Record number of newborn lambs at farm

IT may have been one of the coldest weeks of the winter - but at least one flock of new arrivals came with built-in woolly coats to keep them warm.

IT may have been one of the coldest weeks of the winter - but at least one flock of new arrivals came with built-in woolly coats to keep them warm.

And all 61 newborn lambs at the north Suffolk farm are doing well - even if night-time bottle feeds in the freezing cold are a bit of a trial for their owners.

The lambs have all been born since New Year's Eve - the largest number born at the same time at Meen's Farm in All Saints South Elmham, near Bungay, where they have been keeping sheep since the 1980s.

Michael and Gail Sprake started with just four and have built up a flock of pedigree Southdowns on their mainly arable farm.

Mrs Sprake said: “It's the tightest lambing period we've ever had, last year it finished in April. This year we've worked round the clock, and we saw the New Year in from the lambing barn.”

It meant that New Year's Eve was a busy affair - even for their daughter Philippa, 23, and work experience student Marie Beales, 17, from Colchester Sixth Form.

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Marie said that even though her friends were celebrating without her, she would not have missed helping with the lambing.

Philippa, who will graduate from the Royal Veterinary College in London this year, was home for the holidays to help. She said missing the New Year celebrations was not a great problem. “We live in the middle of nowhere anyway.

“I had the 3am shift. One of my parents stays up until midnight and then I get up at three, and then the other person gets up at 5am.

“Having the lambs in such a short period makes it easier because if it's longer you have to keep getting up.

“We try to have them as close to New Year's Day as possible so that they are as old as they can be when the show season starts.”

She added: “This is the most we have had at one time. I think Mum decided that as I was home we would have as many as possible before I went back to university. Eight more lambs are due in the next 10 days or so.”

The lambs arrived so close together partly because the ewes were given progesterone sponges before they were tupped in August, though it was still a surprise that so many arrived together.

Mrs Sprake said: “We put it down to the mild weather before Christmas.”

She added that Marie, who hopes to become a vet, got a decidedly frantic crash course in lambing. She'd never held a lamb before so she learned a lot in four days. She's going back to college now so it will be very different in the classroom.”

For the Sprake family the hard work is not over yet. A dozen lambs born to older ewes, and some of the triplets, must be bottle-fed every four hours.