For many Icelandic country folk, the month of May brings their favorite time of year: lambing season. The birds are singing, the days are longer, the flora all around is thriving and farmers spend every waking minute and then some out in the sheep sheds helping birth hundreds of lambs.
This job hasn’t changed much through the years. Every gestating ewe needs to be checked multiple times a day – and also during the night – to see if it’s gone into labor. This takes a lot of walking around the sheds – some walk as much as 10k in a single night. Every man woman and child on the farm helps out during this time, manning shifts at all hours, and many farms call in for reinforcements from friends, relatives or migrant workers.
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Some of the sheep manage on their own while others need help but in either case they have to be separated from the rest of herd. Once the lambs are born the helpers make sure they are nursing and then they document the birth: how many lambs each ewe had and when, their sex, their coloring, if any lambs died in birth and if any lambs needed to be weaned to a different ewe.
A lamb that needs to be weaned to a different ewe is usually placed with an ewe that is known to only be carrying one lamb, just before the birth. The placed lamb is also bathed in warm water so that the new mother is more likely to want to lick it clean, forming a parental bond.
Between births during the long, bright night shifts, farmers have to come up with ways to pass the time. Earlier this month, a few farmers in the North-Western region dared each other to post good spirited nude photos of themselves in the fields and sheep sheds. While lambing season is still going strong here in the south Hotel Rangá’s neighbors have (to our knowledge) kept their clothes on. Even so, if you happen to pass by a farm it doesn’t hurt to knock first.