Many people sat down to a roast lamb dinner over the Easter weekend....but they might have been a little more sheepish had they been alongside ‘Tiser reporter Nadya Ahmed when she went on a special asignment.
For she came face to face with more than 60 lambs born at Derby College’s Broomfield Hall campus in Morley for a special Easter feature.
The college campus is already home to 1,500 cows, horses, pigs, hens and turkeys and now the staff and students are celebrating the woolly additions to their 100-strong ewe population.
Most have already found their legs around the Broomfield paddocks, some after just a day.
A short tractor ride to the newly-built lambing shed — with Nadya at the wheel — takes just five minutes from the reception.
A spread totaling 200 acres of fields are peppered with the spring lambs.
Two particular breeds are kept at the estate, the Suffolk sheep, which have black faces and darker wool, and the Welsh Lleyn, which are pure white.
Farming co-ordinator at the campus, Chris Ward has worked at the site for 30 years and is responsible for looking after the flock, taking particular care over those lambs rejected by their mothers after birth.
“This can happen quite a lot,” he said. “Particularly as lambs are usually born in sets of twins, we have one who is just three weeks old who was the third of three and unfortunately as a consequence has been rejected.”
Chris makes up a special formula much like powdered baby milk and feeds it to these lambs in bottles, those who are aren’t rejected are fed by their mothers with their own milk until they mature enough to eat grass and hay pellets.
The lambs can do this any time from four weeks old.
Chris continued: “I feed the lambs three times a day and this can often mean working into the night.
“Of course, over Easter the students are off so they involve a lot of time and effort on my part.”
When the lambs reach approximately 42 kilograms then they are ready for the chop!
Stronger female lambs are usually kept for further lambing.
This is why the lambing season begins in January for the campus, when they are taken into the lambing shed.
With a ewe pregnancy lasting 147 days this means the lambs arrive and mature in time for spring, and that special Easter roast.
Assistant principal of the campus Jeremy Carter, who has also worked at the campus for more than 30 years and has a long history of farming in America, Germany and Yorkshire, is heavily involved in this process where he teaches agricultural students.
“We keep the pregnant ewes separate from the ones who have given birth as it gives the mothers time to bond with their lambs,” he said.
“Sometimes the births can be easy and other times complicated, when we have to use a special lamb oil to lubricate the lamb’s birth if limbs are twisted.”
He added: “When lambs get rejected or their mothers die during birth we use a special home-made heat pad created from a heated fan, much like those you have at home, and place it inside a box where they can sleep and be kept warm.”
The shed has recently had additional blinds fitted which protect the lambs and their mothers from strong winds, rain or snow, these were absent during last year’s severe snow storms of February.
“They really helped this year, and now we have a lovely flock of healthy lambs that we have been able to keep warm and happy.”
“It is also important that the grass is full of clover to provide much needed nitrogen to the lambs and ensure they are kept healthy,” said Jeremy.
“Any salts or minerals not provided with pellets or grass we provide in a salt lick which is placed in buckets around the field.”
The farm also keeps a handful of tups, or male sheep, which are kept separate from the ewes until autumn when breeding time starts.
Jeremy adds: “Although lambs may not hold a very long life, here at Broomfield we ensure it’s one of quality and happiness.”
The college will be taking part in Open Farm Sunday on June 8, aimed at encouraging UK farms to open up to the non-farming community for a day. Interactive animal and craft events will be taking place. Further information can be found by calling 01332 836 631
A series of courses ranging from agriculture and animal care through to floristry and horticulture are also taught at Broomfield Hall campus and details can be found on them by visiting www.derby-college.ac.uk.