The Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton on lambing and Channel Five's Springtime On The Farm

Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton pictured with co-stars for Channel Five's Springtime On The Farm.
Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton pictured with co-stars for Channel Five's Springtime On The Farm.
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Like most people connected with farming activities, last week was a busy one for me. There are plenty of jobs for vets to do at the onset of spring as well as the usual emergency calls to deliver lambs and calve cows.

Lambing has been just as hectic as ever, although (maybe as a consequence of last year’s terrible spring) many farmers seem to be lambing a bit later. This spreads the busy period for a vet and takes away some of the strain. Until last week, calving seemed to be less demanding than previous years; we’ve lost count of the calvings and caesarean sections over the last ten days.

Some are ascribing this to a long winter last year, followed by a very dry summer – the result seems to be slightly smaller calves; again, that was until last week! There is no science to this and the wrong choice of bull or misjudging the feeding regime of heifers over the latter part of pregnancy can upset the best laid plans.

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On top of the usual demands on a vet this week, I’ve also had another role, quite literally as a ‘Springtime Vet’. It was time for another Channel 5 blockbuster, produced by Daisybeck studios, which can rightly be described as a powerhouse of the television world: Springtime on the Farm. As I write, I can hear Lindsey Chapman’s dulcet tones and her boundless energy as she announces the pre-titles.

Cannon Hall Farm in South Yorkshire acted, for the second year, as the host for this event. It seems to be rapidly becoming another Channel 5 hit, following in the footsteps (and alongside the footsteps) of The Yorkshire Vet, and I was delighted to be part of this programme again.

It’s a very different type of experience to my usual telly stuff. There is a ‘set’ or ‘studio’ with cameras everywhere; jibs to allow swinging camera shots and interesting angles, earpieces so we hear feedback from the director’s office. For the presenters there are autocues, but not for the likes of me.

It’s an unusual world to have landed in, but when I was on the show I was lucky enough to have some real veterinary work to do. Day one, saw me repeat a pregnancy test on a heifer who had been negative at the first scan, six weeks ago.

By coincidence, the new bull served the heifer just moments after she’d walked out of the crush. By the first day of the show, a six weeks pregnancy would be perfect to see a foetus and its heartbeat, live on telly! Sadly, it was not to be – the heifer was not pregnant for a second time.

The following day I had to vacate my position on the sofa, where I was supposed to be discussing modern veterinary health methods. Instead, a ewe with ringwomb – an un-dilated cervix – demanded my attention. If the cervix could not be manually opened, then we’d need to perform an emergency caesarean section. Luckily, the lambs were both quite small and things went smoothly.

My third day on the farm had me back in the lambing shed, this time to replace and suture a prolapse. The pesky prolapse had been popping out repeatedly over the last few days, stubbornly refusing to follow Robert and David’s plan of using plastic ‘retainers’.

These devices usually work well to keep a prolapse in position, but things hadn’t gone as hoped. For the third time, I found myself explaining a veterinary procedure, this time with the straining back end of a sheep pointing directly to camera. I hope the editors were kind, as the view was not so appealing as the previous night!

The Yorkshire Vet continues this Tuesday on Channel 5 at 8pm.