The Waders are back! Here at Ruthven Farm there is nothing we like more than to see the return of the oystercatchers, lapwings and curlews in February / March. They are a real sign that spring is on its way (though it is said that the lapwing always brings snow with it, and this year was no exception!) We have seen flocks of 40+ of each species, and they are enjoying feeding in fields which are rather soft and muddy following the last thaw of snow. From February till after lambing, ewes are fed concentrate feed daily in the fields using a snacker pulled behind the quad bike. A lovely job on a nice morning, and we always stop the bike for a few minutes at the top of the hill, and just listen to the number of bird species we can hear. The cheeriest has to be the little skylark, which sings its way higher and higher into the sky, then dives down to start all over again.
March is a busy month with the sheep, getting everything and everyone ready for the lambing season. At the end of February the ewes were all scanned to see how many lambs they were carrying. Those with triplets were immediately split off from the rest, housed and fed extra food to help them maintain body condition with 3 growing lambs inside them. Last week the ewes expecting singles, and those expecting twins, were split into separate groups, and will now be fed accordingly. Also all the ewes received booster vaccinations against clostridial diseases, a mineral drench, and were dosed for fluke and worms. The main lambing season starts in just over 3 weeks – it is always an extremely busy time, with long days and little sleep, but a time that we all enjoy.
A few sheep were lambed early and now have lambs at foot. The point of this is to lamb the pedigree sheep at a time when we have more chance to give them individual attention, and it also means come showing season the lambs are big enough to compete with animals from lowland areas where spring arrives earlier and hence lambing is usually earlier. We rarely leave a ewe to rear triplets, as we feel it is asking too much of her. During the main lambing the surplus lambs will often be fostered onto another ewe who has only a single lamb or has lost her lambs, but with the early lambers we don’t have suitable foster mums. So there are 4 pet lambs being bottle reared…
So as we come towards the end of a month that has seen both heavy snow and temperatures in the teens, we are hoping that the mild weather will continue now right through lambing and that spring really is here.