As I write this, I am sitting in the office at 2am watching the lambing shed camera waiting for a Texel gimmer to push out her second lamb...

My Jack Russell alarm clock wakes me once through the night at a surprisingly regular time and tonight I was out in the shed just as she had dropped her first.

With a shed of 80 ewes left out of 100 just at the back door, it makes sense to pop the wellies and leggings on and take in the whole scenario in person, but the camera is great for discreetly following something that has just started.

When numbers get down a bit, the whole job can be done from bed – apart from letting the dog out.

I suppose most folk would have caught the ewe to pull the second out, pen her up and get back to bed. However, as it is a recorded ram-breeding flock, we are trying to let the sheep show us what she is capable of – and lambing-ease score data feeds into a lambing-ease EBV which we are finding quite powerful.

Our agriculture student son is doing a lambing as part of a large team in a shed-based system. I don’t think lambing ease is just so critical in that scenario, with ewes needing almost constant checking to pen up and usually big, roomy, maybe mule-type ewes.

If you move to an outdoor lambing system, however, when you can get away with a much-reduced labour input, lambing ease can become critical to success –probably even the No.1 trait of importance.

The Scottish Farmer: Neil with Jim Smith tagging a polled heifer calf out of his favourite cowNeil with Jim Smith tagging a polled heifer calf out of his favourite cow

We place a big emphasis on it with our Texel flock – not only because we use the rams ourselves on outdoor-lambed Lleyn ewes – but I’m all for making things simpler if we can.

A low-stress birth is a good start to a belly-full of colostrum and life becomes pretty straightforward after that.

We have two new sires this time, both selected with good lambing ease EBVs and one is turning out to be a big step forward with really easy births – but not at the expense of lamb quality.

In fact, his are the strongest and best lambs at the moment – they are just a bit narrower at the crown of the head.

Lambing camera progress report: The newborn has been up trying to suckle but the gimmer has been busy licking it and won’t stand still. He has now fallen over, so she is lying down giving some big pushes again.

Calving is getting into full swing too. It didn’t get off to a great start as we lost a cow that put her calf bed out after having twins, and then there have been a few sets coming backwards just needing help. However, with about 40 cows calved and 11 of them twins, there are only another two sets left in the remaining 160.

Pure Luing calves are going straight out as soon as they are tagged and de-horned. A couple of homozygous polled bulls in the team last year has brought that job forward by a day for a lot of the calves.

We note a score for udder and teats on the cows as we tag calves and take a calving-ease score and birth weight. It all jogs the memory and adds to the picture when we’re picking cows to the bull later on.

We sold yearling Simmental cross steer calves to free up a court for fresh calved cows a couple of weeks ago.

Compared to last year, there were more of them looking the part, so it was a bigger load in terms of numbers, but the average weight was back about 10kgs per head.

At just more than £1300, they were £100 up on the year – which was a similar rise to the year before. This inflation is wonderful unless you have to buy things.

News Flash: The second lamb has popped out and its head is up. The first is back trying to suck again and it got straight on the teat as the gimmer is licking the new lamb. I’ll let it fill its belly and give her time for a bit of bonding before I iodine navels and move them to an individual pen for the night.

Texel lambs are usually turned out within a day or so, but with this cold weather I have been reluctant to do that. I worry about udders, and it is just so miserable.

We have pulled together a corner of a hay shed as some temporary accommodation, but we’ll need to go to grass shortly.

Late lambing ewes are getting vaccinated this week, which coincides nicely with twins finishing turnips. Singles have been on some rough grazing with hay since scanning, and triplets on a grass field with ewe rolls by snacker.

Vet student daughter has completed her last animal husbandry practical experience with ‘small rodents’ last week.

I was shocked to learn that rabbits are a more important species to UK vets (in terms of income) than sheep are. So maybe it wasn’t a waste of time after all.

Next week, she is opening up the lambing shed to the public for ‘lambing experience’ tours. She has nearly sold out with 150 tickets sold and enough income gathered together to cover four months’ rent in a student flat in Edinburgh.

With some experience from last year, the highlights are expected to be feeding and cuddling pet lambs, holding newborn chicks and a farmhouse tea (she’s charging more for that – to give to RHET).

The first Scots Dumpy chick of spring has just hatched in the incubator ready for Tally’s lambing experiences. Debbie has been nurturing a cockerel that she had high hopes for at the Highland Show, but she heard this week that there are to be no classes again.

We might end up with him in the pot yet – there’s always a silver lining.

It’s a shame that the rare breed poultry shows and sales have all come to an end with bird flu. I totally understand why – but without a specialist sale in the old Forfar Mart, we’d never have got started with Dumpies, and without classes at the Highland Show, Debbie and Angus wouldn’t have met folk like Drew Guthrie and Jack Ramsay who gave them the encouragement to catch the bug and keep these little bits of social and natural history going.

It is another dirty, cold night out – but I’d better away and get the new lambs penned up and get back to bed.

Catch up with you again at the other side of lambing when the grass is blowing in the breeze.