before he can just go back to being himself? He will outgrow his disguise fairly soon, I would think.

Update from Lynda: "The 'mothered on' lamb has been accepted totally by its new mum. We took its little coat off yesterday and all is well. There are 14 more sheep left to lamb and last night we had our first set of triplets so at the moment we have 18 lambs. They are in various fields, depending on what post natal care they all need but once all the sheep have lambed, they will probably be appearing in the lw field"

What good news!

How nice to see lambing behind the scenes.

Interesting about nature.