Lambing at the Doulton Flock 2013
It was that time of year again, and, once more we were expecting two sets of students from Glasgow and Edinburgh Veterinary Schools.It had been a terribly wet summer, the ewes weren't putting weight on as they normally do and the Schmallenberg virus was making everyone very uncomfortable.
However we had to look forward to new life and new beginnings as we do every year and just get on with things!
Our first two students came from Glasgow University. Ian Faux, a very well mannered American, now settled in Ayre and Robert Slater, who couldn't have been more different if he'd tried- a home bred young man from Sale!!!
They both arrived, as normal, knowing nothing really about lambing. They had done the standard cardboard box delivery which is so unreal and not at all like the real thing. The most important thing was that they were so keen to start and learn!!
I always ask my students to send me a small paragraph about what they learned when they were with us and how confident they feel at the end.
Here we go!!
Ian Faux- Glasgow University
Lambing the Doulton Flock was certainly an enjoyable and educational experience. I’m a 1st Year Vet student at Glasgow, originally from the USA, with limited experience in the large animal field but a great deal of interest in it. Being new to lambing, I was uncertain as to how I would find it and had reservations as to whether I’d be useful without any previous experience. Those doubts were quickly pushed aside upon meeting Ellie Stokeld, receiving a very warm welcome and simple explanation of what was needed of me, I was immediately confident in the beneficial nature of lambing under her supervision. Having expected a cramped, cold living space and all the other common discomforts students often endure- a pleasant surprise awaited me in the form of a warm and spacious caravan, complete with video surveillance of the lambing area.
The welfare of the animals comes first in Ellie’s eyes, and it shows both in their superb health and the quality of their management. The experience was not one solely focused on lambing itself, but rather the entirety of the process and the importance of the individuals. Every ewe, ram, and lamb was valued equally whatever it’s age, health, or size. The animals clearly prosper under this management and I quickly respected the methods in place.
The Border Leicester is a fantastic breed, possessing both impressive appearance and intelligence. Not only that, but every single one had a personality! Some were real characters! I’d certainly be very happy working with them in the future based on how compliant and patient they are.
Thanks to the mixture of the great temperament of the sheep, the beautiful location and comfortable accommodation, and Ellie’s patience, amazing cooking, and unending knowledge; the experience was one not to be forgotten and has vastly expanded my understanding and practical ability, for which I am extremely grateful to Ellie, her friends and family, and most especially- the sheep, for going easy on me.
Robert Slater- 1st year veterinary student at Glasgow University
Arriving at The Doulton Farm, I found myself greeted by Jeff, a lovely man who worked with Ellie on the farm. The countryside around the farm was stunning with views of which a Manchurian such as myself can only dream. Jeff showed me around the farm, from sleeping quarters in a cosy caravan to the sheep which were practically on the doorstep, making trips to see the lambs very convenient.
By the evening of my day of arrival I had already performed my first lambing. Ellie makes the experience very hands on, stepping back from the action to teach you exactly what to do. By the end of the two weeks I felt confident I could deal with a range of lambing situations, including hung-head and breach.
We also learnt how to deal with a whole host of ewe-related problems such as post-partum hypocalcaemia and prolapsing ewes. Lamb aftercare was another skill we were diligently taught. Tailing, feeding, Scour-hault administration, covering the naval with iodine and tubing weak lambs were all part of a days work. We also saw a few cases where lamb warmers were needed. Ellie will always do as much as possible to save every lamb. They all count on this farm, very different from most larger commercial farms.
Delicious meals are made every night from scratch and Ellie will cater to food requirements (I’m veggie). There are fresh eggs from the hens just outside the caravan and a few not particularly time-savvy cockerels that will be sure to wake you up on time for the morning rounds. In addition to a baby monitor, there are TV monitors in the caravan and cameras in the barn, so you can relax with a cup of tea and your feet up while waiting for the next ewe to let you know she’s ready. There are hot showers every other day with endless snacks for hard workers. I have not dealt with a wide range of sheep previously, but I can say that the Border Leicesters are so lovely and friendly to work with, you are sure to have a great time with them.
All in all, the farm is an absolutely fantastic experience with a brilliant atmosphere for people with little experience as well as those more knowledgeable about sheep. Make sure to bring warm clothes and a good attitude and you will get on fantastically!
p.s. If you’re thinking of coming to the farm, feel free to message me on facebook.
I think you’ll be able to find me on the 2012 vet freshers page or the more official “class of 2017” page. Or just stop me when I’m wondering around vet school.
The next couple of veterinary students to arrive were from Edinburgh, Amanda Gasik and Albert Lynch, both from the States and both first year students. They came armed with the usual experience of lambing and lots of enthusiasm for the job ahead!
Amanda Gasik - 1st year Student at Edinburgh
I spent two weeks on the Doulton Farms during the lambing season in March 2013 — the coldest March the UK has seen in 50 years.
As soon as I arrived on the farm Ellie, the Flockmaster, greeted me. She immediately showed me the grounds and introduced me to her wonderful sheep. Within the first hour I was out working with the sheep and learning about the lambing process.
Ellie took a step back and let me learn from hands-on lambing experiences. One of the most important things that I learned from Ellie was when to assist lambing; and that intervention is not always necessary and can actually be harmful to the sheep. She taught me how to resuscitate and care for lambs in the first few hours of life---a very critical period. Ellie also taught me how to care for ewes that had difficult lambings; I helped administer subcutaneous calcium, twin lamb drenches, and intramuscular antibiotics.
While lambing with the Doulton flock I was also exposed to many veterinary procedures; when the vets came out to treat cases of prolapsed uterus or difficult lambings Ellie had me out in the barn assisting the vet. In addition to lambing, Ellie also taught me many basic sheep husbandry routine treatments such as foot trimming, vaccinating and deworming.
Ellie is an amazing cook and takes very good care of her students. She even let me bring my pet rabbits with me to lambing; she set up a hutch for them in the barn across from the chicken coop. Ellie is so kind to all her sheep and has names for each and every one of them. She keeps all of her sheep until the day that they die even though it is at her expense. It was really heart warming to know that the lambs I helped raise (in some cases named) would be there anytime I wanted to go and visit in the future.
Albert Lynch- 1st year student at Edinburgh University
Working with Ellie on her farm was such a wonderful experience. From the moment I arrived on the farm I felt welcome and appreciated. Throughout my stay I was able to take on a wide range of duties and was treated as an important member of the team.
Ellie's Border Leicesters are such amazing animals, they each have their own unique personalities and were a joy to work with. It was a real pleasure to see such a high degree of welfare on a farm. Ellie cares so much for her animals and it shows. This was such an amazing experience and I hope to visit Ellie and her border Leicesters again soon.