Denis Lehane: Stay away from rams and lambs

Here’s a bit of advice for any fellow interested in getting into sheep.
Denis Lehane: Stay away from rams and lambs

Don’t go next nor near them. The sheep farming game isn’t half as glamorous as you might think. Sheep will break your heart, and I know it well.

The biggest mistake I ever made was to invest in sheep. Last autumn, I parted with a handsome sum to purchase 20 breeding ewes and a fertile ram.

The breeding ewes were fine altogether. ’Twas the fertile ram that kept me awake at night. ‘Pat Mustard’, as we christened him, was slow from the off, and then ran out of steam after covering just 12 ewes. He was only getting into his stride when he pulled the brakes. He is now retired, and living the life of Reilly on the farm.

And as a result, with lambing season winding down, I have precious few lambs on the ground.

To add insult to injury, with just one ewe left to lamb, didn’t she decide to have her moment last Saturday morning. The very morning my daughter Denise was to have her First Holy Communion.

With just an hour to go before the ceremony began, I spotted my ewe, and she lining up to lamb.

So naturally, I marched straight for home, and declared to all that the communion would have to be cancelled. “There’s a sheep lambing, call the priest,” says I to my missus. But she was having none of it. “We’re leaving in 45 minutes for the communion, and you better be in the car,” she sweetly purred into my ear.

So with precious little time, I had to get to work fast. I got the lamb out, and with great speed, I milked the ewe and put it back the lamb. The way you or I might down a pint at closing time. And with the ewe and her lamb in a cosy corner, I fled the scene, and returned to the house to prepare for Denise’s big day. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give the lamb any more attention, there wasn’t the time.

Anyhow, I washed myself and tossing on my suit, off to the church we went.

The communion ceremony was lovely of course, with the children saying prayers for many great causes. And I said a quiet little prayer too for my lamb. Sure I felt there would be little harm in it.

With the ceremony over, we were herded to the school for tea, coffee and all sorts of refreshments. Alas, as I stood there supping my tea, all I could think about was my lambeen, back home. Would he be alright? Did I give him enough drink in the morning? Was he parched entirely? There was no way of knowing.

Next we headed to the photographers, to get some family photos taken. And though I tried, I found it near impossible to muster a smile, and I thinking about my poor lamb. Yerra, sheep farming can be full of danger.

And so, the day went on. We dined in a swanky restaurant where I ordered beef, but had lamb on the brain. With the evening closing in, we called to my aunt, who lives in a convent in the city suburbs, and it was here the party really started.

Sister Oliver and all the other nuns gave us a great welcome, and Denise told them all about her big day. And with the height of talk, I forgot completely about my lamb.

Our day had been wonderful, and it was a delight entirely to discover when we finally touched down, that my lamb back at home was just as happy as ourselves.

More in this section


Keep up-to-date with all the latest developments in Farming with our weekly newsletter

Sign up

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up
News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up