Lambing season ’09

snow receding, summer looming

snow receding, summer looming

It is a lovely trip into work every morning, I see some beautiful sights – ever changing sights, Mother Nature showing off her beautiful colours in the changing of the seasons. The snow on the mountains is slowly, day by day, starting to recede.

I also see other things. Lambing season is in full swing and over the last month while driving to work and home I have noticed an unusually large amount of ewes with twins or triplets. I am not sure if this is consistent with the rest of the country or whether it is only a regional phenomenon this year. It has been a better winter in Canterbury, alot milder in temperature than the last couple of years and although there was a fair amount of rain there was no snow on the ground.

The problem (other than the ownership of course) with the farmers having ewes that  produce more lambs is that sometimes a ewe cannot feed three babies. The first reason is that a majority of sheep breeds only have two functional teats (some breeds have more) and another reason is that if the ewe is lactating early in the season she will lose body weight and condition. Ewes rearing twins and triplets cannot consume sufficient nutrients to prevent this weight loss early on in the season. With triplets their growth can be uneven and inconsistent with their siblings as they have to battle for the teats, competition for the available milk supply  – and the farmer wouldn’t want that, the uneven growth I mean – he wants big fat lambs. The ewes with triplets can also have an increased risk of teat damage.

Of course the farmer wants highly productive sheep, those that lamb frequently, produce multiple lambs that grow rapidly and are capable of re-breeding after having the existing lambs weaned from their mothers at an earlier time than is natural. But with triplets from ewes with only two functional teats the fight begins and the farmer wins, theft of one of the babies.

wee fella

wee fella

This little sweetie is only 10-hours old at the time of this photo and because he was one of three that his mum went through labour and gave birth to he was deemed (or doomed?) surplus to requirements, “would have died anyway”. This is not a definite, he may have died, but then again he might not have. But because he, like many are unfortunate enough to be born into slavery, farmers find someone to buy them – yes ‘buy’ like a commodity, and he could just as well have been bought by someone who wanted him fattened up a bit and had his carcass on a dinner plate. He is special in his own right. Do farmers care about what would happen to this little fella or others like him? No way, compassion is something that is not thought of in the sheep industry, only profits. Supplement feeding for the ewe could have avoided the separation of mother and baby entirely and minimized weight loss in the ewe. Well, actually, abolition of farming sheep would have avoided it entirely.

I am always deeply saddened and feel like a part of myself is dying inside with the exploitation of so many sentient beings, not a day goes by that I don’t think of the atrocities and suffering that human beings inflict on just about every other species including our own – and today my thoughts go out to those that lost their loved ones in 2001 .

When people have lamb for dinner they do not consciously make the connection between the carcass on the end of their fork and the lamb leaping around with the other lambs in the paddock, they do not think of them as living, vital, alive beings, they close their minds to the lambs being loaded into a truck heading for the slaughterhouse, they do not think of the terror that these babies feel, the loss that their mothers’ feel – these babies that have no choice – the innocents – they should not be farmed for fashion or dinner plate and do not go with knitting needles, mint and kumara.

bron sign


2 Responses to Lambing season ’09

  1. Moon Over Martinborough says:

    We’re expat American city boy ‘farmers’ in rural NZ, and we loved watching the lambs in our paddocks this spring. It’s amazing to have the work of life and death just outside our door.

    • Bron says:

      I do not think I would ever agree that death can be amazing or anything short of horrific. Life, yes, is amazing and should be treasured as a gift from Mother Nature. I do not see how a lamb can be admired and loved in the spring and later killed – to me it is selective compassion.

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