Riddlesden Jacobs

A site about a West Yorkshire flock of Jacob Sheep

Losing babies

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This is the blog post I didn’t want to have to write. I didn’t want to have to share with you that some of our lambs didn’t make it or how they died. However, not blogging about what happened wouldn’t be right either. The blog is meant to reflect on our day to day with the flock and our life in Riddlesden. We can’t just skip over the not so nice bits!

The 22nd March started with heartbreak. The weather was horrendous. It was sleeting heavily, it was cold and it was windy. Kath started the early checks at 4am and there was nothing. She followed it up with checks at least hourly. There was still no sign of anything around 6am. Then at 6.45am she found 2 dead lambs in very odd positions in a corner of the field our ewes don’t often go into. Number 15 was laid a few metres away and had just pushed her afterbirth out. She was not interested in the lambs. It was all very odd. The lambs hadn’t been rejected outright, they were licked. They must have been born very shortly after one check and then gone downhill and died very quickly. There was no chance of saving them when Kath got to them. They were dead.

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Number 15 a couple of days after losing her lambs

The morning after Kath walked the field at 4.30am. Everything seemed calm and the ewes looked like they were all just sleeping. As she approached one of the shearlings she saw a little body behind her. A lamb. It looked dead. It was still alive though so Kath scooped it up and tried to bring it and the ewe in. The ewe wouldn’t follow though. Even with me walking behind her she wasn’t having any of it. She kept running back to the area she had lambed in. In the end we had to give up and try and save the lamb. It was a beautiful gimmer lamb and she seems a little fighter. She had some colostrum and the lamb box was working. We took her to Kath’s mum’s house where I’d slept so I could be closer to the field and check more often and she seemed to be coming round. Then she had a little fit, went floppy and stopped breathing. There was nothing I could do.


Little Guzzle shortly before she died

It is hard to explain how much losing a lamb takes out of you. It’s an almost physical reaction. You can’t help but feel you’ve let everyone down. Those lambs are our responsibility and when they die, particularly in circumstances where we don’t really understand why, it is really hard not to blame yourself. We have been over everything we have done and not done, anything we might have done differently, we’ve been through all the should haves and all the shouldn’t haves. We are our own harshest critics. But the reality is, if you keep sheep and lamb them at some point you will lose lambs and there won’t always be a reason. Sometimes crap things just happen, sometimes you’ll make mistakes and contribute to those crap things happening and sometimes you’ll make calls that prevent crap things from happening. We learn every year. There are new problems every year and some are easier to deal with than others but we just have to keep dealing with what the flock throws at us as best we can in the moment and then take the time to reflect, think and learn afterwards. We do our best even if sometimes that feels like a long long way from good enough.


Author: Jess Guth

Dr Jess Guth is a Senior Lecturer in Law. She blogs at jessguth.com She also doesn't really run - reallynotarunner.com

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