Summer at Home Farm Wensleydales and weaning our lambs
This year at Home Farm, despite the dreadful weather conditions that faced us from November until Easter, we had a tremendous lambing season. We are delighted to have increased our slaughter free flock.
Lambing started at the beginning of March and ended mid April (with the arrival of a surprise lamb – a result of an over-energetic ram who can clearly jump the high fences!!) and this is followed 4 months later with weaning.
I personally find the job of weaning our lambs very emotional. This crucial time must be managed carefully to avoid stress to both the ewe and her lambs, although the lambs seem to find it more stressful than the ewes! Minimising the stress and easing the process are very important factors on our farm both for the welfare of the animal and the quality of our wool.
Without our intervention, weaning would occur naturally at approximately 6 months of age. We aim to wean at 18 - 20 weeks when the ewes milk has naturally decreased and there is less risk of her developing mastitis.
We take the ewes to a different area of the farm for a few days to allow her milk to dry up completely. This only takes 3 or 4 days and the lambs are left in their familiar surroundings with all of the other lambs who have been with them since birth.
Once the ewes milk has dried up we return them to their groups and they are not separated again until winter when the lambs are fed a special diet to help them strong through these long colder months.
Keeping Longwool Wensleydale Sheep at Home Farm Wensleydales is an entirely different process to keeping sheep for meat. There are many factors that will affect the quality of the wool that we produce and stress during weaning is one of the highest. We cannot have any weakness in the staple or wool break in our premium fibre.
When we have successfully weaned our ewes and lambs we can look forward to a healthy flock growing luxury fibre for our wool and fleece customers.