|As our children continue to grow up, we love giving them the opportunity to develop new levels of responsibility.
At this time of year, new opportunities and responsibilities look small and woolly and ever so cute!!
Each year there are at least a handful (and likely to be more if we really searched) of abandoned lambs. Their chance of survival in the paddock without a mother ewe to feed, protect and keep them warm are very slim.
So the challenge is for our children to raise as many of these lambs as they can comfortably cope with!
All profits from the abandoned lambs that our children successfully feed and raise to weaning age (without any adult assistance) may be shared amongst those who consistently help with the lamb’s care.
They understand that associated expenses (like lamb powder, teats and bottles) are deducted. We’ve generously given them a ‘tax break’ this year so as not to dampen their enthusiasm!
So, with calculators and eager anticipation, they’ve worked out each of their shared profits, made their ‘wish list’ of items they will purchase with their pocket money, and have taken on the job of caring for 10 newborn lambs (current today!).
Names must be unanimously decided upon. This year the theme is Herbs and Spices – Mintie, Chives, Sage, Nigella, Macie, Basil, Saffron, Cinnamon, Curry, Oregano, Salt and Pepper.
Note must also be made of which ewe mob each lamb came from so that they can be tagged correctly when they’re older.
Our eldest daughter has diligently drawn up a schedule, with each lamb’s name, date of ‘receival’ into our care, feeding time, and the amount of milk to be fed. The lambs are rotated so each child has an opportunity to feed the easy ones as well as those who take a looooooong time. The child with the easiest lamb to feed must also make up the milk for the entire lamb family, and wash all bottles and teats thoroughly at the end of each feeding session.
You may be forgiven for assuming that newborn lambs have a natural instinct for feeding, and will happily feed from their mother, or a bottle if necessary.
If questioned, each of our children will tell you quite firmly that some lambs are much easier to train to a bottle than others. There are many factors that contribute to the success of feeding lambs, including whether or not they’ve had their first important colostrum milk feed from their mother, the number of hours since their last feed, the age at which they’re orphaned, their current body temperature and their will to live. There is no doubt that lambs can be fickle animals!
The lamb feeding schedule can be gruelling. To begin with newly acquired lambs need a 175ml of milk fed on a 4 hourly basis (more often if needed), beginning at 6am through to the last feed at 9pm. Often feeding all 10 lambs may take 2+ hours – even with 4 children on the job!!
One child will draw the ‘short straw’ and *should* brave the cold to do a 2am check to see all the lambs are all still rugged up in their outside enclosure. If the lamb survives this first day, the amount of milk is increased and the feeding frequency is extended.
We are both proud of our children’s efforts over the past few weeks. With gusto they have taken on this responsibility, and have shown maturity in dividing out the different roles according to the age of the helpers, and demonstrated loving concern for those children who are sick and can’t currently keep up with their lamb responsibilities.
Yes, there has been frustration, and tears when some lambs haven’t survived, but on the whole, each young farmer in training is still keen to continue.
We feel this exercise has immense value in teaching our children, young and old, about the value of hard work and persevering with a job, even when you don’t want to see another lamb or milk bottle that needs cleaning!