Thursday, May 24, 2007

Alas poor Noddy

Those of you who notice such things will have seen that last week's Sheep of the Week was a small lamb by the name of Noddy.

Noddy with tiny Welsh Mountain friend

Noddy, for the technically minded, was out of a Mule ewe, crossed with a Charollais ram. He was part of one of the cross-breeding projects here at the farm, where we're trying to find the best ways of improving the lamb crop from the otherwise rather small Welsh Mountain and other native breeds. Noddy's mother, sadly, died in childbirth - or maybe just a little bit after with shock at what she had produced* - and so Noddy became an orphan lamb.

Normally the orphan lambs get farmed out to ewes whose lambs have died - there's a lovely process whereby the dead lamb is skinned and it's coat pulled over the living lamb so that the ewe will think it her own and adopt it. But there are always a few left unwanted, and these have to be bottle fed. Sometimes the local smallholders take on orphan lambs, but as Noddy was part of an experiment, he had to be kept and raised here, along with a half dozen or so other waifs and strays.

Now we don't usually name the lambs. Come the end of April there's upwards of two and a half thousand of the little bleaters wandering around playing 'lamb-races' and 'let's go an beat up someone's mum,' so naming each and every one would be a chore. Even the orphans tend to remain anonymous - these are farm animals, after all, not pets.

But there was something about Noddy that the Horse Doctor just couldn't resist, that forced her to give in and name him so. And that something was his ears.

Don't go outside in a high wind.

They're huge, aren't they. Was he born with them, or did he borrow them from someone much larger than him?

Noddy was also the largest of the orphan lambs, and the boldest too. He would happily go up to anyone and nuzzle their fingers for milk. Sheepdogs held no fear for him. He was inquisitive to a fault. So inquisitive, in fact, that when he discovered a bucket full of water, he managed to drown himself in it.

I like to think that, intelligent for his kind, he realised the futility of his life - a few short months of gambolling on the green, wet hills of Wales before being shipped to an abattoir and killed. Knowing the unfairness of it all, he decided to take his own life and so thwart his shepherd oppressors.

Or it could just have been that the weight of those ears dragged him down.

* not as much of a shock as the poor ewes who were the recipients of embryo transfer. You can just imagine the look of disbelief on their faces as they gave birth to funny-looking lambs. Turning to each other and saying 'good god, flossie. I never shagged anything like that!'

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Well gee... That's terribly depressing. Dead mothers, skinned lambs and drowning in a bucket of water...

May 24, 2007 4:37 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

I don't know... sounds like a crime novel to me;}#

May 24, 2007 5:42 pm  

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