It’s spring time: the sun breaking through the blanket of clouds, warming our skin for the first time in months, crisp fresh leaves unfurling from the sparse branches of trees and little, fluffy, white lambs frolicking in the rolling fields. Ah yes, the lambs. Because Easter means just one thing to vet students: lambing.
“Isn’t that sweet?” people coo, “You get to help little baby lambs get born? Oh, I’d just love to do that!”
Little do they know what lambing really entails.
Lambing is 5 hours of sleep a night. It’s the night-time round at midnight, traipsing through the field with a flash light scouting for lambing ewes and praying there aren’t any….because if there are? It’s the leading of the ewe to the barn in the pitch-black, the new mother skittish and afraid, unwilling to follow the scary human who’s just kidnapped their baby.
It’s the frustration and anger of chasing a terrified ewe, struggling with the birth, around a field, unable to catch her, unable to help. It’s the fear and exhaustion of a long aided parturition where you’ve been pulling and pulling but the lamb just won’t come. It’s the disappointment of defeat when the lamb you’ve been battling to born dies, and the ewe goes with it too. It’s the stench of an infected prolapsed uterus. The endless bawling of hundreds of hungry lambs. The wince as you castrate the rams, that bright orange elastic band imparting horrible pain to such fragile new life.
It’s the getting up at 5am to check there weren’t any unseen night-time births. It’s the sad times when the howling winds and driving rains were two much for tiny newborn triplets to survive. The horrifying moment when the orphan lamb you’ve nursed for days draws its last breath, and finally lies still beneath its straw blanket.
So why do I, along with all my fellow vet students, look back on my time lambing with a huge smile on my face? It’s the satisfaction of all those long hours of back-breaking work, the camaraderie between you and everyone else working on the farm and ultimately, it’s sitting back after three weeks, looking at those little, fluffy, white lambs frolicking in the rolling fields and thinking, I did that, I helped create that.
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