Sunday was the last day for lambing at Church Farm in Coombes, West Sussex. They have a hard task this time of the year with 800 ewes lambing and 80 Sussex cows also ready to give birth.
In our house, we have a saying, ‘someone has worked hard to get that food on the table, don’t waste it’ but it means nothing unless the kids understand what a farm is and how it works. Coombes is roughly a 20 minute drive from ours, near to Lancing College. The girls bounded into the lambing shed and were immediately able to coo over the babies, gently stroking them and giving them milk. While we were touring one of the huge sheds on the property, we noticed a ewe laying awkwardly, panting. According to the farm team, she’d been showing signs of labour for around 5 days but not gone into labour yet. This isn’t typical but does happen from time to time.
The patriach of the farming family, Mr Jerry Flake, kindly took some time to give me a little history of the farm after our tractor ride. His wife’s family, the Passmores have owned it since 1901, with their son Andrew soon to become the farms 5th generation of Sussex farmers. Farming in Britain has been precarious to say the least but the Passmores insist farms are thriving in Sussex. And events such as lambing help educate people about working farms. Jenny, nee Passmore, started the Coombes Farm Experience 30 years ago.
The tractor took us up to the top of the Downs, with spectacularly windy but breathtaking views. Along the way we saw thriving calves and lambs with their mothers who had already been put out to pasture (usually a few days after birth, all being well). Jerry explained to our group before setting off the numbering and colour coding system for tracking the lambs to ensure they don’t get lost and too far away from their mother, ‘It’s a simple system, but it works,’ he proudly exclaims. The atmosphere on the farm was really relaxed, the staff approachable and knowledgeable, happy to answer questions they’ve undoubtedly been asked over and over again during this lambing season.
While we were enjoying a snack in the cafe, Jerry tells me a calf is being born on the shed. By the time I’d gathered up the girls, the new arrival was being licked clean by it’s mother (unflattering amniotic fluid pouring from her backside but hey, we know childbirth is just not glamourous, least of all in cows). It was one of those cliched humbling moments, I felt so honored to see this cow’s newborn minutes after being born. I spent a great deal of time urging the girls to keep quiet and make no threatening movements, as the mother will protect her young, I was happy when she demonstrated this by head butting another cow who was getting too close to her baby.
For maximum cute factor watch our video blog with newborn lambs galore and a glimpse of the calf who arrived while we were there.
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