Young Laura takes the lead in lamb rear­ing

North Waikato News - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - CAITLIN WAL­LACE

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.

CAITLIN WAL­LACE/STUFF

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

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