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Byline: Gill BROAD

LAMBING has almost finished for us,just as most people are getting into the thick of it.

`Goodness, you must have startedearly' is most people's reaction. We certainly did; a week after Christmas.

Lambs have been known to make their appearance on Christmas Day,blissfully unaware of the inconvenience this causes in the household. For one day in the year,presents, turkey and a bit of peace are the preferred order of the day.

Lambing got under way very quickly and though seasoned ewes usually see their new offspring are well-fed, we soon had a batch of hungry lambs whose inexperienced mothers either lacked milk or maternal interest.

A lot of people say it must be wonderful bringing children up on a farm - they can get involved in jobs like feeding the lambs and so forth.

Not a bit of it. Problem one is actually prising them away from the TV.

Problem two is the climate - alternately freezing, wet, wild and windy and generally uninviting throughout most lambing seasons. It's very un-childfriendly.

And on the occasions when they do decide to get hands-on,it's easy enough with reasonably small lambs which can drink competently. But lambs get big and boisterous very quickly and can easily overwhelm small children.

One task they do enjoy is helping move sheep from field to field. Ewes with lambs are slow to move around as they often lose their offspring in the melee,greatly impeding progress, so children can be very helpful in chivvying along the stragglers.

Often I find myself in the kitchen, with a meal about to go on the table, whenI'm called out to put on the lambing gloves to help with a difficult birth.

Here, the children can be a great help: small hands are often better at winkling out big or awkwardly-placedlambs.

As with all lambing seasons, there were a few tragedies this winter.

One small lamb put out in the field with the hope it was strong enough to survive, mysteriously vanished overnight - not a trace was found. Usually if a fox is the culprit, a carcass is found.

And a weak lamb which we didn't think would survive, suddenly rallied and began drinking from the bottle like a good one - only to get its head stuck in the pen and strangle itself.

But at least it hasn't been wet. They can deal with the cold to some extent,but rain and muddy fields are anathema to lambs.

So unless Mother Nature has something especially beastly up her sleeve, the worst of the winter weather is now behind us. We have fields full of gam bolling lambs and the daffodils are out - spring must be out there somewhere.

And the farming press is full of heartening stories of a return of confidence in the lamb markets,mostly due to an increased demand for British lamb across the Continent.

Hope springs eternal in the farmer's breast and it certainly needs to in the current farming climate. If these rallying signs hold true, we'll no doubt be encouraged to do the same thing all over again next year.

GILL Broad has worked as a journalist for 10 years. She is married to a farmer, they have two children aged five and seven and look after sheep,horses and cattle on their farm near Bangor-on-Dee.Comments:
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 26, 2003
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