My Legal Life

12 April 2023

Battens has been advising local farming families in Somerset and Dorset for generations. What gives us a unique perspective is that most of our agricultural team are either farmers or small holders. We speak the same language and understand the complex challenges of running a farming business.

Beth Norris who has recently joined our agricultural team, combines the role of Paralegal with that of her life on a busy family farm. Here she explains what life away from the office really means.

When you are from a farming family, annual leave tends to get used for busy times on the farm, and in March I had a couple of weeks at home for one of the busiest times of the year; lambing season. Lambing on our farm began on 1st March, with 500 ewes to keep us busy.

  • Day to Day in the lambing shed

The sheep are never left unattended for more than 2 hours overnight, so my mornings started with a 4am alarm for the early morning checks. Most mornings, I would find a couple of ewes lambing, or already lambed.

Once a ewe has had her lambs, she goes into an individual pen which allows us to keep a closer eye on them. The lambs’ navels are sprayed with iodine – this helps to quickly dry up the navel to prevent any germs entering which may cause an infection. Lambs need to have adequate colostrum (this is the mother’s first milk, full of antibodies) to survive, so our routine way of ensuring the lamb has had enough milk is to stand the lamb up, and if it does a big stretch, this means the lamb has fed. If it doesn’t stretch (and may also have a cold mouth), this indicates that the lamb hasn’t fed, meaning we need to intervene with supplemental colostrum.

All ewes with their lambs in individual pens are fed silage, hay and nuts twice per day and their water regularly replenished. After a day or two, those that are strong are spray-marked with numbers (so we know which lambs belong to which ewe) and are taken down to another farm into group pens for another few days, before they are turned out into the fields (weather depending). When turning ewes and lambs out into the field, we try to do it as early in the day as possible, so the lambs get used to following their mothers around the field. If they are turned out late in the day, they are more likely to get mixed up and separated from their mothers in the dark.

  • Orphan lambs

Lambs may become orphans due to a number of reasons. This year, we have had over 40 orphans, as a lot of our ewes had triplets or quads (the majority of ewes don’t generally have enough milk for more than two lambs). If we were to leave a ewe to rear 3 or 4 lambs, the lambs may end up starving and the ewe may become ill with mastitis. Some ewes may also reject their lamb, so this is another reason. We feed the orphans 3 times a day from the bottle, and when they are a little older, they go onto a feeder, where we can feed 5 at once. They stay on milk until around 8 weeks old, before being weaned.

  • Weather

This year our biggest challenge was the weather. Just before we started lambing, it was sunny, warm and dry – perfect lambing weather! But as soon as we started lambing, we were hit with bad weather, which pretty much lasted for the whole of March. Wet and cold weather is not the most ideal conditions for turning newborn lambs into the field, which meant that we had to keep them inside for as long as possible, or for as long as our space allowed. During the first week, we unexpectedly had snow too. Being close to the sea means we usually miss the snow, but typically, while lambing, we had about 4 inches of it. Luckily, we only had a handful of the ewes with the oldest lambs in the field, who we managed to bring in from the fields back into safety in a shed until the snow passed. Thankfully, it didn’t last too long.

After a very busy couple of weeks, I am now back in the office, and we only have about 30 ewes left to lamb. Working 17-hour days with very little sleep is very tiring, but lambing really is one of my favourite times of the year. There’s something about bringing new life into the world which really is so rewarding.