This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
When I suggested to BBC Points West that they might like to come and see our early lambing flock of relatively rare Badger Face Texel sheep, I wasn’t quite prepared for the enthusiasm we evoked. Local reporter Steve Knibbs, with photographer Mark, arrived at our farm at eleven in the morning as arranged. While Mark set up his camera and tripod by the lambing pens, Steve chatted to us about the breed and our involvement with it.
The Badger Face Texel, or Dassenkop, is a medium sized, well-muscled carcass breed, just like any other member of the Texel family. The novelty value is the lovely dark wool colouring with cream accessories, such as eyebrows, chin marking and legs. They are closely related to Blue Texels, of which we already have a sizeable flock. I had to admit that during lockdown in 2020 I got a little carried away bidding at an online sale that replaced face to face markets at the time. Buying online, never having seen the animals is always a risk, but we were purchasing from a fellow breeder in Northern Ireland whose stock we know well.
A two year old ewe, Apricot, was advertised with her twin lambs, Chillie, a male and Cherry a female, and we purchased her plus four doses of semen to a very good ram of the same breed. Later that year we also bought a further ewe lamb, Crocus, who looked really lovely. Realising I could get rather carried away with online sales, Aub had put a strict lid on the price we could pay for her, but when he came in for coffee and I told him she gone past that figure, he said “well, don’t miss her for fifty quid!” Three hundred pounds later she was ours, but we’ve not regretted it. Apricot’s son Chillie sold to a pedigree flock in Scotland last autumn, and her last year’s ram lamb, Dudley, is now a stock ram with another local breeder.
We don’t usually lamb this early, but last year put twenty four Badgerface and Blue Texel ewes to the rams, and fifteen held, so very pleased. January is not their usual time to lamb! We had Apricot, Cherry and Crocus all due to the Irish ram.
Trying to persuade the ewes to lamb at a set time, especially if cameras are involved, is never easy and both Cherry and Crocus had already lambed before Steve and Mark arrived. Aware this could happen I’d been instructed to video the births if possible and this footage was transferred from my phone so they could use it. Mark filmed the two ewes in their pens with their lambs, Cherry with two and Crocus with three, and some footage of me holding one of the triplets while Steve interviewed us.
It was then decided they would like to return at six o’clock that evening to hopefully catch some ‘lambing live’ for the evening programme. During the afternoon Apricot was looking most uncomfortable, although not actually indicating that she was starting to lamb, until about 5 pm when she pushed out a waterbag. I rang Steve to suggest they hurried up, and he said they were just leaving the office and would hopefully be with us in forty-five minutes. When they arrived Aub already had Apricot on her side and was kneeling down investigating whether she had a problem. Once he managed to put his hand inside, he realised she had both lambs coming together, never good. I plied camera man and reporter with coffee then retook my position at Apricot’s head, soothing and persuading her that now was not a good time to get up. After five or so minutes, although it seemed much longer, Aub looked up at Mark and said he hoped he wasn’t still filming live!
Eventually, after an incredibly difficult manoeuvre, Aub managed to bring one lamb forward and both were delivered successfully. Two healthy ram lambs, named Ian and David by Steve, after the Points West presenter and weather man!
While filming had not actually continued to be shown live the whole time, Richard, the programme editor in Bristol had watched all of it. He rang me the following day, very impressed with Aubrey’s skill, saying he felt he needed a nurse alongside wiping his brow. He also said there had been so much interest in the piece they did show that he’d had numerous calls from both their internal office and the general public, wishing to know how Apricot and her lambs were. He requested I took a thirty second video clip of the family, which I did, and this was shown the following evening.
We now have BBC Points West visiting for a further ‘Lambing Live’ on Monday February 13th, when our main flock of Texels and Blue Texels will be giving birth.
You can read more from sheep farmer Sue Andrews and find details of her books here
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ADAM HUGHES