Monday, August 09, 2010

The UK Files - Lambing

My aunt lives in what is called a village, and the surrounding areas are full of farms and open areas. One such neighbouring farm organized a Lambing weekend, where the farm was thrown open to the public for a fee. It was no less than a fair. There were stalls and organized parking, and volunteers took batches of visitors around the farm. We saw geese, ducks, horses, a Shetland pony and goats in enclosures just outside.

Inside, we were first taken to the hen enclosure. Six thousand hens live here, and in a good week, the yield of the farm is thirty-two thousand eggs. Now that is astonishing. They are free-range hens, and at night, they are housed in a huge hen building. We were shown how tonnes of feed are pumped into the enclosures. Whew, did that building stink!

The hens are brought in when they are a few weeks old - all of them the same age. They lay eggs until they are about 72 weeks old, after which, their egg-laying ability decreases, and they are sent away to enter the meat chain. The whole area is then cleaned and sanitized, and the next batch of hens are brought in.

"How do you know which eggs are chick-eggs?" asked a little girl.
"There are no chick-eggs here," said the volunteer. "We don't have any roosters - this is a ladies-only section - and you know that you need both a male and a female to make babies, don't you? You don't? Ask your mother after you get home!" And she winked at the rest of us and escaped quickly!

We saw pens of little pink pigs with curly tails - they were so cute. One had got some straw stuck to its snout - and it was doing a little dance to free itself - that was great fun. There were tiny little enclosures each containing one ewe and her lambs that had been born within that week. If ewe1 has given birth to three lambs and ewe2 to one, then the farmers cheat by putting one of ewe1's lambs with ewe2 - so that they all have a better chance of survival. These lambs were adorable, and some were available to hold and pet. Puttachi held a three-day-old lamb in her arms, and it was the sweetest sight. Soap and hand-sanitizers were installed everywhere, and we were told to use them liberally.

I don't know about you - but I felt it then and I feel it now - an intense urge to just run and jump into this pile of hay.

The high-point of our visit was watching a live birth. There was a huge enclosure in which all the sheep in labour were housed. These had tiny oval openings, through which we peeping-toms could crouch and look. I actually saw a lamb being born. The poor mother was baa-ing away pathetically, turning round and round in the straw. Just as she started straining, two (human) helpers came to assist her. Even as we looked, a baby lamb popped out of the mother, along with the messy afterbirth. The next moment, the helpers left, and the mother started licking the lamb for all she worth. In a little while, she started baa-ing again - it looked like there was another on its way. But we had to leave.

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The just-born (Photo taken through a two-inch long oval opening)

We finished with a tractor-trailer ride around the farm, followed by two adorable lambs - white amidst green grass.

It was a fabulous experience.


Anonymous said...

This sounds so lovely. And nice pics!


Arundhati said...

Wow you've spent your time on holiday well, very interesting non-touristy stuff!

Hay -- I've always had a fascination for it, don't know why!

praneshachar said...

Its amazing the way u hv expressed I felt I was right next to you. thats ur speciality. I really feel so proud to know u. shruthi your capabilities as writer needs to be fully explored. u r an amazing creative innovative writer to me. full farm I can bring in front of my eyes now. thanks for taking me/us thro UK tour wow wow great and seeing a birth of lamb in front superb, i can understand what u would have felt
waiting for next in the series

Manasa said...

Nice pics.. sounds gr8 holding a 3 day old lamb :)

Viky said...

This is great, such a different experience than the usual London palace-bridge-shopping trips!!

Shruthi said...

Ano, it WAS lovely!

Arundhati, all thanks to my aunt :)

Praneshachar, thank you!

Manasa, soft and warm and wriggly and cute, it was!

Viky, isn't it? I'm so glad I had that opportunity. Thanks to dearest aunt.

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