Doe Park Caravan Site, in Teesdale within the Durham Dales, is more than just a beautiful place to stay. It is also a fully working farm. I had the pleasure of staying at Doe Park recently in early Spring and right in the middle of lambing season. It was a great opportunity to see behind the scenes.
Of course the first thing that jumped in my mind ‘How do they manage it’? The caravan site is immaculate, with all the upkeep that requires. The coming and going, the blocks cleaning, the grass to keep cut, logistics and all the queries. This is all run by the same family that run the farm. And when you look, that is extensive as well. This is no pun… the lamb family.
If you visit here in Spring with your tourer, or as I was this time staying in a great little teardrop caravan, you can get a behind the scenes look at it all perhaps. It is great for the children as they can get to see lambing in progress or even get to bottle feed those in need.
As I went to look at the action I passed by the huge Ivan! The resident bull. Of course this is a cattle farm too on top. Ivan was huge and I don’t think he appreciated me taking his pic.
Lambing season is relentless for any sheep farmer. A 24 hour a day operation to make sure all goes well and the animals are looked after.I took the opportunity to ask lots of questions of Alison to find out all about it.
This year in numbers. 270 pregnant sheep that were all scanned in January to find out how many lambs were expected. The answer, 566. From that they are then split into those that are expecting triplets (need extra feeding) and those that are expecting less (less feeding required).
The births are planned to be done in 3 batches a week apart. Otherwise if birthed all at once they would be overrun for sure. There is also a method for this. The experienced mothers go first as they will do best at the colder or wetter end of the three weeks or so. The first time mothers get the warmer weeks later in the season.
Once they have given birth they head into ‘the maternity ward’ for observation.
The first milk off the mother ‘Colostrum’ is so very important for the lambs to get some all important nutrition. In fact there is so much to think about at this stage. Mothers can reject plus the mothers generally can’t manage looking after triplets. This can be sorted by taking third lamb from the triplets, smothering it in the scent of a mother who has only given birth to a single lamb and thus she fosters it.
Occasionally there is the need to hand rear after this has been tried. This also is a round the clock operation. They need hand feeding 4 to 5 times a day!
Eventually they start to appear in the fields were we see them bouncing around as we like to see and love. This is not to say this is the end of the work. You can’t just leave them out there with mum and forget. We are more and more times getting Spring snow days for example. In that case they all need to have little coats put on to keep them cosy and warm.
During my time walking around and watching all and listening to all I realised what a huge operation the lambing season is. I tip my hat to the lamb family for not just doing this but also running a fantastic caravan site as well. How do they never look tired? Why always greeting with a genuine warm smile? Wonderful.