More than 900 lambs born at the University of Liverpool’s Ness Heath Farm have spent their first few weeks contending with snow, as the cold snap continues to bite into Easter.
Farm Manager, Nigel Jones said the 2013 lambing season “had gone well” with “a slightly above average” birth rate but that the arctic Spring unleashed this month had created “a lot of extra work” for him and the Veterinary students maintaining the flock.
Nigel said: “It was cold at the beginning of the month but it was also dry. The problem now is the weather is really dragging them down. It’s wet and horrible and totally unseasonal. It means extra feeding as the ewes need a lot more nutrition themselves to provide milk for the lambs, and there’s no grass because, of course, it’s covered in snow. It’s been a lot of extra work for us but so far we haven’t lost any. Further west it’s been a lot worse.”
The animals are fed a mixture of hay and concentrate to keep their energy levels up, with plenty of opportunity to shelter inside.
Ness Heath, in South Wirral, forms part of the University’s Leahurst campus and offers 100 acres of pasture, with room for 470 lambing ewes, a pedigree herd of 15 Gloucester Old Spot pigs and a small pedigree herd of 20 Hereford cows.
It is used extensively by undergraduate veterinary students throughout the year, and provides valuable hands-on experience at all stages of the programme.
Dr Jennifer Duncan is a Lecturer in Livestock Health and Welfare, in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Science. She said: “The final year veterinary students on Farm Animal Elective placements did all the night and weekend lambing. All of the students really enjoyed their work at this very busy, but fascinating time of year, and had the chance to further develop their obstetrical skills as well as neonatal care of lambs. The flock lambed extremely well, although the unusually bad weather has been a real challenge for Nigel and his team.”
For Nigel, it is now just a case of hoping the weather improves.
He said: “We’re waiting for the weather to pick up now and then hopefully the grass will grow and reduce the feeding we have to do. But we’ve got plenty of stocks on board and are just biding our time and hoping for some sunshine.”
Out of around 900 lambs born, one was delivered by caesarean. Seven calves were born to the Hereford herd and are “quite happy inside”, said Nigel.