Young Laura takes the lead in lamb rearing
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-yearold is approaching her second to last season of agricultural days with lamb Chloe.
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.
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.
‘‘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.
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.
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 taking her for walks and playing to keep it fun.
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 to ensure the lambs don’t get bored.
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 next week, Laura will knuckle down and spend as much time with Chloe as she can.
Laura Bell says all lambs come with different personalities and describes Chloe as friendly, relaxed and playful.