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Lambing Live: Adrenaline and sheer nerves will get me through

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Kate Humble Kate Humble | 11:45 UK time, Friday, 5 March 2010

How did I end up spending six months training to be a shepherdess?

A few months ago I got a phone call from one of the very grown up big cheeses at the BBC who said "We've got this marvellous idea for a brand new live series called Lambing Live. We want to do five programmes on five consecutive nights on a farm, the week that all the sheep give birth."

And I said "Are you mad?! Are people going to want to watch this?!"

We started talking more about it and I realised it could be genius. Sheep are an intrinsic part of the British landscape. You can't have a chocolate box scene without sheep looking pretty on a hillside but how much do we actually know about them?

And the fact is, we love lamb. I think I'm right in saying it's Britain's favourite meat and yet how do we connect the little white fluffy things on a hillside with lamb and mint sauce on a plate? How does one become the other?

Kate Humble and one of the lambs

I realised I was woefully ignorant about one of the most common farm animals in this country and that this was a fantastic opportunity to find out more. So in September last year I started training on a sheep farm in South Wales owned by this wonderful family of farmers, the Beavans.

I feel an enormous responsibility to the Beavans, because lambing season is their make or break time - when they know, frankly, if they can put food on the table for their kids. I know that sounds over-dramatic, but it's true that lambing for them has to produce a number of lambs to keep their farm running for another year.

They have a job to do and I'm in a weird position. I feel like I'm carrying much more responsibility than I am on Springwatch where if the robin doesn't turn up, it's not my fault. Lambing Live is hopefully going to make interesting television which people are going to love, but equally I have a huge emotional attachment to this family I've been working with for the last six months and I don't want the lambing to fail. I have to help the Beavans have the most successful lambing they can have.

The Beavans have 900 ewes and my introduction to the world of sheep farming was at an auction in September where Jim schooled me in how to spot good rams to buy to introduce to the flock.

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I thought I'd just say "He's nice looking, I'll go for that one", but Jim identified some fairly specific criteria. Firstly he said to look for a small head.

I said "Don't you want a big-headed, proud looking ram?". No - you have to think of the ewe who's going to have the offspring of a ram with a big head.

Good point!

Secondly you need a ram with good strong hind quarters. A ram is going to do quite a lot of standing up on his back legs (and I'll leave that to your imagination but that's the breeding process!) and the other thing is that the leg of lamb, which is one of our favourite cuts of meat, is those back legs. So are they good, chunky, meaty back legs?

Bear in mind, this was the first day I met Jim so I thought he was taking the mickey when he told me the final check was the testicle test. I have to say, without wanting to be rude but potentially I'm going to be... a ram is a well-hung beast, there's none of this hidden testicles in amongst the wool, these hang down like a handbag! You need to check, are they the same size, a good pair? And the only way to find out is to get your hand in there.

Before introducing the new rams to the flock and letting nature take its course, we needed to tart the ewes up a bit. Now sheep are a little bit messy in the rear end department. They poo on the ground but quite a lot gets stuck on the way down, if you know what I mean. So we had to shear the tails and back ends of the ewes to remove the poo. It was jolly hard work and we did 100 in a morning. By the end of it, I thought, there's a lot more to sheep farming than looking out on a field and going "Those are my sheep".

But it's been the most fantastic experience and the real highlight was scanning 300 of the ewes which are due to give birth live on the programme. It was the most freezing January day, about -6C, when we got proof that the rams had done their work and the ewes were pregnant. We are expecting about 600 lambs to be born in the next week or two, so we're in for a very, very busy time.

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I've already lambed a couple of sheep. I've seen lambs at the very first breath of life and I'd be lying if I said I didn't find that slightly emotional. New birth is a miracle and you do feel wrapped up in it. But these sheep are there for a reason and they're there for us. Jim and farmers like him are providing us with the meat we buy.

So ultimately what we are giving birth to is somebody's Sunday lunch. That's a hard thing for some people who find it very convenient to divorce the live animal in the field with the chop on a polystyrene tray. So what I hope this series will do is two things really.

I hope that people will see from the way the Beavans look after their stock and their land that farmers are a vital part of Britain's society, providing us with our meat.

And I also hope people will think a little more about the food on their plate - I hope Lambing Live will add to that eminent list of programmes and people who have tried to reconnect us with the origins of our food.

In episode one, you'll see me looking perky and by episode five I'll be exhausted. I know I won't have any sleep and I should probably have thought carefully about how I'm going to manage that, but I'm not sure you can ever prepare for something this intensive. I'm really excited so I'm hoping adrenaline and sheer nerves will get me through.

The one thing I'm worried about is that I really feel the cold. When I get cold, most of my brain shuts down. It may just end up being incoherent babble from me every night. But I am a big fan of Bovril and hot blackcurrant, so there are my diva demands. Some ask for baskets of puppies and I just want Bovril and loads of tea.

UPDATE: I've written a new post since the series finished - if you wanted to have a look at Lambing Live: I'd love to do it all again.

Kate Humble is the presenter of Lambing Live which starts Sunday, 7 March at 8pm on BBC Two

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    As long as you remind the viewers why farms spend time and money breeding lambs each year (like any farm animals), rather than just leaving the sheep to nature, rather than (typically, judging by the accompanying photos that go with this blog) just the oh so coy cuddly little lamb images that so many have.

    I really do wish the BBC would leave the country lifestyle choice content that is so prevalent behind on programmes such as Country File and Country Tracks, concentrate on the mud, crap and life-cycles of farming - after all it's were much of our food comes from and without a viable, profitable, UK farming industry the rationing seen during and after world war two might just start looking like a stroll in the park (considering the increase in the population since WW2)...

    [/rant]

  • Comment number 2.

    Lovely programme and what beautiful little lambs. Anyone who live amongst these gorgeous animals will know that the little babies play with the other little babies while the mums behave like human mum and graze together. Very sweet.
    However, I hope they will tell the little kids who are watching exactly what does happen to these little lambs. Not only having their THROATS SLIT (while conscious) BUT ALSO HAVING TO ENDURE THE HORRIFIC CRUELTY that has been taken by undercover footgage. Anyone who doubts this can take a look at Animal Aid's website...it's there for all to see.
    So tell the truth. This isn't about cuddly little lambs (mores the pity). This is about barbaric/cruel slaughter. so Don't GLOSS OVER IT.
    Oh and am I not correct in saying that many Welsh farmers are now decid
    ing to send their lambs overseas, to Islamic countries? Shameful.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    how old before you can eat one? waht is the best way to cook a lamb and with what dressing? p.s. i haven't got a microwave big enough to put a lamb in, what do you suggest i do?

  • Comment number 5.

    Does the meat of seaweed fed sheep taste different from grass fed sheep?
    Delightful programme - can't wait for tomorrow night

  • Comment number 6.

    that proves that sheep like ice cream. what do you think they prefer? ben and jerrys?

  • Comment number 7.

    was very good and imforative and reminds me how much i miss lambing time and workin with sheep, long cold dayds nad nights in the field or shed but really enjoyed what i used to do..

  • Comment number 8.

    sorry, cant watch tomorrow nights programme-watching the paint dry.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great Program Took me back to the 1940/50's living on a farm in North Wales with no electricity or running water in the house.
    We wintered sheep that came down from the mountains for the winter - we kept them fed on hay and turnips and kept them clean by shearing their backsides with hand shears [ bits of hedges used to prevent them from lifting their tail so got messy backsides] .
    The Farmer earned £1.00 for every live sheep for the winter returned at the end of winter - some died before they were returned. Used to be dragged out of bed to help with lambing and the occasional cow with problems calving, a rope wrapped round their front legs to assist the cow.

    Young pet ram lambs were into butting and when cousins came for a holiday we used to play in the hay-shed and push them off so they had to run round the Barn and back to the safety of the bales, with the lamb chasing to butt them. Memories are made of this. John Maguire

  • Comment number 10.

    still hungry!!!! :)

  • Comment number 11.

    why are you taking so long to approve it? a lamb would take less time to approve my email than you.

  • Comment number 12.

    has anyone taken action re the very lame ewe in the pen where the ewes awaiting birth are in

  • Comment number 13.

    Great show. I have a few Black Welsh Mountain sheep, last years lambing was not great outdoors so I was thinking of lambing indoors for the first time, does anyone know how soon before birth I should bring them in?

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Sent some comments earlier but forgot a Question.

    If the North Ronaldsay sheep eat sea weed with salt in it, how do they adapt to grass, would they require salt tablets to balance what the missing mineral.

    John Maguire

  • Comment number 15.

    not hungry now, i'm starving!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    is lambing live still live when i watch it on bbc i player? or are they all hot pot?

  • Comment number 18.

    lambing live is worth the license fee all on it's own :D

  • Comment number 19.

    where's baa baa black sheep? has he lost his wool?

  • Comment number 20.

    baa baa black sheep jump over the moon moo moo moo i'm still hungry!!!! has anyone seen my wooly jumper?

  • Comment number 21.

    Absolutely fantastic programme, can't wait to watch it again on BBC iPlayer.

    Brilliant BBC,

    Well Done

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    What a Wonderful program Kate , Good for us to see just how hard our farmers work ..and how positive to see new life in our front rooms ..And the advent of Spring , represented by the lambs .. I'm sure it will be watched by many . it was espcially nice for me to see Builth Wells Country Fair , My Dad was born there , and its a place close to my heart , you are indeed a natural When it comes to Nature .. I look forward to watching the next program's..
    Thank you ..

  • Comment number 24.

    great program, this sort of programe, although a little sentimental makes people more aware of what happens before their lamb ends up on the plate. yes they are slaughtered but hopefully, if farmed properly as shown in this program, they have a stress free existance. Meat has to be reared, you cant produce it in a factory, it is all about the quality of the process. no one wants to eat intensive farmed meat we all want animals to have quality of life.

    Question: why do ewes sometimes produce triplets if they only have two teats/

  • Comment number 25.

    Really enjoyed tonight. learnt a lot. Looking forward to the week. Interesting comments too !

  • Comment number 26.

    Hungryjake, get a life eh!!!!
    Complaint logged with BBC

  • Comment number 27.

    Well done BBC and the Beavans family!! What a fab programme, lovely to see Kate Humble so willing to muck in and learn all she can, very down to earth. I thought the Beavans did really well to carry on with their work with all the cameras and disruption that they cause. Can't wait for tomorrow nights edition!!
    P. S. Well done Michael940 for logging complaint on hungryjake - as he said - "Get a life"!! Unless you have something serious to say don't send in your comment!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    Hello, I love the show.......absolutely wonderful and exciting and interesting and educational. Do have one question...why do so many sheep LIMP? Do they have bad legs or are they just clumsy..??

    Kate, I admire your work, keep it up!

  • Comment number 29.

    why do I see so many sheep in fields that are limping is this a common thing

  • Comment number 30.

    Missed all last nightsd transmission aprt from the last 2 minutes when Kate announced that tonight she will give birth to her first lamb (that should be worth watching!).

    Sheep limp for many reasons, injuries, or infections such as footrot, or scald. I shared a flock for 10 years and footrot was probably our biggest problem requiring almost constant care involving foottrimming, footbathing, antiseptic sprays and even (unsuccessful) vaccination.

  • Comment number 31.

  • Comment number 32.

    I am disappointed, Kate, with your involvment in such a barbaric programme promoting the mass slaughter of animals. You do realise that if we in the UK stopped using animals as our source of protein 60% of the land surface would be freed up? We could plant oak on that 60%, thereby stopping soil erosion and fixing a huge amount of carbon. I thought you had an environmental head on your shoulders.

  • Comment number 33.

    Just because you see sheep limping it doesn't mean that the problem isn't being dealt with so don't worry. Footrot is a common problem but I've found vaccination to be a cheap and effective method of dealing with it and now nobody in my flock limps.
    I think the programme's great, well done Adam and Kate and indeed the Beavans who will have had to put a tremendous amount of effort into having a film crew around for 6 months on their working farm. Farming's not an easy job but it's a most rewarding one in terms of health and lifestyle and the Beavans seem a wonderful, caring and committed family of farmers. I'm certainly looking forward to tonight's episode.

  • Comment number 34.


    "However, I hope they will tell the little kids who are watching exactly what does happen to these little lambs. Not only having their THROATS SLIT (while conscious)"

    In the uk all animals have to be rendered insentient (unconscious) prior their throats being cut
    “BUT ALSO HAVING TO ENDURE THE HORRIFIC CRUELTY that has been taken by undercover footgage. Anyone who doubts this can take a look at Animal Aid's website...it's there for all to see”
    Again not in the uk, farmers are out to make a living – being cruel to sheep is counter productive as they will not give good returns is they are not well looked after

    “Oh and am I not correct in saying that many Welsh farmers are now deciding to send their lambs overseas, to Islamic countries? Shameful.”
    Exports are of dead lambs so does it really matter where they go in the world as they are slaughtered in this country

    I am amazed that you have such strongly held inaccurate views that you are trying to impose on people who are not connected with the industry. This program is seeking to inform the public about life on a farm so as they can gain a better understanding of the provenance of their meats

    Scott Maxwell

  • Comment number 35.

    What a Sunday night dilemma. Did I watch Lark Rise on Beeb 1 or lLambs on Beeb 2? The lambs won! It was an absolute delight to watch and I went to bed with a smile on my face. Reminds me to book time home to help the parents out with their lambing in the Cotswolds. I too play nursemaid to all the ewes and lambs once a year and thoroughly love it. It still gives me delight assisting a ewe in a difficulty delivery and hearing the lambs first bleet as it wobbles to its feet to have its first feed. I know it is not economical but I secretly hope for orphan lambs each year.

  • Comment number 36.

    Sad that 4 (supposed to be )shepherds stood in a lambing shed whilst at least one large heavily pregnant Speckle Faced ewe hobbled accross the shed in front of them. Yes where they and the camera was looking yet no-one noticed or did anything for her. Lame sheep are a sign of poor shepherding. Out in the fields or on a mountainside there is a possible excuse. In a shed there is none. BBC you should be ashamed to show such poor standards of welfare to the Nation on TV. Whatr are you are telling the Farming world.

  • Comment number 37.

    2. At 8:17pm on 07 Mar 2010, Heather wrote:

    However, I hope they will tell the little kids who are watching exactly what does happen to these little lambs. Not only having their THROATS SLIT (while conscious) BUT ALSO HAVING TO ENDURE THE HORRIFIC CRUELTY that has been taken by undercover footgage. Anyone who doubts this can take a look at Animal Aid's website...it's there for all to see.
    So tell the truth. This isn't about cuddly little lambs (mores the pity). This is about barbaric/cruel slaughter. so Don't GLOSS OVER IT.
    Oh and am I not correct in saying that many Welsh farmers are now decid
    ing to send their lambs overseas, to Islamic countries? Shameful.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    Golly! Doesn't matter what form it comes in, militancy is rarely very attractive and even more rarely effective at getting a point across.

    Some of us are actually pretty careful about where we buy our meat and where it originally came from. I have nothing againsst vegetarians - they have made a lifestyle choice on the basis of certain principles and this must be respected - but you really do undermine those who put forward more considered arguments.

    Sheep farming has been part of our country for centuries and has shaped the beautiful lanscapes outside the cities that so many of us enjoy. If we were to suddenly become a country of vegetarians, the sheep population would increase exponentially and their inevitable deaths would become a great deal more barbaric than the vast majority of slaughters practised by abattoirs in this country (who, by and large, are respectful and humane in the manner they conduct their business). Some people simply can not reconcile themselves to killing an animal for food. That is fine and it clearly honours their conscious. However, across the whole world there are thousands of years of history and culture behind the meat that most of us have in our diet. To try and dismiss that with some hysterical bleating (sorry!) rather than rational and reasonable argument is something of a waste of time.

  • Comment number 38.

    Yes, a great programme and Kate is the ideal person to present it. She does so in an informative and intelligent manner that is a joy to watch.

    Referring to the Ronaldsay sheep,according to the British Coloured Sheep Breeders Association these sheep have dietary problems when they are put to graze normal pasture. I wonder how Adam is going to cope with this?

    One more point,so many human babies are born with heart problems these days whereas you never seem to see ths among sheep. The reason is that they eat what they were designed to eat, not the junk food that so many young mothers eat today which lacks essential vitamins and minerals that are vital in order to have a healthy baby.

  • Comment number 39.

    "Lambing Live" was all well and good as far as it went; but in the interests of balance, I hope they have the guts (pardon the pun) to show how live lambs are slaughtered and processed. Otherwise, far from "reconnecting us with the origins of our food" as Kate would wish, the show will simply be adding more gloss to the disconnect between a nicely-packaged piece of tasty protein and a once-living creature.

  • Comment number 40.

    Shep1 I also saw the lame sheep, it is common for them to get footrot when on straw also i have seen some very lame ones that recover straight after giving birth. It will be being treated and to take it off screens would not give a realistic, complete picture.

    Heather, I was a vegetarian for 15 years and now keep a small flock of sheep for food and breed as well as look after another 200 at this time of year and mine certainly are not ill treated or killed as you said. It is always good to have a complete picture. Commercial producers do mostly try to get them to market at four months as Adam said but I give mine a year. If their teeth errupt you can loose a lot of money over night as they are then bought at a much lower price.

    A really good start to the show, even though it is a bit OTT with the cuteness i.e.(production staff naming them) The family seem to be very well balanced and show farmers in a more positive light than some. My lambs are due end of March, and I can't wait, although a small confession, I do name the ones I keep!

  • Comment number 41.

    I have been keeping sheep for 20 odd years now and you would think I wouldn't want to watch something like 'Lambing Live', I think it is a great programme. Just glad it is on this week as we (my Girlfriend Krystle & our wee son Finlay) wouldn't have time to watch it, as we start lambing our sheep next weekend. Also have to mention I never miss Adam on Countryfile (Great show) keep up the good work. Hope it will be released on DVD or Published on Book.

  • Comment number 42.

    I would like to know if it matters what sex the lambs are? As they go for slaughter at ?16 weeks, maybe it doesn't matter. Very good programme. Look forward to tonight.

  • Comment number 43.

    I trust in the interests of balance we will be having the sequel "Lambing Dead"? Folks out there need to see its not a cuddly time for the animals. They are an economic commodity. At this time of year I shall drive by the lamb filled fields and marvel at their progress. They seem to be having fun just like children. Playing chasing games and "king of the castle" on the old tree stumps. Then comes the day when I pass the empty fields and pass the farm itself to see the crating lorry parked up. The next day its sheep only. Thats it for another year. Yes its not cute in the slightest and obviously I am one of those who wont be eating them [a convert of 5 years and in good health....]

  • Comment number 44.

    As a young girl in the late 60's I reared 7 "kade" lambs on the bottle and got best price at market for them, I remember being very proud of myself.
    Also to encourage a lamb to suck either on the bottle or the ewe tickle the base of it's tail, I've watched the mother ewes do it and it works. Also I don't think the presenters should hold the lambs so long as it not only distresses the mother but also tranfers human scent to the lambs coat and can result in the ewe rejecting the lamb.
    Otherwise loved the programme.

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi Kate and team,love the show.
    Q- How does the farmer know how many lambs the ewes are carrying?

  • Comment number 46.

    #32. At 10:17am on 08 Mar 2010, Nicholas Cresswell wrote:

    Wow, I wondered how long before the lettuce munchers started to complain, later than I expected...

    "I am disappointed, Kate, with your involvment in such a barbaric programme promoting the mass slaughter of animals. You do realise that if we in the UK stopped using animals as our source of protein 60% of the land surface would be freed up? We could plant oak on that 60%,"

    Don't be silly, we would need all that and more to grow lettuces on so we can all pretend to be rabbits! Put simply, eating meat is as natural as breathing, don't like that fact then you do not like being human, ask any oral surgeon/dentist if our teeth and jaw have evolved for chewing meat or lettuce leaves...

  • Comment number 47.

    What a fantastic programme. I help out on my cousin's sheep farm and absolutely love it so looking forward to my annual trip next month.

    Kate and Adam are great at making it such an informative and enjoyable programme and the Beavan family are amazing to watch - I can see why their farm was chosen.

    Lambing is a 24 hour job and it's an incredibly tiring job especially in the early hours when it's cold and with little financial return. But the joy at watching lambs being born, suckling to Mum for the first time and racing around with other lambs is one not to miss.

    I hope this programme gives other "townies" an insight and appreciation into the world of sheep farming

  • Comment number 48.

    I find this programme very strange showing people cuddling new born sheep as if they are much loved pets--they are going to be bundled into lorries killed and eaten , I hope the series ends showing this, the whole story.

  • Comment number 49.

    We are in the middle of lambing our pedigree Texel and Beltex sheep at the moment. Would just like to say, Kate you are not soft, there is nothing more upsetting than helping a lamb into the world and then loosing it. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do, nature has its ways of sorting things out and more often than not there is a good reason why the lamb was not viable. Keep smiling!

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    Great programme! It's fantastic to have a programme that is interesting and practical. So many people are now returning to the land (or wanting to return)so I'm sure all the potential smallholders and crofters are loving this!
    We are looking forward to our first year of lambing, we have a minute flock in comparison to the programme (5). We are surrounded by books to try and make sure we know as much as possible but hey the more information the better!!
    *****What equipment is absolutely essential? ****(the books have loads of stuff suggested so we have a huge list)
    Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 52.

    Heather, As a pedigree sheep breeder I am upset about the comments you have made. The vast majority of all types of livestock breeders spend a great deal of time and effort in ensuring that their livestock is cared for exceptionally well! You are misinformed if you thnk that lambs are slaughtered in the way you described, and even if you disagree with it, the fact is that the lambs in this programe are going to be reared to produce meat, that is their job. The farmers job is to ensure that while the animals are in his or her care that they are given a good, healthy life. That is what we do, it is not just a job but a way of life and a love of that way of life!

  • Comment number 53.

    Im a Scottish Texel farming and really do love the show, but with only one problem, you are always cuddling the lambs, which is fine but some people from maybe a town, will think this is ok to do to lambs in a field which it is not, as the mothers may reject the lambs so maybe on tomorrow nights show someone may like to mention that it isnt alright to pick up lambs even if they look lost or hurt. As I do know someone who has had people walking and picked up a lamb and taken it home with them.

    Also I'd like to comment on an earlier post about a ewe with a bad foot yesterday night and would like to say that sometimes you cant fix there feet or even after you fix there feet they do hobble around for a couple of days. It would also be considered cruelty if the ewe was tipped on her back to have them clipped when so heavily pregnant.

    Thank you Bbc for showing the world a bit of our life's. :)

  • Comment number 54.

    I'm really enjoying this programme and as I am lucky enough to live surounded by the countryside of Dorset I look forward every year to seeing the new lambs in the fields. One thing worries me though. Farmers nowadays seem to have to cope with so much just to keep their heads above water so what measures are being taken to encourage young people to consider farming as a life choice.

  • Comment number 55.

    Wonderful programmes and compulsive viewing, with 4 superb stars in Kate and Adam, and Jim and Kate Beavan.
    I shed a few tears along with Kate when the lamb died.
    Been a pleasure to view this series.

  • Comment number 56.

    Simply fantastic. Can you tell us how you choose the wonderful Beavan family and farm for the programme please?

  • Comment number 57.

    Note for steeve, many mountain breeds are not great at being housed indoors, how about a yard where they could have access to a shed but be a bit more confined to make checking them easier, has worked well for a friend of mine with Jaccobs!

  • Comment number 58.

    Excellent program but I don’t see why we have to name all the lambs and tup’s! As for some of the other comments, how can you say it’s a barbaric program, it’s not promoting mass slaughter it’s showing you a slice of the shepherd’s year, and if the UK stopped using animals for food and we planted oak’s then what would we then eat? Acorns?
    There is a growing food shortage and even if we did all turn veggie we would not be able to grow enough food to feed the UK and then we would also have to rely on more chemical fertilisers and fossil fuels to produce the crops as sheep and cattle would soon die out if there were no farmers to look after them.
    r.e. Animals having their throats slit, this is because they are being slaughtered for the halal and kosher market, personally I don’t think this is a nice way but it is been done to follow religious beliefs and even though I don’t like it I respect their beliefs just like I respect the wishes of a vegetarian not to eat meat. But this program is about farming and all that the farmer can do is make sure that the animals are healthy and have a good quality of life while they are on the farm.

  • Comment number 59.

    This is another excellent programe by the BBC,and two great presenters.I come from a farming backround and used to work with livestock and to see this family work their farm ,you can see how professional and organised they are .People don't realise the amount of work that is involved with farming as well as caring for the country side.Again well done on an excellent programe and hopefully its the first of many!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Eccellent programme BBC!

    I grew up on a sheep farm and this programme has been quite realistic in it's account of the sheep farmer's life, to the none farming audience.

    A few factual points, there are a number of popular terminal sires (males to produce lamb) in the UK, apart from Texels, the other main sire is the Suffolk and it has particular charactistics of unrivalled growth and fantastic meat flavour!

    The Bevans appear only to use the Suffolk to produce cross bred females, which it is also very good at.
    Texels come from the island of Texel (Netherlands) and were imported into Britain in the 1970s. Charollais come from France and were imported some time after Texels. Suffolks originate in Suffolk and are a native British Breed but with all of the modern attributes needed by the commercial sheep farmer.

  • Comment number 61.

    Lambing Live is an excellent programme and is fast getting as addictive as Spring and Autumn Watch.

    In particular the different sections and the explanation of the beginning of the process and the planning and commercial thinking behind the process especially interesting.

    One question though will the end process be dealt with in the same thorough manner (sale and slaughter)? Would advice on the different types of lamb available to purchase(organic, etc) would be beneficial?

  • Comment number 62.

    I was just wondering do the farmers not wear any lambing gloves when there lambing the ewes?

  • Comment number 63.

    Any chance we could have University Challenge back in place of this tat.
    Move it to BBC 1 in place of EastEnders then see the cooments you get.

  • Comment number 64.

    Thanks for a fantastic and informative programme. Now I have a much better appreciation of what is happening when the light is on in the barn,in the middle of the freezing night, in the field behind our house, as I am tucked up nice and warm in bed. How many of us living in villages these days really know what is going on within 200yds of our gardens. Without the dedication of the people who work on the land, the countryside we others enjoy would not be as it is today. I for my part,am very very grateful.

  • Comment number 65.

    Lambing Live is a great programme for me as I have recently trained as a volunteer part time Shepherdess, so like Kate H I am new to caring for sheep but absolutly love it. I help out with the local Wildlife Trust who have a flock of Hebridian sheep. This is a great way to learn how to look after sheep without the full responsibility and the cost of vets and food bills. I would recommend this as a way for anyone who longs for their own sheep but may not have the time for their own. I enjoy caring and being out in the fields with the sheep and really look forward to my volunteer days. The trust have provided training in general sheep managment and just recently in lambing. I can't wait to see the first lambs which are due this week!

  • Comment number 66.

    As I live on a farm and help with the day to day runnings, I am quite familiar with things on 'Lambing Live', but I would like to make a couple of comments to people on here;

    - The comment about land and oak trees:
    If you are so annoyed about what you call a 'BARBARIC' programme, why do you watch it???? Lambs are bread for the purpose of eating, they are like everything else on farms, they are produced as a crop, just like a crop of wheat or barley, to be killed or harvested to feed the ever growing population. And stop producing animals that account for 60% of protein so we can plant oak trees! What on earth, we need as much land, as i just said to feed animals and grow crops for the ever growing population. And why oak trees! Vast fields of crops will take in just as much Co2 as an oak tree which takes 30 – 40 years to fully develop! And I think I’m right in thinking that soil erosion isn’t our main priority!

    -And about the comment about;
    ‘THROAT SLITTING’, how else are they supposed to kill them humanly, starve them to death, I don’t think so!

    A lot o people out there don’t realise the huge amount of pressure that farmers are under to produce food cheaply and quickly for the world. ITS HARD WORK! U don’t know half of the problems and pressure we are under, so stop complaining, and be grateful for what you have got!

  • Comment number 67.

    There may be a few sentimental moments, but the bulk of this show is entertaining and informative - in fact, a huge amount of information was put across tonight in a very accessible way. Everyone should be concerned with animal welfare and the team presenting this programme clearly demonstrate that you don't have to be a vegitarian to show compassion for and committment to, the wellbeing of the livestock. At last the excellent Kate Humble has found a fellow presenter of equal quality in Adam Henson, who is easily the best thing about Countryfile. If all farmers were as enthusiastic, skilled and committed as those on this show, there would be far less need for concern with the industry. I didn't expect to spend more than five or ten minutes watching this programme, but I found myself engrossed for the whole time it was on. Thanks.

  • Comment number 68.

    I am really enjoying Lambing Live. Why? Because like many people I love lambs but with this program I am also learning all about sheep husbandry (is that the right word?).
    However, I am upset to keep reading all these comments about how the BBC should be showing the slaughter of the lambs.
    I really don't understand this. I think these people are being somewhat disrespectful to the viewers. We know this is a farm we are watching and not some sort of petting zoo. Of course the lambs are being reared for meat. They will therefore need to go for slaughter - we know that. Of course in the farming industry there are those whose practises are questionable - is that not the same in all areas of life??? Lambing Live is showing how good farming is best done.

    I think Kate is doing a great job - and I really did feel for her when the lamb died. Good for her that she got right back in there straight away. Good to see Farmer Adam too (love his stuff on Countryfile) and the Beavan family are wonderful.

    I was also pleased to hear the prices for lambs have risen - this is good news for farmers.

    I wanted to ask about the orphaned lambs. When they are weaned and ready to go out in the fields, do they have problems not having a mum to hang around with, or do they tend to stay together in their little groups (like Little Humble and 2 chums) ??

    Looking forward to tomorrows program....


  • Comment number 69.

    Being a member of the Belgian Rare Breed Society, I am a regular fan of "Country FILE" and quite a number
    of superb nature documentaries on BBC.
    Lambing Live has really opened a new way of showing the great mystery of life, being it animal life or human life the effect remains the same, shear wonder and respect.
    Also for the farmer who has to be a nurse and a doctor a care-taker and a manager.
    The admiration for the farming community and their everyday commitment, can only grow.
    I remember as a child I visited the cattle-market in Crewe with my dad, who was a D-day veteran and stayed
    in Belgium after the War. He had such a great love for farming and farm animals.That's the reason my holiday's are spent every year, walking in The Dales enjoying a chat with the locals admiring the country-side, exploring their challenges and hopes.
    Congratulations to all BBC-staff .
    Keep on showing us not only the negative side but the positive line in everyday life and the effords that are made by local communities to survive .
    I wish Kate and Adam could come over to Belgium to visit our yearly rare breed show the last sunday of august, in the Provincial Park of East-Flanders, Puyenbrouck near Ghent. We have about 5000 visitors in a superb natural setting . Why not have a series" Country File meets Flanders" ?
    As the BBC has to cut spending ,I could offer you free lodgings, wouldn't that be a good idea?
    Yours Sincerely,
    Danny Jones Knokke-Heist, Belgium

  • Comment number 70.

    "Lambing Dead" seconded.

    Even though I am vegetarian I have a fascination with farming and am in awe at the strength of character & care for their animals exhibited by most farmers (well the ones on TV & Radio anyway). I have to agree though seeing (my hero) KH fawning over the fluffy bundles just highlighted how switched off people must be to the realities of meat production & eating.

    I have no problem with others making the decision to eat meat but most are not sufficiently informed to make that decision. If Kate runs "Ex-Lambing Live" at the other end of their life cycle showing the story of field to table then we will have a balanced approach to the subject.

    It doesn't need to be dramatic, the BBC could use the same top quality farmers and their (almost certainly) top quality slaughter houses and just show it like it is.

  • Comment number 71.

    What a lovely hour we have just spent with Kate and crew our 9 year old grand daughter sat so still and quiet and was hanging on every word ( but it was Adam and she just loves him) ok it is not showing every side but if you dont like it you can always switch off and leave the rest of us to enjoy something which is so interesting for young and old alike.

  • Comment number 72.

    Hi Kate at the team, my name is Daniel and I am the owner and creator of the website LambWatch! I must thank you for covering this very difficult time of year for farmers on mainstream media as it has done a great job at raising awareness.

    Our website, LambWatch, has had a real increase in traffic since you launched the programme last week, and I am even getting comments from watchers of the programme thinking that our website is actually your website! I try my best to answer their questions but I am not able to answer them all as I have had requests to pass on messages to yourself and the team!

    If you are interested, our "Lamb Cam" is basically a live streaming webcam with audio and video and forms part of our farm blog. It has been live for two years and we have built up a considerable archive of over one hundred clips from our past lambing seasons since 2008 in our highlights archive and you are welcome to use them in your programme. The most recent one is one of our sheep having an assisted birth.

    Our website address is http://www.lambwatch.co.uk and you can contact me via the website should you wish to get in touch: http://www.lambwatch.co.uk/contact.htm

    Thanks again for the great coverage!

  • Comment number 73.

    A lovely programme. We'll be lambing in a couple of weeks. Our lambing shed is not so well lit though! I wish I could advertise on here, as we've had a cancellation for our holiday Barn and we love having visitors up in the shed - we make use of the extra help too!

  • Comment number 74.

    Barney - "However, I am upset to keep reading all these comments about how the BBC should be showing the slaughter of the lambs. I really don't understand this. I think these people are being somewhat disrespectful to the viewers. We know this is a farm we are watching and not some sort of petting zoo. Of course the lambs are being reared for meat. They will therefore need to go for slaughter - we know that."

    Sorry, Barney, but this is absolute nonsense. Most viewers, especially children, will choose to blank out the fact of the lambs' eventual death unless the subject is addressed. If you're making a programme informing people about the life cycle of a lamb / the workings of a farm (both of which are worthwhile enterprises), then you HAVE to show all aspects of it for the sake of balance. Thus, completely contrary to what you say, the BBC will be showing disrespect to both the viewers and the animals if "Lambing Live" DOESN'T cover slaughter and processing.

  • Comment number 75.

    Fantastic programme, I am a farmer and lecturer in beef and sheep in Northumberland, our web site is www.bellshillfarm.co.uk.
    Please could you point out tonight that scanning does tell you how many lambs are inside the ewe but the most important thing, and the thing even sheep farmers overlook, is that you should use this scanning information to feed the ewe correctly over the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. Adam touched on it last night but I felt it was not quite clear how important and cost effective scanning can be.
    Thankyou

  • Comment number 76.

    I absolutely agree with Michael Galvan and Paul Scholes that the lamb sale and slaughter processes should be covered in a clear and balanced way. Having helped at a farm B&B I know that many children and a fair portion of adults who came to stay were completely ignorant of the journey from field to plate. One little boy on being shown the pet lambs, whinged that he didn't want to see lambs, oh no, he wanted to see SHEEP. He was dumbstruck to discover a lamb is a baby sheep! Oh and most people preferred to think sheep were raised for their wool - if only.
    Bigskies, good luck with your first lambing, it's a magical time so do take photos and keep a diary - I didn't (too tired playing sole nursemaid to 200 ewes lambing outside) and I really regret not doing so as second time round it's just not the same. My emergency lambing bag contains iodine spray, Kickstart (lamb reviver which gives lambs an energy boost), obstetric gel, gloves and binoculars, so I don't disturb a ewe unnecessarily, plus I have the vet's number on quick dial on my mobile! Have a great time and don't beat yourself up if you lose one, such is life .. or not. Providing you've done your best and given all you can, you can't do more.

  • Comment number 77.

    Having been absolutely mesmorised by last nights programme Im counting down to watch it tonight and its been the talk of the office!

    My question is to Adam to ask how his ewe which is having quads is doing and when is she due to lamb? this comes on the back of the concern for the ewe which died giving birth to the triplets on Sunday.
    thanks for a great programme - i love Countryfile and expecially the part regarding Adams farm so this is an ideal 'extension to that'.

  • Comment number 78.

    The show is great very well done.
    I think it should be on a little earlier so some of the younger generation can see where their meat comes from.

    question how do they dispose of the lambs that die.

  • Comment number 79.

    Pete - lambs that die are usually picked up by an approved collector and taken to be incinerated. There is a national fallen stock scheme which is very well organised but I have so few deaths in my flock that I tend to take any dead animals to the incineration point myself - costs c£25 to dispose of a sheep whereas a private collection can be upwards of £70, though the scheme I mention above is not so expensive.

  • Comment number 80.

    What a brilliant programme we think this is, well done all concerned. Both programmes so far have made us happy, sad, but always enthralled.
    Will even watch this in preference to the footy on Wednesday !
    Now, that really shows the excellence of this programme.

  • Comment number 81.

    Has Adam ever been a TV presenter, only as a farmer he is a natural in front of camera. Daniel Craig watch out! Great programme by the way. Mike Macdonald.

  • Comment number 82.

    how many sheep can one healthy ram cover in one day?

  • Comment number 83.

    I was making a personal comment of my opinion on a 'comments' board - not a message and discussion board.
    However in the spirit of 'discussion' and balance :-
    Michael Galvan - it is you who speaks 'absolute nonsense' You can not speak on behalf of most viewers - you can only make your own observations. You took my comments too personally.
    And we are only on day three - doh!!!! - perhaps the Lambing live team will cover the meat end of the life cycle anyway- then of course you can crow on about how the BBC paid attention to you.

    I really hate the BBC message boards - they are vile, bullying places full of insults and rudeness. I did think a Comments area was different - a place for comments and thoughts directed to the program - obviously not.
    Of course Michael Galvan's word is far more important. The BBC should listen to him - he knows best. I didn't ask for his opinion - I was making a general comment.
    Maybe know it all Michael can answer my question about the orphaned lambs?? Who needs Lambing Live with Michael around eh???

  • Comment number 84.

    are there every any ewes that DO NOT become pregnant.......and if so, what happens to her.
    thankEWE.
    anja in holland

  • Comment number 85.

    Anyway, further to my comments at No83 I would just like to perhaps put my perspective a little more clearly.

    I was aiming my original comments towards the people who have been posting here and elsewhere that slaughter is cruel and that we should be shown the cruelty of it all - blood guts and gore. I was just stating I did not understand it.

    I certainly believe that it is good to show/explain the whole process, but feel the team are already doing that in a 'clear and balanced' way. I did not actually say it should not be done!
    For instance I did chuckle at Adam's description of one of the breeds of sheep as having a nice row of chops and a good sized leg. He is not cruel in this explanation - he is explaining facts is a good and informative way. We do not have to see drama to understand and make choices.


    Perhaps I write nonsense, I am sure I do from the reaction. I find putting my words in writing difficult at times.
    I think it is best that I do not return here or anywhere else in the future.

    So, thank you BBC for Lambing Live. I look forward to watching for the rest of the week.


  • Comment number 86.

    I've been lambing for 14 seasons now. I love it. I think all my friends think I'm mad to have lambing as a hobby. Now the BBC have a programme dedicated to it! I no longer feel I'm alone!
    A few Questions:
    1) How many lambs on the Bevan farm are born with in-turned eyelids?
    2)How do they treat them....I know that gently unrolling them helps some but I find an injection into the lower 'eyelid' is the best, quickest and a permanent solution to what otherwise is painful condition with horrible consequences.

    To answer a few questions I've seen crop up on this blog. Lame sheep...some just limp...no amount of checking or trimming helps..if anything as someone pointed out it may cause more upset to check. Its probably the same as humans..the weight of the pregnancy causes a few aches and pains. After the birth I have found that the vast majority of limps disappear instantly.
    I'm a vegetarian and have no problem with the concept of having the British countryside full of spring lambs and helping bring them into the world. My aim is to help the poor ewe (and lambs) who may not survive the birthing process without assistance. I am conscious that the majority of these lambs are destined for a dinner plate but some people choose to eat meat and without them the whole British countryside would be empty. I would still want to see lambs and other farm animals. I am also aware that without mans interaction some of these ewes may not have needed intervention. I just accept that man has made changes (over many years) and unless farms/the public want to have sheep dying just for the sake of, in my experience for the majority of cases, a small assistance such as a bent lambs foot, it makes sence to assist. There are places advertising in New Zealand, for example, '10 years without human intervention'. Personally I would prefer to assist than wonder how many poor ewes and lambs died a horrible death just for the sake of a 'bent lambs foot!

    someone asked...why do sheep have triplets when they only have 2 teats....sheep have been bred to produce optimum number of lambs...but consider humans too. Triplets and many other multiple combinations aren't uncommon.

  • Comment number 87.

    heyy i just saw a sheep giving birth but they didn't notice.

  • Comment number 88.

    Is there a ewe lambing behind Adam in the last shot shown?

  • Comment number 89.

    Hi,
    This program is really good but in the large pen where the pregnant ewes are there looks to be a ewe prolapsing behind the presenters. Can you please take a look? cheers

  • Comment number 90.

    we noticed wen kate and adam were putting iodine on lambs there was a ewe behind having a prolapse. was they aware.

  • Comment number 91.

    I find this program truly depressing, will we be tuning in to lambing slaughter live in 5 months time?? I can not believe the bbc is spending licence payers money on this sick program. Hey at least it might make a few more people vegetarian/vegan!!
    Kate Humble I thought more of you than this, I am very disappointed :-(

  • Comment number 92.

    I was wondering If anyone else was shouting at the tv to tell them that a ewe was lambing behind them, that they seemed to glance over, though she was only starting to lamb. As I can see from others posts that most people noticed it ;)
    Great show and Im glad you got so many lambs born live :).

  • Comment number 93.

    @ Claire and other people who think this programme is wrong and disgusting

    It is not wrong, its part of the cycle of life, all animals do it and just because we like to think we are higher ranked than other animals doesnt mean we are, so just accept it. Also plants are alive to and your killing them.

    Everything has to die sometime, whether sooner or later. We are made to eat meat and I totally understand why you might not want to, but it is life and it happens. You wouldn't see a vegetarian Lion, would you??? No cause the lion accepts that its life and has to survive that way, whether it likes it or not. (:

  • Comment number 94.

    I have no reply your hilarious, can not stop laughing at your comments!
    You would'nt see a meat eating rabbit would you, think about it! and a for the teeth thing I have not got timeto go into it.

  • Comment number 95.

    why are vagans and vegetarians often soooo negative and angry with the world and their fellow human beings!
    This is one of the best and most informative programmes I have had the pleasure to watch recently!
    Perhaps the Beeb will consider "Dairy watch" or "Calving live" in the future!
    Remember too that many pure breed rams and females (as well as cross breed females), are used for breeding and live for a number of years! That gives me another idea... "Pedigree sheep watch"!!

  • Comment number 96.

    I am 15 and using dads account (with permission)
    I am just about to start lambing my 5 ewes on Friday and was wondering if you could show a bit more about how much work it is because I always have a lot of work to cram on weekends and before and after school and I think how much work there is to do is understated
    please could you respond to this on dads email account
    Luke Jenkins

  • Comment number 97.

    Oh Barney, don't be silly, this blog is for views to be aired, opinions to be stated and comments to be commented upon, all related to Lambing Live in some way.
    Slaughter is part of the life/death cycle of a sheep but many people DO chose to blank out that fact - a quick poll at work showed many delighted with the programme but embracing only of the cuddly aspect of lambs, reluctant to acknowledge or discuss the inevitable death. This is furthered by the presentation of neat portions of meat on polystyrene trays, looking for all the world like something produced in a lab. Slaughter isn't cruel unless it's badly executed and the animal suffers. Most abattoir staff take care and pride in doing the job right, although as with most trades there are some who just don't care and do a shoddy job. I don't suggest slaughter be shown as gory and cruel, I just think it should be shown in its best practice form, and as you noted, we are only on day 3 so perhaps it's still to come.
    In reply to your orphan lamb query, yes they do stay together if they are kept together to grow up. I have sub-groups within my flock who were orphaned and so grew up together and they are still in their own mini-gang 4 years later.
    Hope you enjoy the remainder of the programnes and please don't be put off having and sharing your views. How boring the world would be if we all thought the same way.

  • Comment number 98.

    If some of the bloggers picked the prolapse up, I'm quite sure the dedicated Bevan team picked it up!!!

  • Comment number 99.

    How do you start with sheep and get the hands on experience

  • Comment number 100.

    My wife and I helped our friends on the island of Unst in Shetland during lambing some years ago. We did everything from helping with the birthing to burying the ones that didn't make it. We had a pet lamb called Peabody. He got his name because he peed in my pocket when he was on my knee being bottle fed. One thing we would like to know is why do lambs have black eyes and when they grow up they get slitted eyes?

 

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