We are at peak lambing for the main Lleyn flock, but by the time you read this the bulk of the ewes should have done the job and we should be thinking about gathering the remaining ones into a couple of closer-by fields.

The lambing has gone reasonably well so far, and we have been fortunate with the weather. I feel really sorry for sheep and shepherds who ended up lambing in the cold and wet of early April and although we are back amongst gutters now, it’s warm rain and there is plenty of feed in front of ewes – sending lambs off to a flying start.

I have been told many times that ‘The Good Lord sends us a seed time and a harvest’ – and sure enough it arrived in the nick of time for barley to get sown in April (although it was down to a matter of hours). He then sent some more ‘soft, refreshing rain’ to set the seeds on their way – but jings, we hadn’t quite gotten the grass field sown by then.

Before this lot of ewes kicked off, I spent a few hours off the farm sitting in the cab of a tractor with a friend who was working down some land for sowing at the time. He’s a bit further down-country and has a proper arable tractor! The auto-steer was keeping the line straight, and he could concentrate on how the cultivator was working and avoiding wet bits that looked dry on top. With no overlaps and easy turning, it must make a significant improvement to efficiency as well as ease of operation.

It got me to thinking what technologies have helped improve lambing time.

All that I really came up with were quad bikes and better wellies! The warm, comfortable boots with good gripping soles are a big difference to even the old black and grey ones with the tractor-tyre type grip that I aspired to as a kid running around in thin, tread-less plastic boots that we still shod our kids in for most of their developmental years.

There were a wide range of foot-ware choices on show at Tally’s lambing shed tours – ranging from white trainers to fur-trimmed Hunters. I found it interesting that few visitors thought it appropriate to remove their outdoor shoes when coming into the farmhouse for a cup of tea. Quite the opposite to a Young Farmers visit – when the hallway at the front door is a sea of discarded boots and everyone just comes in in their socks. It’s just one of the many little differences between ‘them’ and ‘us’.

Anyway, quad bikes, wellies ….and maybe waterproofs are all about the shepherd’s comfort. What about the ewe? What have we done to improve things for her?

Well, I guess disposable lambing gloves and lubricant gel probably helps. And we are now using a lot more Metacam for pain relief in cases such as prolapses, bad lambings, mastitis and twin lamb.

Maybe the biggest difference for the ewe is the advice we have taken from professor Cathy Dwyer from SRUC who has done a lot of research into animal behaviour. She pointed out that a ewe will pick a lambing spot perhaps up to a week or so before she lambs, maybe just visit a few times or maybe camp there for a spell. She forms a bond with this nest-spot. At lambing, that bond becomes transferred to the lambs, but it can take a little time – meanwhile the lamb starts to bond with the ewe. Minimising disturbance around bonding is going to help everything.

We now try to set-stock lambing ewes about a week before lambing starts and leave them in that field until the end of the first cycle. If there is pinching going on, I think it’s because someone else has lambed in her nest-spot, so we catch the ‘thief’ and drop her off in the next field and the notion usually goes off her. We try to disturb ewes as little as possible, and to aid the bonding process we have stopped spraying dots on twins or dipping navels – just stay on the bike if possible.

Of course, it doesn’t all go to plan! I suppose everyone has some ewes that are beyond all reasoning. But thinking about what the ewe is trying to get out of the situation has helped us increase our ‘operator comfort’ both for sheep and shepherd at lambing time.

It has been a tough spring for us all, and particularly sheep people. I’ve heard, quite regularly, the phrase ‘why do we keep doing this?’ Well, I think it’s great to see the learning and wisdom in an older ewe tending her newborn lambs – but to witness a daft little gimmer flick the switch and suddenly become a ‘mum’, lick her lambs and nuzzle them to suckle is pure magic. That’s what’s getting me into my fancy wellies at daybreak tomorrow morning.