Lambing season has kicked off, a little earlier this year with 250 ewes due over the next 2 weeks. Sheep are very accurate in their gestation period, with pregnancy lasting 147 days with only a couple of days variation, so this year the first lambs arrived on March 1st, right on time. Lambing earlier allows us to sell some early lambs in May and June, while the price is still comparatively high. Once the mid summer comes, the market is awash with lambs and the price will hit its annual trough, before (we hope) rising again towards Christmas. From a farming point of view lambing earlier makes a lot of sense, as it means that we have fewer animals on the farm over the summer and into the Autumn when the grass begins to fade.
But lambing early can also be a risk. It is said that March ‘comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb’, and a bad spell of wind and cold rain when the lambs are first turned out can be disastrous. The grass is seldom good enough to support a ewe, giving milk for a two lambs, so sheep have to be fed for several weeks, which in itself is expensive.
So this year we’ve split the lambing, with 250 ewes lambing now and 400 ewes lambing from the second week in April to fit nicely in with our Lambing Open Days. It seems like a good plan, but it does mean that we’ll have 5 weeks of limited sleep instead of 3. But today the Devon weather is very mild, and the grass is already growing, so for the moment it all seems like a great idea!