Thursday, 14 April 2011

JUST.... ONE.... MORE.... PUSH.. that's..... it...


Not yer average birth I'll give you that, unless of course you either grew up in North Wales, or had work experience with the Easter bunny. For me - it was the former.

A couple of nights ago, I saw a documentary about lambing being advertised and aside from nearly falling off my (incredibly uncomfortable IKEA) sofa with surprise, it brought flooding back some of my fondest memories.

Aged 10; life started - I discovered lambing. I also discovered being paid, but £1 an hour seemed too sweet a pill to swallow for me, doing 8 hours of work a day in what seemed like my own personalised HEAVEN. None-the-less, dad insisted.

This is not me - just an appropriate image. I was a girl.

I had a never been a squeamish child, nor am I a squeamish grown-up. Worms, snakes, beetles, ants, snails and puppy dog tails, animals - dead or alive - yup that was me. My elder brother was left to play with the sugar and spice. WHICH having rather got off the scent of this tale is where I get to the point that 'lambing really was riiiiiiight up my street!' Animals - check. Dirt, straw, mud, blood, guts - check. AND the grrrrand finale (cue drumroll) a baby, yes a BABY (another childhood obsession) sheep covered in ALL of the above. WHAT WASN"T to LIKE (as they say)?

There he is - the lamby god of heaven. I can hear them now, bleating to me from behind the pearly gates.

But what I wasn't prepared for was the intricate and clever nature of an animal always thought to be one of nature's stoopidist. Well they just aren't. My first glimpse into the mind of this Einstein-like creature was after a particularly troublesome birth due to a very fat lamb whose head had gone back. After this realisation and much straining (from the sheep) the farmer instructed me 'Gloves on - You're going in!' You see my little hands were of more use to him in this situation than his were. And I'm thinking the sheep probably wouldn't have objected either had she the choice, poor thing. I can explain further if you like... NO NO fair enough, you get it.

So my job was to push the sheep back up into the thicker part of the womb and try and pull its head round carefully by going behind it without breaking the neck so the lamb was in more of a diving position. No pressure! Do you follow?

After a bit of a struggle (and some other issues I'll refrain from sharing with you to avoid vomit on the keyboard) I managed to get the head round and with a long tug, out it came! It lay pretty still for a few nervy seconds before giving a little sneeze and embracing its first day of life as a soggy lamb.

And just when I thought the action was over.... the farmer announced we were going to adopt!
Within seconds, using her guerilla tactics, the farmer's wife (who'd been hiding behind the pen) had placed the 2 day old orphan next to his would-be brother. 'Really', I said 'Was the stealth mission necessary? Couldn't you've have just put the orphan in the pen and let the sheep get on with it. Surely, she'd never know the difference?'
'Absoutely not!' came the farmer's reply. 'In fact we must do everything we can to convince the sheep she's had twins.' After saying this, he took the orphan lamb who was just going 'Blaaaaaaa' at this point and promptly silenced it by pushing its head up the sheep's !!AHEM!! before slowly pulling it out again, and then rubbing the orphan over the shivering wet newborn.

Surely this was beyond the realms of orphan duty?

"Was THAT necessary?" came the next bout of insatiable curiosity.

What I had just witnessed was an adoption technique where the farmer was trying to simulate another birth so the sheep wouldn't suspect foul play; and rubbing the orphan over the newborn was to help it appear and smell the same. "They're much cleverer than they look. You can't take any chances,' said the farmer as he placed first the orphan lamb in front of the mother to lick, leaving the newborn behind her. The mother was immediately tentative but after a while got into the spirit of cleaning her "newborn" (te-he we know better) lamb. AFter a good 5 minutes of bonding, the rightful lamb was put at her head also. Again, this was no random act and all part of the adoption: getting the mother used to the smell of the adopted lamb before her own lamb was introduced, so she was less likely to smell an intrudor.

EXTRAORDINARY i thought.... and still do.

But the most surprising thing was, it didn't always work. Sometimes the sheep was way too nifty and knew exactly what was going on, so, the poor thing would be returned to the orphanage in the hope of having better luck next time.
The consequences of not removing an unwanted lamb very often meant its death, either by being crushed or suffocated by the mother. (I never knew sheep could be so vicious!) This was a very sad sight to find, and probably rather costly, so for all its gruesomeness (which admittedly i rather liked aged 10) I now understood why it was so important to the farmer for it to work.

NEXT TIME ON Vi PEEP'S LAMBING WEEKLY... 'More scintillating adoption techniques'

(My middle name isn't MARY for nothing!)

No comments:

Post a Comment