Bringing new life on to the farm can be best and worst of times
Wanted: applicants for temporary post. Successful candidate will be on call 24 hours a day but may be allowed a catnap in the straw or hay. Veterinary and obstetric skills essential. Small hands at the end of long arms preferred, but they must be strong. Good hygiene vital, but anybody squeamish about blood or body fluids need not apply. Knowledge of nutrition, microbiology and animal psychology are definite advantages. Preference will be given to candidates with ability to keep records, with nursing skills and who demonstrate kindness and patience with the most obstinate of animals.
Successful applicants who perform to a high standard will be rewarded with a good reference.
If you meet somebody today with a pale, haunted look and black bags under the eyes, most likely he or she has come from the farm maternity ward.
This annual ritual of calving and lambing is the very essence of farming. Helping to bring new life onto the farm can be the best of times. Struggling with losses and long, long hours can be the worst of times. Either way, March is the month of peak birthing on Irish farms.
This spring should be one of the easier years for calving and lambing. The benign weather facilitates a quick exit of dam and offspring from busy, and usually overcrowded, sheds to the well-grassed fields.
As in most things, forward planning for the calving or lambing season will help for a smoother operation. Feeding hay to pregnant suckler cows, giving vaccination cover plus plenty of pre-calving minerals makes life easier on many farms I have visited. Having ewes scanned and matching the added concentrates to the expected lamb crop is vital in the sheep shed.
Putting mechanisms in place can ease the pressure during calving and lambing season. It is vital to have sufficient accommodation and individual penning in place, as well as back-up colostrum, stomach tubes, plenty of hot water and dry straw.
With sheep, the key is to have the ewes lambing with plenty of milk.