Lambing is a very busy time in the farming calendar, and a joyful period for visitors to the countryside as millions of ewes bring their lambs into the world during spring.
Lambing starts as early as December in some parts of the UK. With the majority of sheep farmers lambing just before spring and continuing on until late in June. The sight of lambs in their hundreds wherever you look is a welcome sight across the countryside. Made twice as special as it coincides with the passing of winter and those cold dark days.
Ewes and rams mate in autumn, which is referred to as tupping. Farmers use multiple rams to increase the chance of ewes being covered by the rams within their fertile period. Ensuring everyone gets pregnant. Ewes are only in season once per year. Unlike other animals who come into season multiple times throughout the year.
The number of lambs born by a ewe varies. First time mums are more likely to only give birth to one lamb. Ewes can have twins, triplets, quadruplets and even quintuplets. Twins are favourable for lowland farmers as more lambs mean more profit, and with their more manageable environment it is less stressful. But hillside farmers prefer their ewes to only have one lamb.
Ewes are scanned to find out how many lambs they are carrying. From here pregnant ewes are often split into groups depending on how many lambs they are expecting. This makes it easier for the farmer to provide tailored care and nutrition. Ewes carrying triplets will need more nutrition than a ewe carrying only one lamb.
Many ewes will give birth to their offspring unassisted in the field. But farmers are on standby 24/7 to keep a close eye in case there are any problems. First time mums are often put into lambing sheds in case they need a helping hand at any time.
Lambs are born at around 4.5 months after the ewe falls pregnant. Unfortunately lambing isn’t always a walk in the park and not all ewes and lambs will survive. Farmers will put orphan lambs with other ewes for adoption, provided the chosen mother is happy to do so.
Lambs are usually weaned from their mothers 2-4 months old after they are born. From here they will either go on to be breeding sheep or they will be reared for meat.
The ewes then have a couple of months rest and recovery, ready for Autumn tupping when the process starts all over again.