After a final round through the lambing fields and a final walk past the pens in the shed, having finally managed to convince the pet lambs to stop screaming once their bellies are full, the feeling of gratitude takes centre stage as I look up to a temporarily blue sky. I don’t need to tell anybody reading this how difficult spring has been.

Watching rivers and lakes form across the lambing parks within hours, ewes desperately trying to find some shelter from wind and rain, the small shed bursting at its seams with newly-lambed ewes that should not have had to come inside were it not for the floods, it really has been a pretty tough spell.

It’s seasons like the one we’ve just endured that remind us why we try to breed for a resilient animal. An animal that may well be outperformed by high productivity ‘fair weather’ breeds, but one that ultimately will stand the test of time when the seasons turn against it. As the saying goes, steady wins the race, and our ladies are certainly being put to the test at the moment, and winning – as are their young.

It amazes me what lambs can put up with and endure so long as they have a good skin on them and are quick on their feet to fill their bellies with warm colostrum.

Our inbye ladies are just about finished, but thankfully the hill gimmers and twins started a few days ago to make sure we would not have to suffer a quiet spell full of boredom. Apart from the weather, lambing has been going well, bearing the fruits of extensive recording and careful selection.

The gimmers, in particular, have been a delight to work with and are amazing mothers. They seem to be very chatty with their lambs this year, and the ewes on the whole have been very protective and standing up to the dogs even more than usual, much to the frustration of our canine assistants.

Keeping records of pedigrees and mating groups continues to be both useful and interesting, and allows us to detect early differences and patterns between bloodlines. This is particularly helpful to obtain an early picture of how the purchased stud tups are breeding on the inbye. We are noticing differences in some of the usual traits like birth weight and skins, but one that has caught our attention this year is a difference in the scrotal circumference.

One tup, in particular, is leaving his sons with assets ready to start the job tomorrow by the looks of it, and the sheer look of determination on their little faces would suggest that they know it. Unfortunately, we are also noticing that one purchased tup seems to leave his boys with a rather underwhelming legacy pocket.

While that is disappointing, it is good to be aware of this early on before we end up retaining potentially subfertile lambs for breeding.

We have been quite pleased about the birth weights too this year, apart from a token mini-lamb just to steal the neighbours’ hearts and a handful of lambs on the larger side. The season seems to have something to do with the latter, but that does not make it any less undesirable.

Oversized lambs compromise the ability for the ewe to give birth unassisted and with minimal trauma to herself, and can significantly slow her recovery post-lambing, and the trauma of a difficult birth can severely impact on the lamb to get on to its feet and the teat quickly. Sometimes a big lamb is just bad luck, sometimes the feeding regime fails, or a new tup can throw a bit of a curveball. When it does happen, lessons must be learned to try to prevent it as best as we can for the following season.

Which is why I am so utterly disappointed to once again come across what now appears to be an annual tradition of celebrating monster lambs (and calves) on social media and in some farming publications. It almost feels like a competition.

People seem to be encouraged to share pictures of animals that clearly needed a lot of help to be born, and they proudly present these lambs and calves as if that is something we should aspire to. Meanwhile the mother is somewhere in the background, conveniently excluded from the picture.

At what point did the farming industry decide that a picture screaming lambing difficulty and a mother in pain on a long road to recovery, if she is lucky, is something we should promote and celebrate? A competition to find out who can produce the biggest one – for what purpose, and at what cost?

As an industry, we cannot be shouting about having (some of) the highest animal welfare standards in the world if we appear to be endorsing and pursuing practices that trade the wellbeing of our animals for what can only be called vanity farming. It does not help our arguments against the anti-farming agenda, and we certainly cannot act surprised if the livestock industry is accused of ignoring animal welfare when we don’t try to actively distance ourselves from this worrying trend.

Even from a profit point of view, I struggle to make sense of it. If I consider the interference during birth, the added labour afterwards, the medication, time spent in the shed while recovering, loss of condition and all the other associated inputs, I really fail to understand why there is still a mindset out there that bigger is better.

Give me a ewe that can pop out a nicely sized lamb on her own in the field any day, happily grazing again an hour later as her lamb is peacefully asleep beside her with a belly full of milk.

That simple sight is beautiful and does a lot of good for my own mental health, even when the weather is challenging.