“More of the same please” would probably be my overall request for the 2022 lamb crop.

Of course, I could dwell on the numerous negatives from this year, with drought, rising input costs, and mastitis among young sheep all giving me something to gurn about. But the strong price for finished lamb must surely trump all those irritations.

Let’s be honest here: getting £125 for a fat lamb in early December is way better in my book than low fixed costs and lambs making £80.

That said, next year could be an entirely different kettle of fish, and we should maybe set a few quid aside to pay the fertiliser bills. Who knows?

But one thought that continuously crosses my mind is how a consumer on a standard budget can afford to let her children develop a taste for this marvellous homegrown product. It does worry me that so many people on these islands refuse to either cook or eat lamb.

Hard luck

I am now down to my last 30 lambs. These are nearly all the “hard luck” stories, and most of them had troubled upbringings, or came from families where mum was more interested in looking after herself than providing adequate nutrition for her offspring.

When I mentioned lameness in lambs to my farming colleagues, most of them agreed that it was a real nuisance this year

In addition, some of them were held back by persistent foot problems. I’ve no idea why, but lameness among sheep and lambs continues to be a problem that will not go away. It is quite the opposite in fact, and I suspect that a few repeat offenders have had a full pedicure at least three times during the grazing season.

When I mentioned lameness in lambs to my farming colleagues, most of them agreed that it was a real nuisance this year.

Flying start

A quick summary of the year might note that lambing percentage was pretty good (best to use suitably vague terminology, until the last animal is sold and all the counting is complete) and weather conditions meant that everyone got off to a flying start.

The cold week or two in May almost saw the wheels coming off the wagon, with lactating ewe lambs being severely affected by mastitis (despite being fed twice a day). I’d estimate that almost 35% of them succumbed, and 100% of these were trying to rear doubles.

In my defence, I got away with it in 2020, and I attributed this success to my outstanding shepherding skills.

In reality, it had more to do with luck, and this year proved that I’m as good as the next person at being incompetent, unskilled, and generally not fit for purpose.

I’m certain this breaks some sort of record for poor management

If I add in two or three first-time mothers that had slight prolapses before lambing, then my culling rate among this batch of ewe lambs was almost 50%.

I’m certain this breaks some sort of record for poor management. Mind you, finishing up with lumpy udders and a living sheep is a thousand times better than a dead ewe, and special thanks must go to the Zactran/Metacam combination of drugs which saved every animal.


The next challenge came in the form of a drought. It wasn’t severe enough to warrant a phone call to the meal man, but tight grass supplies translated into a delay in lambs hitting their target weights.

We’ll have to jump that fence when we come to it

Roughly speaking, lamb sales ran about a month behind recent years. My reaction to a scarcity of grass was to sow all grassland with about 30 units of bagged nitrogen, and I can’t help wondering what I’ll do in a similar situation if nitrogen is going to be £600/t. We’ll have to jump that fence when we come to it.

The subsequent explosion in grass growth meant there was no panic about getting lambs sold during the autumn months.


Just like every other year, growth rates were all over the place, with fortnightly weighings reflecting tremendous gains (which I endlessly bragged about), and the occasional spell where they didn’t gain an ounce (which I conveniently “forgot” to mention).

Overall, performance was satisfactory, and about 75% of the lambs were sold by the end of September. I aim for 80% away by this date (for March-lambers), but these figures weren’t meal-assisted, so they seem perfectly acceptable.

No hurry

These last 30 lambs have been getting a lick of meal for a month now. I’m not in any sort of hurry to rush them away because, to put it bluntly, I never thought I’d see the tailenders from this farm making £125.

Maybe I’ve been farming too long, because I can’t help wondering how long before this fairy-tale bubble bursts?

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