Last year, Lambing Live was a guilty pleasure. This year I’m being more open about the fact that I’m watching these hour-long live broadcasts from a farm in Cumbria where more than 1,200 new lambs are being born in a few short weeks.
I say watching but as anyone else who has also tried to tune in will know, the programme has been beset by technical problems as wet and windy weather have blighted transmission from the Marstons’ farm. Last night the programme was off air for almost as long as it was on air while a remarkably calm and presumably studio-based continuity announcer thanked us for remaining with BBC 2 while the problems were sorted. Transmission was restored and presenters Kate Humble and Adam Henson were back on air. Meanwhile farmer Andrew Marston said they’d just heard a dry stone wall “rush” down in the weather, giving the family yet another job to look at in the morning.
I like Lambing Live for lots of reasons. It’s a first-hand insight into the world of farming which doesn’t get much positive media attention but which is worth millions to the economy. This particular farm rears sheep for stock breeding, hoping to produce a prize ram, while the Welsh farm featured on last year’s Lambing Live series bred lambs for meat.
The prices for a prize ram or bull (the Marstons also farm cattle) are amazing. One ram or tup was bought for £26,000. A prize bull at their local cattle market has been known to sell for £101,000. No wonder they were sanguine when a tup sold for a mere £6,000 earlier this year. “It could have gone for less but it could have gone for a lot more,” said Donald, Marston senior. I’d like to know what it cost to feed and keep the animal before it sold and therefore what the profit was on the £6k but I’m not surprised if the Marstons don’t want to share that information.
Although dairy cows have a different breeding cycle and don’t all calf at once as sheep apparently do, I would like to see a primetime programme about dairy farming. Living in Somerset, the home of Yeo Valley yoghurt among other dairy products, I’d like to know what sort of a deal dairy farmers get out of their dairy livestock and whether there’s a future for cows bred on fresh air and natural pasture. Our local news recently featured a farm where the cows are inside all year round, sitting in pens like outsize battery hens. That cannot be good, can it?