Lambs fall victim to severe spring weather
Saturday 09 April 1994
Sheep farmers had been expecting fewer lambs this season because the proportion of pregnant ewes carrying twins and triplets rather than singletons was sharply down. This dearth of multiple births is put down to particularly cold, wet weather at tupping time last autumn when the rams were brought in to mate.
The ewes may have been in poor condition at the time of conception last year or soon afterwards. Now, in the spring, their lambs are being exposed to equally vicious weather conditions.
Each year 23 million lambs are born in Britain, starting in January in the southern lowlands and ending as late as May in more northerly uplands.
Farmers estimate that they lose up to 5 per cent of lambs at birth or soon afterwards, but this year the National Farmers' Union in south-west England is making an estimate of 8 per cent.
John Thomas, a Welsh NFU official, said: 'It has been a particularly bad season - the kind that happens only 1 year in every 10 with problem after problem. A wet, cold winter has produced poor spring grass. Recently we've had torrential rain, with the new- born lambs kept outside being soaked through. They're dying from pneumonia and related diseases.'
Peter Dowling, a Cumbrian farmer with 900 upland ewes, said: 'It's the wet and cold that does for them more than anything else. A dry back and a warm sun is what they need.'
Lambing has greatly altered in the past 20 years, with scanning of embryos in the womb now becoming routine and more and more ewes giving birth in warm, dry shelters - sometimes temporarily erected in the fields and hills. But, sooner or later, the lambs and their mothers have to be put outside to make room for other ewes about to give birth.
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 4 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...