I’m pretty sure whichever part of the country you were in last week, you experienced the extreme snowy weather (unless you were in Inverness, where my best friend lives who crazily had no snow at all!), or at the very least saw what was termed ‘The Beast from the East’ via social media and the news. Usually I wouldn’t think that weather was worthy of a blog post, but I wanted to share our experiences of life on the farm during such atrocious conditions, because whilst most people were excited for pretty Instagram pictures, for us it really was a week from hell!
By the way, this post isn’t to moan about how difficult it was coping with the weather, in fact it’s quite the opposite. There’s so much in the press at the moment about veganism and the flack that farmers are getting from both seasoned vegans and newbies that have jumped on the trend and I think it’s really important to provide a balanced view on the situation (but more on that particular subject in a later post). As I said, farmers have been receiving a lot of abuse with regards to the care and welfare of their animals from vegans based on their own ideology and (a lot of the time) social media propaganda. I’ll admit in some cases calling out the poor welfare or care of animals is completely justified – but to blanket bomb all farmers and livestock owners with the same view is totally unfounded and to be honest with you, the biggest load of rubbish I’ve heard. The amount of care, attention and backbreaking hard work that goes into caring for our animals (obviously I can only speak from my own experience, but this also goes for the the vast majority of other farmers I know) is quite frankly heroic. Particularly during last week’s weather…which is what I actually wanted to share with you!
As is the case with a lot of farms up and down the country, we are slap-bang in the middle of lambing season. Which quite frankly means I get nothing done to the horses before or after work because I’m too busy snuggling with lambs. But last week was a different story…
All of our sheep come inside to lamb, which was although was a godsend it also turned out to be a nightmare too. The awful blizzards and extreme cold was like nothing I’ve ever experienced at home before (of course I have seen weather like this, but usually it’s when I’m skiing or somewhere much further north), with snow blowing into the sheep pens and temperatures dropping to -8oC without windchill, the new born lambs were really struggling to survive. It was a case of all hands on deck – my Dad and brother were up every hour during the night checking the sheep were ok and that anyone in labour was looked after and their newborns tended to quickly – the problem with this is the lambs are born wet (obviously), but the sheep need to lick the lambs dry in order to form the maternal bond. So whilst we were desperate to get the lambs dry as quick as possible to stop them contracting hypothermia, we also needed to let nature take priority. My mum and I were at the farm before having to leave for work and until ridiculous o’clock in the evening afterwards making sure everyone was warm, dry, fed (we have some orphans who need extra special care). So it was a constant cycle of breaking ice on water troughs, defrosting pipes, bedding a zillion times a day just so the lambs were warm and giving everyone extra food.
I know first hand just how hard farmers work – my dad NEVER takes a day off or goes on holiday and is always rushing around at a million miles a minute. I don’t know how he does it. Last week was even more frantic than normal and it definitely took it’s toll on him but rather than giving in, going to sleep like everyone else would he was out all night, missing meals and not looking after himself properly in the extreme cold just to make sure the animals were ok – so anyone who says that farmers don’t look after their animals properly, I invite you to come to our farm and see first hand just how unfounded that claim really is.
Anyone who thinks this is just a business to us -WRONG. You couldn’t be more wrong. To be totally honest no farmer would be in this for money because it’s definitely not well paid! But to see how desperate everyone was to help our animals and make sure they survived shows just how much we care and when things go wrong, it’s not just a bad day at the office – its completely devastating. I don’t think my brother has ever cried but when we lost a lamb which had been brought into the house by the fire, given as much medicine and care as possible, he was mortified that we failed.
Sadly we lost the little lamb in the middle picture, but at least we can honestly say we did absolutely everything we could to keep him alive
And what’s even better than families pulling together during tough times? The farming community, which is like an extended family. Everyone rallied round to help and do what they could – because as a farmer that’s what you do. You always help your fellow farmers because you know that one day you could be in a similar situation and need help yourself. So from the offers of extra help, to the donation of extra tarpaulin sheets to act as a wind break in the sheds, the lending of calf jackets for the newborns (because although calves are relatively big and sturdy compared to lambs, they still struggled), to the unbelievably kind gesture from our friends Kate and Chris who made us some special jackets for the lambs to keep them warm – everyone pulled together. What a community and what a difference it made to morale, because it’s very easy to want to give up when things are not going to plan.
I can’t thank everyone who helped enough, but hopefully by writing this post it may make people realise how much farmers really do care about their livestock and that would be thanks enough. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of my family and part of the farming community.
You’ll be pleased to know that whilst we are not out of the woods yet, the break in weather has meant the lambs can come out to play, the jackets are off both calves and lambs and although we have suffered some losses, the vast majority are thriving and happy, so it was all worth it in the end.
Farming 1, Beast from the East 0.