Lambing time means long long days for the Farmer. Up early and back in to the farmhouse late in the evening. With about 200 ewes and gimmers lambing either in the shed or on the in-by and the rest of the flock on the hill. The ones close to home are checked 3 or 4 times a day at least. If there is a ewe looking as if she might need help, he will keep a regular eye on her.
The hill is checked once a day. The ewes on the hill have previously lambed and are only expecting singles so they tend to just get on with it. Some times he needs to help one, which Nyje has to catch for him.
Lambing started mid April. The end of winter being so cold and long meant that the grass was very slow to come. You can supplementarily feed - as we do - but the ewes will still be in poorer condition than they would be had they been eating fresh young grass prior to lambing. It has just been one of those years, and we are grateful that our lambs weren't being born in the snowy winter conditions that many parts of the UK had experienced.
But we were worried as to what problems this cold lambing would bring. Would the ewes have any milk? Sometimes a ewe will instinctively just walk away from their lamb/s if they don't have any or much milk. Self preservation.
It is always difficult to quantify at this stage what sort of a lambing we are having. Farmer deals with the problems, the lambs that don't thrive, the mothers who don't have enough milk to feed two lambs or have mastitis. The hundreds of ewes that lamb and bond with their lambs on their own are uncounted, seen out of the corner of a grateful Farmer's eye as he goes to help a first time lamber who doesn't understand why she has two lambs and ignores the second one. It is only at marking time when you know how it has gone.
The ewes and lambs with numbers on them have been born in the safety of the cattle shed. Either first time lambers or having Suffolk lambs. The first lambing we did here in 1995, we had a Suffolk tup as Tommy the shepherd who had worked at Treshnish for 45 years was fond of Suffolks and the lambs fetched more at the sales than the Blackface. We liked them too but for whatever unforgotten reason, we didn't continue with the Suffolks - until this year, when we bought a tup locally on the island. They are beautiful big lambs but Farmer had to help quite a number which were being born with their legs back. It was handy having them in the shed where he didn't have to chase them half way round the field before helping get the lamb out.
The cold weather slowly began to warm up, but brought with it some damp weather too. The Herdwick lambs shelter against a wall, their coats very effectively repelling the rain.
I took the drone with me one evening while Farmer was doing the pre-nightfall check. Here he is, driving slowly past one of the wetland areas on the edge of the Haunn field.