April is an exciting time on the farm. Preparation has been made months before; getting the lambing shed ready and keeping a close eye on the expecting ewes. We wait with anticipation as the lambs arrive and ensure the mum and her babies have bonded well before the little family are let out into the paddock in the warm sunshine.
It’s easy for a ewe and her lambs to be temporarily separated as she leaves her youngsters asleep under a tree while she moves around grazing on fresh spring grass. When the sleeping lambs open their eyes and realise mum is no longer next to them they feel abandoned. They call out alarms with their bleating, rushing around to locate their mother. The ewe responds and bellows for her lambs. Quickly enough, the lambs recognise their own mum’s call, distinct from all the other ewes’ bleating, and once again they are reunited. Lambs rush in directly underneath her as if they had never fed before.
Occasionally, a young lamb will need to be bottle fed, 3 times a day for 3 months. They know who is bringing them their warm milk and will rush to the side of the pen, clambering over each other as if calling out “Feed me first!”. The person who feeds them needs a calming voice, to gently settle the excitement, with each lamb called by a nickname rather than just a number. This unnatural bond becomes regular and familiar as time is spent talking to these little characters.
Months go past and all the season’s lambs are ready to be weaned off bottles and their mums. They no longer get all their nourishment from milk and so roam the fields like gangs of teenagers. When it’s time to bring them in for routine jobs like vaccinations or medications, its easy to spot the bottle-fed lambs amongst a group of a couple of hundred lambs. You only need to stand in the field and call for them and a dozen 30kg sheep come galloping, close to bowling you over. No bottles or any other enticements needed to gather this group together as they know the voice of someone who protected and nurtured them.
Just as Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me’.
by Anna Birt (Pam’s daughter)