Heartbreak in the paddocks

Lambing is one of the most rewarding times in the sheep farmers’ calendar but it can also be one of the most heartbreaking.

Losing thousands of lambs has a high financial cost. It also has an emotional one.

Trying to help lambs and ewes in bad weather is hard physical work and it’s heartbreaking when in spite of your best efforts stock die.

On Nine to Noon this morning Lyn Freeman spoke about the trials  to Southland farmers David Rose, Federated Farmers Adverse Events spokesperson and Don Nicolson, Feds president.

One of the questions she asked was whether it would be better to lamb at another time. David gave a similar answer to one I wrote on yesterday’s post about the snow – you can get bad weather at any time and lambing has to be timed to meet the feed cycle.

Every time there’s a bad storm during lambing people who don’t understand farming ask why farmers don’t do more to protect their stock.

The simple answer is they do all they can but in really bad weather that’s not enough.

It’s not like overseas where they have smaller flocks and lamb inside. Here where we have much larger flocks and  it’s humanly impossible to give the nurturing required to beat nature’s worst.

3 Responses to Heartbreak in the paddocks

  1. Chris Bird says:

    As a semi retired sheep farmer who farmed in the Manawatu hill country for 35 years,my heart goes out to the farmers in Southland who are trying to cope with the recent bad weather.
    Lets hope for a top year from now on with normal conditions and better than average prices to make up for the shortfall.
    As for people who don’t know any better, who say that farmers should not lamb when we have adverse weather conditions, I say get a life.
    It is normal for this practice in the spring, and if those supposed experts can tell farmers when the storms are going to happen then we would know in March or April what dates we need to put the rams out!!!

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  2. homepaddock says:

    Good point Chris – and even if we could know in autumn when the spring storms would hit, it wouldn’t be at the same time each year so ewes wouldn’t be cycling at the right time.

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  3. We raised beef cattle in Canada. They calved in late February, often at, very literally, -40 degrees Celsius. We lost maybe 4% of calves any given year, most typically due to things other than weather (birthing complications). Calving later in the year would have brought greater losses from spring scours.

    Of course, we had to have them in corrals near the barn over winter; they would have had 100% losses left out in pasture.

    Lambing losses are avoidable, just not at zero cost. Bring them all to the paddocks near the house for the couple of months during lambing, and feed them on hay if the grass wears down. Go out every night to help out any ewes having trouble. It probably wouldn’t pay to farm here using those practices, but that’s pretty much how beef cattle worked in Canada. If it doesn’t sound like fun, try doing it at -40. On the plus side, the northern lights could be rather beautiful when it was that cold.

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