Laura Bell's top tips for rearing a lamb for calf club

Laura Bell and lamb Chloe start the real training two weeks before the agricultural day events.
CAITLIN WALLACE/STUFF

Laura Bell and lamb Chloe start the real training two weeks before the agricultural day events.

Looking after a lamb is hard work. 

But it's been part of Laura Bell's life since she was three years old when she was introduced to it through a fun event at the local playgroup.

Living in the northern Waikato area of Ruawaro, the 11-year-old is approaching her second to last season of agricultural days with lamb Chloe. 

Laura Bell says all lambs come with different personalities and describes Chloe as friendly, relaxed and playful.
Caitlin Wallace/Stuff

Laura Bell says all lambs come with different personalities and describes Chloe as friendly, relaxed and playful.

For many rural children, calf clubs and agricultural days are a normal part of their lives. 

It's where they all come together with their lambs, calves, goats and sometimes chickens to compete.

But to some urban folk, the countless hours that goes into raising a calf or lamb is unfamiliar territory. 

CAITLIN WALLACE/STUFF

Laura Bell,11, explains a bit about what is involved preparing for agricultural day competitions.

Laura is the youngest of three children in the Bell family to have taken shown farm animals. 

Initially she would receive the pets from her grandfather's farm.

Now with more than a dozen retired pets living on her own parents' land, she didn't have to go far to find this year's entry. 

At just a few days old, Suffolk bred lamb Chloe was taken under the wing of Laura.

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"We just wait until there is a something with a triplet or a twin," Laura's mum Katie said.

And it's important to  wait until the lamb gets enough colostrum which helps give them good immunity against illness and disease.

When raising a lamb, it starts with establishing a good relationship, Laura said. 

"We have them inside (the house) for a few days, just to get use to us."

Initially lambs are fed six bottles of milk a day and from six weeks old it is cut down to four.

They also feed on meal and grass.

Laura said the feeding process was an important part of forming a bond.

While she's at school, Katie will do one of the feeds and another at night.

But it's up to Te Kauwhata College student to ensure Chloe is fed at 7am and after school.

Over the years, there have been some learning curves during this process.

"We yoghurtaise the milk to hopefully prevent them from bloating."

The danger of bloating is it could lead to pressure on the organs and ultimately cause death.

"It's sort of one of those things that prevention is better than the cure."

Part of raising a lamb also means sometimes sacrificing long trips away during the season which occurs during school holidays as they need constant care.

But the passion for the hobby outweighs the workload and expense. 

"It really teaches them responsibility, and teaching them to care right through, the kids, they do it because they love it," Katie said.

Laura will usually spend about an hour and a half a day with her lamb.  

"Just taking her for lots of walks and then playing, keeping it fun for her."

It also involves keeping the lamb kept clean, brushing her wool and keeping Chloe's outdoor house clean.  

But it's only about two weeks before the events that the training will really start.

If they are in that mode for too long, they tend to get bored come show time, she said. 

While each lamb has its own personality, Laura keeps her training methods consistent.

Part of the competition is also made up of knowledge on raising a lamb.

But because she's been doing it for so long, the answers usually come easy.

The most challenging section is calling and following.

This part of the event relies on good contact but because they are off their lead, if the lamb gets a fright, it could cause them to run off, she said.

It's happened once, and her advice is to remain calm and call them back.

With the first of four events set to take place mid October, these school holidays will see Laura knuckling down and spending as much time with Chloe as she can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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