Drama as mother takes a snooze on top of baby

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Infanticide on a grand scale has taken place today on the farm. A lamb and a nest full of potential guinea fowl keets. The first squashed, the others abandoned,trampled and then strewn out of the nest.

The drama started at just after seven this morning. One of the older ewes has produced a rather shaky pair of lambs a couple of days ago. Both lambs needed extra feeds as Mum did not appear to have a lot of milk.

A lot of wobbling and very little gambolling here please note. Mum was placed in a superior/ deluxe/ en suite pen in the foldyard.

The one usually reserved for triplets, but given as a precautionary step with this pair of fragile lambs, so they have been given extra space for manoeuvrability and comfort.

Several other lambs and ewes born on the same day are now out in the field, but this family group have been kept inside to make sure the lambs are getting sufficient milk. So at just after six John had given both of the lambs a supplementary feed. But at seven he spotted Mum was comfortably stretched out having a snooze on top of one of them.

I knew he was upset as fifty yards away, outside the farmhouse back door, I heard a stream of invective about the ewe featuring a rhyming couplet that was strangely associated with ducking and cupid.

John emerged from the shed with the limp lamb dangling from his hands. Tongue extruded from its head, the lamb had every appearance of being lifeless. In minutes we had a heat lamp strung up in the meal shed and the lamb curled up in an old Crystalyx bucket on a bed of straw.

For the next half hour I rubbed its chest, blew into its mouth until a semblance of regular breathing trembled through its tiny frame. I then transferred the lamb into an old Ikea box to give it more space to flex it’s limbs as the legs seemed incredibly long for the suddenly wizened body. Gradually the lamb’s tongue lost its vivid red colour and shrank back into it’s mouth.

We’re winning I thought. John came and gave the lamb a tube feed of milk for an energy boost. Twenty minutes later the lamb shuddered and died. You win some you lose some, but it is always hard when you lose.

My guinea fowl débâcle was revealed this afternoon. A friend had given me a sitting of eggs laid by guinea fowl hatched from eggs I gave her last year. A fortnight ago I had a surfeit of broody hens and nothing, bar our own eggs, to put under them. Friend Marian solved my problem with a box of potential keets.

The broody took to them like a dream. Until today. After sitting on them for a fortnight she has suddenly become disenchanted with the whole concept of motherhood and abandoned the nest. Indeed trashed the nest.

Never mind infanticide. Flockicide and clutchicide is what we have here. I think.