Lambing childcare!

Lambing this year- well that was a different experience!

COVID-19 hit just as our main lambing season began. We lambed around 500 ewes this year between the period of mid-Feb until the beginning of May, oh with two under two in tow!

Lambing occurs every year for us- in slightly different proportions, and we may vary the times but in general it comes, it goes and it’s a busy time that is expected. Well with COVID we had the busiest year ever!

The butchers shop went crazy busy so my father in law had to dedicate a lot more time to ensure that was running smoothly. We also had terrible weather at the end of last year so with the weather picking up my husband had to step in to plant as much spring crop as he could.  I love lambing but normally one of the boys is in childcare and with nursery closed and isolating from my own side of the family- it meant myself and two under two where having to do a huge proportion of the lambing.

The general checking of the ewes was fine, it’s easy enough to get a toddler to come and see some sheep for half an hour but the trouble started- at snack time, lunch time, with difficult lambing and the general day to day jobs. The first week was all a bit stressful, trying to manage the baby, the toddler and ensure the best welfare for the animals was a huge pressure and I felt like I was just running around after everybody else the whole time.

After about a week of back and forth with the lambing we got into a routine and it was becoming a lot easier- this is my story of success. We would arrive to the tunnel and whilst the toddler was fresh and ready to go, I put a play tractor in the one side that he would spend time playing on, putting straw in the trailer and that kept him entertained for a while. The baby also being fresh and full of energy would go straight into the bouncer and bounce away. With both boys occupied it gave me time to focus on the core pen jobs- castrating, marking up, moving to the nursery and sorting out the pens hay, straw and water.

Once I had completed those jobs- it normally takes anything from an hour to two hours- SNACK TIME! I worked out this was a key time, I had to allocate the time to feed the baby and the toddler as it made all the difference. If they went past the point of hunger, hanger set in and that wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be. I set up one of the lambing pens as a child friendly pen that was not to have lambs or ewes in. It gave us the flexibility that if a ewe was lambing and needed to be watched we could have our snack within the tunnel, if not we could retreat to the farm kitchen.

After snack time it was often time to feed the cade lambs. By this point the baby was often ready to fall asleep and feeding a bottle of milk to a baby lamb was just wonderful for the toddler. It seemed to work well- I just had to keep an eye out as a few times I found my toddler trying to bottle feed the baby with lambs’ milk!

From here it was time for a quick check of the tunnel again before a walk and lunch. Having the small break from the tunnel and a change of scenery meant that after lunch the toddlers interest seemed to pick up again. I suppose being in the same place all day, even with different things going on, it is still just sheep, so to him it made it new and exciting.

After lunch I had to turn for help- with baby back in his bouncer for round two my toddler was often becoming sleepy and Peppa pig or Peter rabbit was the only answer. I set him up in the child friendly pen with the iPad and that meant I could tackle the afternoon jobs. Getting all the pens ready for the evening, assisting any ewes that needed it and checking the nursery. Sometimes he would fall asleep and it would grant me more time, others he had enough and I had to just power on through.

I’m not saying it worked a dream or by anyway was perfect everyday but with all sense of our normal routine out the window it was just the routine we needed to help balance childcare and welcoming new lambs into the world.

I loved seeing my little one bouncing away watching the lambs and sheep in the pens around him. He definitely took in more than I could imagine, I think he must have dreamt about sheep for a while? My toddler I saw grow with confidence- by the end he would come closer to the new-borns, he was kissing the baby lambs and trying to hug the ewes as well as feeding the cade lambs with joy and excitement. Amongst all the chaos it was lovely to see this growth within them and have the time, we otherwise wouldn’t have been granted, to spend together.

Previously me and my husband would sometimes go down together to do a night shift but since we had the children and someone needs to remain in the house I have done less of these. After lambing with the children all day I found such content in the evening shifts. The dark outside, the humble baa of the lambs and the peace and quiet of wild life around, in such a strange time within the world, it was just all rather relaxing.

I think it’s fair to say I wouldn’t want to repeat the chaos of this years lambing but it taught me so much about us as a family and now all the lambs have grown up and moved on I can’t wait for next year!

 

If you would like to see any videos of the lambing, childcare and all, I have some on YouTube you can check out:

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