I know that I’ve posted a lot of lamb photos over the years and quite recently too (see A Happy Ending), b .. b .. but I had never witnessed the birth of a lamb.  I’ve seen dozens of newborn lambs (thanks to having a farming friend), but I hadn’t seen the actual flop-out moment.  Until that is the other day.  So, whilst I didn’t plan on posting yet more pictures of baby sheep, I thought you might like to see this moment of arrival.  Besides, what on earth would I do with all these photos otherwise.

But a word of warning: you might want to put aside that sandwich  – some of these shots are a little bloody and raw.


On Good Friday, Margaret (who owns the farm above The Priory) sent me a text.

I’m down in sheep yard.  Do you want to see a lamb born?  If so HURRY!

I usually work on Bank Holidays (that’s self-employment for you) and, busy weeding, didn’t read her text immediately.  A couple of minutes later, I got another and fished out my phone.

I can’t tell her to put a cork in it.  Are you coming?!!” 

How could I not?  I dropped my hand-fork, ran to my car and, in one seamless blur, raced up the hill to the farm.

Ewe lambing (1)

I arrived in time.  The non-corked ewe was still struggling to deliver – with just a pair of tiny hooves peeping out.  She didn’t seem distressed; perhaps because of the Chopin floating through the lambing-pens.  (Margaret plays classical music to her lambing ewes, as you or I would too).

Ewe lambing (2)

But when Margaret noticed a bluish tongue peeping out as well, she acted quickly before the lamb suffocated.

Ewe lambing (3)

Tying a lambing rope around the feet

Ewe lambing (4)

her glamorous assistant, Nick, began pulling.

Ewe lambing (5)

You might remember Nick: he lends me a hand with hedge cutting, runs his own gardening business and helps out on the farm too.  Versatile, useful, and all round clever dick is our Nick.

Ewe lambing (6)

With steady pressure

Ewe lambing (7)

the lamb slid out.

Ewe lambing (8)

Nick swung the new-born to clear fluid from its lungs.  A rude awakening to life’s rich pleasures;

Ewe lambing (9)

whilst Margaret wiped her hands on a convenient fleece.

Ewe lambing (10)

The whopping boy-lamb met his mother

Ewe lambing (11)

and, after Nick had cleared mouth and nostrils of membrane,

Ewe lambing (12)

she began cleaning up.

Ewe lambing (13)

He was far bigger than older lambs in nearby pens and Margaret thought that he must be a single: a ewe with such a huge lamb couldn’t possibly be bearing twins.

Ewe lambing (14)

I got in close (after checking carefully what I might be kneeling in)

Ewe lambing (15)

for these five,

Ewe lambing (16)


Ewe lambing (17)

scenes of a ewe

Ewe lambing (18)

meeting her son.

Ewe lambing (19)

And then I took a sixth.

Ewe lambing (20)

Within fifteen minutes the youngster was up on his feet

Ewe lambing (21)

but not for long.  Being born is rather tiring.  Whilst I coo-ed and ahh-ed, Margaret had an exploratory feel inside the ewe to check all was normal and … felt another hoof!  There was a twin after all.

Ewe lambing (22)

Less than half an hour after the first, a second head appeared – still encased within the amniotic sac.  (That lower, darker sac separates the lambs in the womb.  Just how much do you learn on this blog?).

Ewe lambing (23)

Margaret burst the waters,

Ewe lambing (24)

and had another feel.

Ewe lambing (25)

One of its legs was twisted and so once again … and very commonly … the ewe needed help.

Ewe lambing (26)

I winced.  It looked dead to me.

Ewe lambing (27)

And also very big.  Little wonder the mother had needed help.

Ewe lambing (28)

I grew uneasy, thinking, “When do I stop taking photographs of a dead lamb?”

Ewe lambing (29)

right up until the moment he took his first breath;

Ewe lambing (30)

and licked his lips.

Ewe lambing (31)

As Nick dragged the second lamb to his mother, blood smeared the face of the older one.

Ewe lambing (32)

Still fancy that sandwich?

Ewe lambing (33)

When Margaret met her husband to be, one of the first things he said to her was, “My, what small hands you have.  They’ll be perfect for lambing!”  Margaret (who wasn’t then a farmer) was a little dumbfounded, speechless and not quite sure what to make of that comment.

But he wasn’t wrong.Save

50 thoughts on “Lambing

  1. Fascinating post David… hadn’t seen a lamb birth. Sounds really vital to have someone to assist the ewe, if difficulties are so frequent. Certainly a testament to Margaret’s care that she is so vigilant during the lambing season. Something so elemental about birth… very glad to see the second one was ok after all. Thanks for sharing some very special moments.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really appreciated you putting up a ‘running commentary’ with photos all the way through this happy event David – many others would have just put the start & finish perhaps, & we’d have missed all the enjoyment in between. 🙂 I used to work as a Vet Nurse to a mixed animal practice & regularly went out with my vet to lambings/calvings & marvelled at some of the brutality of human assisted birth (using a calving jack) but appreciated the value of it nonetheless.

    Small animal births that need veterinary assistance by comparison are nearly always sterile events i.e. C. sections but equally amazing. And we used to do exactly the same with them to stimulate them – swing them as hard & fast as you could – only one person ever lost their grip on a wee one but thankfully no harm done. Wouldn’t want it to happen to a lamb tho!!


    • Hi, I don’t even want to know what a calving jack is! (Think I can imagine actually). I was a true Herriot baby and longed to be a vet – but I couldn’t master chemistry let alone physics which the vet uni’s I looked at wanted. Biology I found a breeze but sadly that wasn’t enough. Never mind, gardening suits me just fine and I get to play on Margaret’s farm as well. And no. Swinging a newborn lamb only to have it fly over your shoulder would be BAD. Dave


  3. What a lovely post. I haven’t seen a lamb born for years and I don’t ever remember any music playing back then. I think a bit of Chopin is a great idea. I bet you’re pleased you abandoned the weeding.


    • Hello Sarah, yep I could think of no better excuse to flee weeding in the drizzle. And I even blagged a cup of coffee afterwards – Margaret’s dogs were very interested indeed in all the smells we brought inside with us! D


  4. Breathtaking. I would have fainted if I’d seen those little hooves coming put of the angelic mama sheep but, seeing as I am on the other side of the Atlantic, I survived the lambing just fine. The photos are exquisite and, literally, breath-taking. I don’t eat sheep or lamb, but I still remember the taste before I went vegetarian and I have to say, it was awful!! I have no idea why anyone would crave it.


  5. Ah! It was pointed out to me that for brief time many lambs coats are a golden color then it turns all white after mama has cleaned them up. Beautiful!


  6. Amazing! Joking aside, I do learn so much from your blog. My only knowledge of lambing is from James Herriot books and these photographs are much more informative. They both looked pretty dead and it was fascinating to watch the whole proceedings. I have very small hands…there but for fortune…Amelia


    • Ah, small hands eh? I’ll bear that in mind next time Margaret needs help. And yes my only knowledge of farming was from the Herriot books too (and a little time spent on a pig farm in Germany when I was very young). I learn something new whenever I go up to the farm. Dave

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so glad Margaret shares these experiences with you and that you share them with us. Glad to see Nick again, too — every time he shows up, I know we’ll be lifting a glass in his honor soon.

    “Perfect hands for lambing” was not a pick-up line the guys used when *I* was on the dating scene.


    • I’m very glad too, Stacy. I remember saying to you years ago in a comment on a ‘Margaret’ post that I hoped she and her animals would be a regular feature on my blog. Got that right! And perhaps you didn’t go to the right dating scene bars? Who knows where you might have ended otherwise! Dave

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Philip. I’m often reminded of All Things Herriot when I’m up at the farm. I was a huge fan of the books (& show) as a kid and very much like the close relationship I now have with Margaret’s farm. I buy my beef and lamb from her, knowing that her animals are really well looked after. But try to forget any personal relationship I may have had when I take home half a beast for my freezer. Dave


  8. You have totally lambed me! Yeah I still fancy that sandwich because I helped my dog giving birth to several litters and basically I know how it works and what I should be expecting, the lamb thing is a little more complicated though. The cork thing made me laugh by the way.


    • That must be a first, Alberto. I’m sure I’ve never lambed anyone before – I think I’d remember. I shall get a tee-shirt printed: ‘I Totally Lambed Alberto’ and wear it always. We had our Weimaraner neutered shortly after getting her and whilst I never regretted it, now that she’s gone, I do miss having one of her puppies. D


  9. Fascinating yet I’ll pass on the postcard pictures for another few days until they clean up a bit. None of my gardening books ever mention bloody lambs, duck nest tragedy, or dead wood pigeons. You do have a way of making gardening at the priory exciting!


    • Blimey Frank, fancy remembering the pigeon! That was a while ago. I figure there’s an awful lot of gardening blogs these days and so I do try and show as much of Priory Life as possible. The Priory is, after all, my USP!! D

      Liked by 1 person

  10. A wonderful post and easier to read than the gorey image that appeared in my twitter timeline when I was having breakfast. I think I would turn vegetarian is I was a sheep farmer.


  11. New life; it is a miracle. Talk about tears of joy. I bet your day had a special glow after that experience. My little daughter and I had the privilege of seeing a new born calf very early one day at the Brisbane Exhibition. I can still feel the joy I felt that morning. Thank you David, beautiful stuff.


  12. I’ll never tire of seeing your lambing photos! This is better than an Attenborough documentary – although I’m not sure that Margaret chose her attire wisely for the day – white (but not for long) trousers! Thanks for sharing.


  13. What a lovely post – thanks for sharing such a wonderful moment. I really like the idea of chopin playing in the background; it certainly seems to have worked a treat!


  14. Wonderful images of the intimacy of birth. I have sort of seen a lamb being born. Why sort of you ask? we arrived at my husband’s good mother’s farm to pick up the key for our holiday let and she was out in the field saying I think that sheep is about to give birth and she did ‘plop’! all on her own and we were still only half way across the field. You had a much better view. Thanks for sharing and bringing back some happy memories of holidays in Cornwall.


  15. Gosh that made my breakfast more interesting than reading the newspaper! How fascinating. Does someone have to stay with the sheep all night until the lambs are born in case of difficulties like these?
    The Chopin seems to have done the trick as the sheep looks so calm.


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