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VIDEO: Lambing in the High Peak

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Rye Flatt Farm in Combs is overrun with lambs, frolicking, suckling and bleating.

The Barratt family, who own the farm off Combs Lane, currently have about 500 of the fluffy, white, young sheep, a figure which is increasing by the hour.

“The thing to look out for is when the mums start baaing loudly and get themselves into a corner. We know which sheep are expecting because they’ve been scanned and we know who’s having twins or triplets or whatever because we mark them with different colours,” explained Jo Barratt.

Most commonly, sheep give birth to twins, but at Rye Flatt Farm this year, about 50 ewes have had triplets, 50 have had single lambs and there have been two sets of quadruplets.

Within minutes of arriving, Jo spots a sheep going into labour. We see its water break and she reaches inside to feel the position of the lamb.

She pulls two feet and out plops a tiny, yellow lamb, covered in amniotic fluid. Its mum begins to lick it clean, while Jo prepares a pen while awaiting the second arrival.

“We have to separate them so that the lambs get to know its mother and vice versa. Sheep are surprisingly dumb and get confused about who belongs to who,” she explained.

Right on cue, a befuddled ewe wanders over to help the new mum clean the newborn. She gets shooed away as Jo’s son Jacob, seven, helps the second of the twin lambs be born.

“He started lambing this year. His sisters aren’t bothered and he keeps trying to persuade his cousin to have a go telling him: ‘It’s only goo!’” Jo laughed.

Once the lambs are standing, within half an hour of being born, their umbilical cords are trimmed, they are given an injection of penicillin and iodine is applied to their bellies to prevent infection.

Within two or three days of living with their mum in a pen, the lambs are tagged and released into the field near Ladder Hill, with the healthiest ones being placed furthest away from the farmhouse.

Once they weigh 45 kilograms, usually when they are about four months old, they are sold for meat.

The Barratts have a flock of around 350 ewes, which is mated by eight very busy rams, during breeding season in autumn known as tupping or the rut.

Sheep then have gestation period of about five months and lambing season starts on April 1 and is as short as three weeks.

During that period, Jo, her husband Jonathan and her father-in-law Bill take turns to work shifts in the lambing sheds, ensuring a lamb midwife is on hand 24 hours a day.

An average of 17 ewes give birth a day, or one every hour and a half.

“I love it. I never get bored of it,” said Jo. “They’re so cute I don’t mind working until 4am!”

The Barratts and their four children, Millie, Poppy, Bonnie and Jacob, took over the farm from Jonathan’s parents five years ago. The sheep at Rye Flatt are mostly mule / texel crossbreeds.

 

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