Goodnight – Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary: ‘I was like a demented collie’ *H&H Plus*

  • Even home-schooling her six-year-old is a breeze compared to helping with the sheep, finds Tessa Waugh, after a chaotic morning inadvertently disconnecting lambs from their rightful mothers

    The lambs have come earlier than expected this year. Somehow the due date got lost in translation and when Matthew, who works here, was doing his rounds of the fields on Saturday there were loads appearing, five days before the official kick-off. It’s not a problem this time though; the sun is shining and when the weather’s this good, lambing outside is a breeze.

    Still, sheep are sheep and there are always a few that need help.

    “That one didn’t like its lamb,” said Matthew, pointing along a line of pens. “That one stole someone else’s, that one had a hung lamb. Hers were born dead so I’m giving her that one.”

    All the usual scenarios. Keen to escape the house and my new responsibility as “schoolteacher”, I offered to help and was asked to mark some new triplets and move them with their mother into the neighbouring field.

    “No problem,” I thought as I set off with a crook and a spray can, relishing the sun on my face and the scene that awaited me – a ewe with triplets in a nice little bunch.

    Feeble attempts

    First I went to catch the ewe, recalling my feeble attempts on the school hockey pitch as I puffed along behind her with my crook, scattering lambs in all directions. Unsurprisingly, after a few sessions of this, the mother lost the plot completely and abandoned her babies, heading away at speed bleating like a maniac.

    When I caught up with her, she was pestering two other ewes with lambs as if they were hers. I ran back to the motherless lambs who were baaing feebly by the gate, marked them up and put them into the next field. The mother had now reappeared and followed them through easily enough.

    It was only after closing the gate that I spotted another lambless ewe baaing protectively in the first field.

    Meanwhile, the one I’d let through was ignoring “her” lambs and trying to steal some others that had just been born. It was a muddle.

    Another half hour ensued of swapping sheep around, opening and closing gates before I called it quits. In the space of an hour I had successfully separated three lambs from their mother and released a psychopathic lamb thief in with the main group. Hunting random sheep about like a demented collie I was beginning to doubt if I was even in the right field.

    Adam was remarkably sanguine when I told him what had happened.

    “Stick to the shed in future,” he advised, and raced off to undo the mess while I stomped back to the house. Compared to “helping” with the sheep, doing sums with a six-year-old is a walk in the park.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 7 May 2020