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Lambing Blog by Emma Jagger – Shearing Supervisor

In this engaging narrative, Emma Jagger, our Shearing Supervisor based at our Bradford Head Offices, takes us on her transformative journey into the heart of the lambing season. 

As an office-based British Wool employee, with no experience of farming or working with sheep, I thought I needed to change that, so I decided to volunteer for two weeks on my colleague Jayne’s sheep farm in Northern Ireland, during one of the most stressful and exhausting times of the year, lambing. 

Stepping into the Unknown 

When I arrived, there were 142 ewes ready to lamb. Initially, things were quiet, progressing slowly throughout the week with a handful of sheep lambing each day. I got into a steady routine with the daily chores of bedding pens, ensuring everyone had water, meals, and silage.

As more lambed, it was my job to offer bottles to any that had triplets, marking any that were particularly hungry. Gaining an ever-expanding pen of pet lambs, I ensured the shepherdess buckets were clean and full of milk. I was taught how to tube new lambs with colostrum, to ensure they have the best start for their immune systems. It was fiddly and scary to do, and a couple of extra hands would not have gone amiss, but I was so proud when I got it. 

Hands-On Learning 

After hundreds of questions and descriptions of what to look out for when walking the shed to highlight any sheep that looked like they were showing signs of labour from Jayne and her dad Robert. 

When the time came, I was eager to learn more and would stand at the pen side asking questions like; What are you feeling for? How do you know which lamb is which? How do you know when it is not coming the way it is supposed to? How do you fix it if it is coming the wrong way? And so on and so on. I was intently watching every movement that she made, and the questions went on; What is the first thing you do when it has been born? How do you get it to breathe? What do you do if it doesn’t breathe? Again, the questions were endless.  

However, as time went on, I found myself in a couple of situations where I was the lamb's only option for survival, spotting lambs that were born unexpectedly during my rounds with the sack still covering their faces, or not breathing when they were born. I instantly put into practice my newly found knowledge and was able to save them. 

The pace of lambing increased, and we were down to 62. Keeping a fresh supply of pens was becoming a constant battle. On the upside, it was great fun to use the lamb pram to transport the new mums and their lambs into their new accommodation, freeing up the pens. Luckily, we were blessed with good dry weather and the fields were filling up. There were regular trips to the farm store to top up on the essentials such as lime, sawdust, lamlac etc. With regular top-ups of bedding straw and silage from Robert in his tractor (turns out, there’s a lot to learn about straw and its various uses).  

Part of the Family

In my second week on the farm, I had fallen hard for the farm, the work, the sheep, and their lambs, as well as truly feeling like part of the family. The intensity of the numbers lambing grew, and I found myself being given the opportunity to officially lamb my own set of twins. Without hesitation, I threw on my gloves and gel. It was just as Jayne had described and I gently found my way to the feel for hooves, then for a nose, thankfully it was textbook with the second lamb coming with ease.  

Unfortunately, my second attempt was for a triplet, I immediately felt that things were not right, as I was sure that the feet were the wrong way round and upside down. Not wanting to delay and risk the lambs, I requested Jayne take over. She confirmed my thoughts and was able to push it back in to reach for a lamb that was more accessible. With more space available she was able to deliver the lamb, I then delivered the third lamb. 

A Gratifying Experience 

This experience was so much more humbling than I thought, bringing a whole new appreciation for the time, money, emotion, and exhaustion, as well as the constant problem solving that farmers experience every day when working with sheep. It is an experience that I will continue year on year, I can only imagine how my skills and confidence will develop.  

I would like to thank Jayne and her dad Robert for the opportunity to stay with them on their farm and for their patience with my endless questions.  

I am amazed to say that when I left the farm there were just 9 left to lamb! 


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Lambing Blog by Emma Jagger – Shearing Supervisor