Friday, 21 April 2017

Lambing and Jacob sheep at Charlecote Park

At such a busy time of year when the grounds are full of little visitors and their families on the Cadbury's Easter egg hunt, tucked away in the top field at Charlecote are the park team of staff and volunteers working around the clock helping the ewes bring their new lambs into this world safely.

They do an amazing job, one I really admire and one I have been very lucky as a volunteer to observe over the years.

 Lambing is one of my favourite times of year and something I try really hard not to miss. The arrival of new life into this world is an amazing thing to see and at Charlecote, this always starts with lambing.

 Many of the lambs are born in one of the smaller fields within Polo and then brought into the pen area to be looked after more closely by the team. The mother is given extra food and water to help build her strength back up while the young get used to their legs. It doesn't take long for these youngsters to stand up at all but you always hear an 'ahhhh' when they fall back down :)

A short video of the first lambs to be born at Charlecote this year.

After the lambs and mothers have had time to settle into their pens, they are then checked to make sure all is OK by Paul (Park and Garden Manager ), Joy (Area Ranger) and their team. Each ewe and lamb will be checked carefully and then the lambs are tagged.

As you can see, the lambs don't mind at all and Joy gets an extra cuddle.

After about 24-48hrs depending on the ewe and lambs as like humans, they are all different, they are then placed in the area next to the pens called the nursery. Here they get their first run around on grass and the team can still keep a close eye on them for a day or two.

Joy releasing one of the lambs onto grass for the first time.

A short video of the first sets of lambs playing in the nursery and I think it's their mothers they are giving the run around!

Many times a day the team will walk the two smaller fields within Polo to check for any other ewes giving birth.

One ewe was brought into the pens at this time with what was thought to be twins, only for a 3rd to be born inside the pen itself with a little help from Paul.

Lamb No.3 below only a few minutes old. 

For those who don't know, National Trust's Charlecote Park has one of the finest flocks of pedigree Jacob sheep in the country. Their ancestors were the very first Jacob sheep to be introduced to England in 1756 by George Lucy of Charlecote. They originally came from the Middle East and are believed to be the oldest breed of sheep in the world.
Jacob sheep look very different to your traditional white English sheep with their characteristic splodgy brown and white fleeces. The ewes have little cone shape horns and the males, the rams, have spiral horns.

         A Jacob ram with full fleece and full set of horns before they were cut.

Their horns can get in the way of day to day life and can be dangerous when rams fight as boys do so they have since been cut back a little as you will see further down this blog.

Below you can see the ewes in full fleece

And a close up of the ewes face just after the fleece has been sheared off .

Of course the thought of lambing really starts back in November when the rams are first put in with the ewes to breed and it all started with a kiss :)

It took only two males to see to a field full of ewes. Busy boys indeed!
 You can see in these pictures the boys have had their horns cut back.

Five months later and the lambs start coming into this world.
These were the very first lambs to be born this year on the 2nd of April. Aren't the beautiful? Yesterday, 18 days later, I watched as they ran around the big open field, well ran and bounced to be honest. Have you ever really watched little lambs run? It is more of a bounce and it is so sweet. When first born, their legs look so long compared to their bodies and their first steps look like they are trying to walk on stilts.

These same lambs yesterday out in the big open field, 18 days old. They grow and fill out quickly.

And pictured below with their mother. All are doing really well.

A few of the other lambs finding their feet and exploring their new home.

Making friends or already head butting? :):)

Mother keeping a close eye....

I think I am being watched too!

One of the many sets of triplets bouncing around the field.

Yes, I am being watched!

Look at the tail in the picture below. These lambs have some serious tail action going on!

Some of the stronger older lambs have now been brought down into the main park area for you to see. Polo field is not accessible to visitors but you can walk along the edge of it in West Park and see all the lambs running around.

There are 151 lambs at the moment , mostly twins but also 13 sets of triplets! There are 10 more ewes to go still but I think everyone is hoping they will start over the next day or two so that next week they can get on with other things in the park that need doing. Lambing is very time consuming for the team which makes for very long days.

A BIG thanks to the lambing team yesterday and all the other times they have happily let me join them. They really do do an amazing job and it is a privilege to be able to observe.

Yesterday's Lambing Team

For more information on Charlecote Park, check out their website at...

I will leave you with my latest video of the older lambs running around Polo.


                                                  Jana Eastwood

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