Contradictions of life with life and death in one day

Mrs Downs Diary
Mrs Downs Diary

Farming stock presents a mass of contradictions. Joy, new life one day. Despair, death the next. So it was with us yesterday and today.

In the morning John came into the house for a reviving cuppa, his face wreathed in smiles. In itself a wonder. He is not one of life’s most exuberant characters. But I would not want to change him, I add hastily.

When checking the ewes he had come upon a little miracle. An old ewe, supposedly barren, had spent late summer keeping the tups company when the lambs had been weaned and they, the tups, had been taken out of the main flock.

None of this consorting out of hours for our girls. Only allowed to meet up with the fellas, as and when John decided. He’s a bit like that. Authoritarian.

Well this morning, after a bleak, snowy, bitterly cold night, there she was, tucked up into the hedge with a tiny, perfectly formed little lamb nuzzled up to her. Makes your heart melt.

After a drink John went and carried the lamb home with the ewe nudging and bumping the back of his legs in her desperation to keep contact with her lamb.

Once back at the farm, we created her a warm, roomy, straw enclosure under the big barn. Together we watched as the lamb shot under her for a drink, shared in the contentment of Mum and baby.

In the afternoon, a cow that had been messing about calving since just before lunch was persuaded to enter the cattle crush. None of the other cows have needed any help this year calving, but this Mum was clearly struggling.

We could see the tip of the calf’s nose, but only one leg was coming forward. John needed to manipulate the other leg from where it had bent back in the womb, to help the cow deliver her calf safely.

All done with the flair of a master magician. Abracadabra... one baby calf. Again small, but perfectly formed. We could see we were making a habit of it here and went to bed a very smug pair of farmers.

This morning I determined to take a picture of the lamb. I could attach it to this article to share its perfection. A herald of spring. It would be bunnies next, daffodils, chicks, raindrops on…hang on... I’m coming over all Sound of Music... but you get the idea.

Instead a limp form was curled up on the straw. Stone cold. Mum pushing it with her nose to try and get her lamb to stand up. A futile gesture. Heartbreaking.

I know in the bigger picture, one dead lamb is nothing. Far worse, unimaginably more tragic events are taking place in the world. Perhaps I was personifying the ewe’s emotions. Hard not to in the face of her loss.

Happily the calf is doing well. Snug in the foldyard, already tottering after Mum and no doubt soon to be absorbed into the melee of youngsters racing round in circles whenever there is space to do it. Long may they enjoy life.