Friday, June 1, 2012

Lamb Marking

Today's Friday at the Farm post is about lamb marking. When the lambs are a few weeks old (generally less than 6 weeks) they are brought into the yards for marking. The farmer has already been checking them in the mob/flock with the ewes since they were born, at least every morning and evening. But during lamb marking each lamb is individually handled to check it's health and mark it with identifiers unique to the farm and the year. Each lamb is also marked as a ewe or a wether (this is a castrated male sheep). This farm uses stud rams for breeding and so all of the male lambs become wethers. The lambs tails are also ringed and each lamb is given a drench, or medicine. All this happens to prevent illness, infection and disease in the lambs now and as they grow into sheep. So it's a busy day for little lambs!

First the whole mob of ewes and lambs is brought into the yard. Then the lambs are drafted out and the noise starts! They all realise that their own personal mobile feeding unit has been removed. They don't realise it's only a temporary arrangement and so they start calling out for it's return. And as any mother knows, when a child calls you answer! And so the ewes start baa-ing in reply!!! And on it goes. 

Some of the lambs find a friend and sit down quietly. But many of them just keep on maa-ing! So the noise continues at some volume until they are all reunited. Certainly makes us all work faster :-)

The ewes are given individual treatment too. Each ewe is looked at to see if she has milk (ie. is feeding a lamb or not). They have their hooves checked and trimmed. Their teeth are inspected and they also usually receive a drench.

Everyone on the farm helps with lamb marking. The kids push the ewes up so that they can be handled as efficiently as possible. The farmer and his assistants handle the ewes. The kids catch the lambs and put them in the cradles so that they don't kick and hurt themselves (or the assistants). Some-one makes the scones for morning tea. And the soup for lunch. It's a well-oiled machine and we all play our part.

When the day is done, the lambs are reunited with their mums. And when they are all out having a feed the quietness returns. Phew! Certainly makes for a satisfying day. When you know you've improved the future well-being of an animal and identified the ones who need assistance now. Plus you've clambered over multiple fences, gates and yard railings, so your body knows you've been working. We all sleep well after lamb marking! The lambs probably do too!

Well, there's another Friday at the farm. This weekend is forecast as rainy so we might have to spend it indoors. After a gorgeous week of sunshine (after a morning frost mind you) we can't complain! We'll just keep the fire roaring...

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