Living the Dream: My first experience of lambing

THE WEEK started off as planned with the ditch through the garden needing cleaning out.

Shaun McKenna's first homegrown lamb

When the reinforcements arrived on Tuesday, my Dad, once again, we set to and started the spring clean to remove the countless leaves which had collected over winter.

I donned my Wellies, jumped into the ditch with my leaf rake and began hurling piles of muddy leaves into the wheel barrow which Dad was manoeuvring along the bank side and emptying at regular intervals.

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After two-and-a-half hours we had cleared around a fifth of the distance, my Dad looked like he had been following a muck spreader across several fields and to say I was jiggered is an understatement. The old fella could have gone on all day, but like so many times before he had to witness my Rumplestiltskin impression as I threw in the towel. The rest can wait for another day!

Anyway, on to the highlight of the week.

On Thursday we were watching the ewes on and off most of the day and early in the evening we noticed that one of our sheep was restless and couldn’t keep still. She was up, she was down, she was going round in circles and was regularly digging her hoof into the ground.

From our research we believed that she was now in the early stages of labour and so we brought her into the field pen we had made last summer. At regular intervals we would wrap up and go and check her and the other 10 ewes for any progress.

At around 11.15pm her waters broke and so I decided to go but come back in an hour, to check on things. Well, there’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end.

I got across the field and what welcomed me did momentarily send fear and trepidation through me, but I quickly got a grip and got on with the job in hand. The ewe had her lamb with its head and right leg on its way out but it was stuck en route and wasn’t moving anywhere fast.

Thankfully, Wendy had got us organised and had prepared for most eventualities and so I put my rubber gloves on and immediately tried to work the lamb’s left leg into position to enable the lamb to be born... but try as I might, that just wasn’t happening!

I then attempted a different tactic and tried to put the lamb into reverse in order to make room to turn the lamb, but that wasn’t going to happen as things had progressed past the point of no return.

There was not a chance that the lamb’s leg was moving for me and so I carefully, but with a whole lot of effort, eased the lamb out. I immediately gave it a rub, checked its airways were clear and from that point on let Mum take over.

Under torchlight and a blanket of stars, she had given birth to a beautiful ewe lamb. For a few minutes I just stood in awe as nature took its course and the ewe’s maternal instinct kicked in as she licked her clean and very quickly had her feeding from her.

I gave Wendy a call, who woke the house up and we had a party out in the field. Our first homegrown lamb had arrived.

I don’t mind saying that it was at times a little scary, it was certainly emotional and it was definitely an experience I won’t ever forget.

Do you know, sometimes I forget just how lucky I am!