Like the lambs and the calves, I’m new to this farm

I have had a full calendar year on the farm.

The lambing season was busy. The birth of any animal can be an intense experience — but when you have 90 females in your maternity ward that could go at anytime, those few months are incredibly intense. You can walk down the aisle of the barn and come back in a minute and there you have it, a newborn right in front of you. Most likely another is close at hand.

I have witnessed and helped deliver a number of them. The exact figure I can’t recall. I start counting them in my mind and start dosing off when I get to 20. So yes, counting sheep really does work to take the edge off the day.

Some of Gregory’s four-legged fans. (Bill Gregory)

A single lamb is the best-case scenario. There is more milk to go around. Most of the mamma sheep can handle a double birth and still raise two healthy lambs.

Triplets are a bit of trouble and we had 21 sets last year. That’s 63 if you need a number to help you fall asleep. Usually a triplet birth means two healthy lambs and a runt.

These barn births turn into a bit of a Gray’s Anatomy medical drama.

You do what you can for that third, tiny lamb. You keep an eye on them and try to make life work. That means tube feeding to give the little one a chance. Sometimes another sheep will adopt the little one. Sometimes nobody in the barn wants another mouth to feed. Some make it, some don’t. The “some don’ts” do affect you. Thankfully though, we fostered many. Prior to this breeding season, I had a chat with the ram.

I’ve seen how Mother Nature can twist a sheep’s sense of motherhood. Sometimes a sheep will have twins but will reject one of the lambs. One she will protect; the other, at times, she doesn’t allow to feed. Then there are the sheep that will try and take another sheep’s lamb. If they were goats, we’d be calling it kidnapping.

This goes on from March into May. Throw in on top of that, shearing season. That’s a lot of Barbicide.

Scrub and glove

Then there are the cows. We have 75 of them wandering around the farm now.

For the most part, calving is pretty smooth-going. As soon as the signs start showing they go into the cow’s version of the Ritz-Carlton of maternity wards. Their births are not as tedious as the sheep. Don’t get me wrong, they too can have difficult births, especially if it’s their first.  But, for the most part, things go smoothly and they are clamouring to get back outside a week after the blessed event.

A late-evening summer image of Bill Gregory’s view in Haricot. (Submitted)

But like the sheep, there can be tense times in the barn at birth. Breaches, twins, the calf’s head is too big. I have seen them all and have had to jump in and assist. “Scrub up and glove” I call it. Sometimes you don’t get to scrub or glove as seconds count for mother and child. You win some, you lose some. Each you try and shake off and carry on. You quickly learn the fragility and reality of it all.

It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since I signed off from my career in radio. I am surrounded by how I can eat. Something my previous employer frowned upon.

The adage “where did the year go” rings true. It has been an incredible time of change and transition. Adjusting to a new way of life, a new routine, a new schedule.

It’s what those lambs, calves and I have in common.

Two lambs stay close to their mother at Haricot Farms. (Bill Gregory)

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Like the lambs and the calves, I’m new to this farm

Aggregated from: CBC | Newfoundland and Labrador News

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