Once the lambs have been in their pens for a couple of days they are ready to go to nursery. The lamb nursery is the next stage for the new lambs and moms and is very important to ensure their survival out in the field.
We will go through all the pens that may be ready and check over the lambs to identify who is ready. Any lambs that may be a bit weak or need a bit longer are left and all of the strong lambs must then be prepared.
The process before moving the lambs over to the nursery involves castration and marking up.
Castration is where a castration ring- a small orange rubber ring- is placed on the lambs tail, and over any boy lambs testicles. The rings cut off the blood flow to the area and when the lamb gets older the end of the tail and the testicles will just drop off. It doesn’t hurt the animal at this age and is common practice across the UK for two main reasons: it ensures that the sheep have short tails which helps prevent a build up of faeces and aids the welfare of the lamb in future life, secondly it ensures the boys can’t interbreed within the flock.
The next stage is to mark up the sheep appropriately. At our farm we spray paint a number on all of the lambs to match their mothers. This ensure we can identify which lamb belongs to which ewe. For any lamb that is a single we also spray a blue dot on the bum of the lamb (the ewe will already have a blue dot from scanning to identify it as a single). You often lose lambs and ewes for a variety of reasons and the spray markings allow you to identify several things:
1- if a lamb has died you can work out if its mother has any other lambs and is still required in the field
2- if the lamb which died had a blue dot you can clearly identify that there is no other lamb feeding from the mother, we would then use the number identification to bring the mom back to the farm where we can adopt on another lamb
3- if a ewe has died you can easily identify any lambs that may need removing from the field and hand feeding to ensure their survival
Once the lambs have been castrated and marked they can be moved into the nursery. The nursery is simply a larger pen with lots of other lambs and ewes. The time in the nursery allows the lambs time to learn their mothers call and to ensures they can find her in a flock of sheep- vital for when they go out into the big wide world of a field!