Bridport Times April 2020

Page 42

Wild Dorset


Ellen Simon, Tamarisk Farm


pril is the changeover from winter to summer. In the winter the animals depend on us for their food and comfort. Most of them, all the ones indoors, would be knee deep in muck if we didn’t clear it away for them and give them fresh bedding; they would be without food unless we gave it to them, and that depends on our having saved the grass from last summer. In summer, by contrast, the animals are all outdoors and don’t really need us. We see them daily but, if all is well, that is all we do: we look, we see that they are comfortable and that they seem happy and we leave them to themselves. April is the month by which the big change-around has happened. It is a relief to finally return to the summer pattern; we have by now become weary of feeding and bedding and it is a pleasure to see the animals enjoying the weather and the sweet spring grass. For the vegetables, there is an equivalent shift around now. Through the winter and well into spring we are dependant on last year’s plants and last year’s work and now we are setting out this year’s and just beginning to crop the earliest of them. This month is dominated by lambing. It is as if we 42 | Bridport Times | April 2020

believe that is what April is for. With many farmers having their lambs indoors, April is now considered late for lambing. We choose it because we want the ewes to have plenty of good grass to grow the lambs and to make milk, and because we want comfortable weather to greet the lambs, born outdoors on clean grass. Working with the sheep frames every day, we see the ewes as it gets light and again as it gets dark. We see them frequently in between, too, just in case any need our help with birth or any fresh lamb needs help getting the vital colostrum or settling down with their mother. If she's new to motherhood she might be too confused or dazed to clean up her damp newborn. The rest of the day is used up doing many other things; writing the following for this article has made me realise how busy a month April is! We get the cows and calves settled outside, watching them carefully and checking their udders: an over-full udder is not only bad for the cow, it is also an indication that the calf has not sucked as much as usual, which could be an indicator of problems, perhaps ill health or injury.