No ewes complaining about the snow

For many, the response to the thick blanket of snow has been a slippery journey to work and a desire to sit around a log fire. Spare an admiring thought then for Valerie Honeyfield's flock of Badger Face Welsh Mountain sheep, whose reaction to the wintry weather has been to head out into the cold and give birth, pretty much all at once.

Before the Siberian winds swept in earlier this week, Mrs Honeyfield's flock of 38 breeding ewes had given birth to three new lambs, with the remainder expected to arrive over the next month or two. Yesterday, the Northamptonshire farmer and her husband, John, were looking after 50 lambs born within the space of three days in a snow-covered field.

The mass outbreak of lambing has caused the couple, who have been farming the distinctive black and white-faced breed for 30 years, to set up a round-the-clock maternity ward in their barn to ensure sufficient feed and water for the new arrivals, which include two sets of triplets.

Mrs Honeyfield, from Preston Deanery, near Northampton, said: "We would normally expect the lambs to come over a couple of months, but this year has been rather different.

"They are a very hardy breed so they are perfectly at home out in the field. When the lambs are born they are in a birth coat which means they don't get cold – you can pick them up after a couple of hours and they are still warm.

"We're a little mystified as to why so many have come at once. It seems to be linked to the cold snap," she said. Another possibility was that it was linked to veterinary checks carried out on the sheep recently for blue tongue disease. "The tricky bit is that we normally plan to have about 10 pens in operation to look after the lambs. At the moment we've got 20 – that is a lot of buckets of water and feed," she said. Although the lambing season starts as early as this month, the Badger Facesheep generally gives birth in late March or April, making the events in Northamptonshire even more unusual.

After several years in the doldrums, sheep farming has recently been enjoying a renaissance , spurred by rising meat prices. The Honeyfields' award-winning flock are part of a growing population of Badger Face sheep in Britain; the breed is in demand for its resilience, good temperament and lean, tender meat.

The Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep Society says farmers facing swingeing rises in feed costs are turning to the breed because of its thrifty grazing habits and ability to fatten rapidly.

Mrs Honeyfield, said: "They are quite intelligent. People think sheep are stupid, but this breed isn't. They are also tremendous scavengers. If you put them in a new field, they will go around the edge getting all the weeds before they even look at the grass."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Housekeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is the holding company of an expa...

Recruitment Genius: Network Engineer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Setup, configure, troubleshoot,...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future