The Student Room Group

Bad lambing work experience

I finished two weeks of a lambing placement yesterday which was awful in the last few days.... I need some moral support.

I was to start two weeks ago for a total of 6 weeks with a farmer who has 700 breeding ewes lambing outside, and a herd of 500 Aberdeen Angus. So, I was to do 3 weeks lambing and 3 weeks beef. I finished after two weeks because I couldnt take the abuse.

When I started all was well and I was told that I was part of the family blah blah blah and to make myself at home. I was encouraged to ask questions and if there was anything I didn't know just to ask. The farmer works on the farm with his brother and no other workers and at the time his 17 year old son was home on holiday to help out.

The lambing started before I got there so I got stuck in from day one and he knew that I had no previous experience and said on the phone the first time I spoke to him that it was fine as long a I was willing to learn.

Things started to go sour when he got frustrated that I couldn't tip bales on my own.... they were big round bales and half of them were soaked with water and had gone bad on one side due to bad rain before christmas. Is it fair for him to be annoyed that I couldn't tip them over on my own? I don't consider myself to be weak but I have my limits.

I wasn't as strong as him and couldn't put 50kg bags of feed over my shoulder. I wasn't as fast and he never explained what he was doing and why he was doing it. He had two working dogs who he beat a lot when they disobeyed him. When moving cattle he used plastic or sometimes a metal pipe to whack them in the face. He left a few calves for 9 days before castrating them and tagging their ears.

As part of our lambing work experience we're asked to collect lambing data (number of singles, twins, triplets etc and how many dead and alive etc). He refused to let me do this, mainly because he was frustrated that in the first 3 days that I was there nothing was born alive. I asked him if he scanned his ewes and he gave me a look that could have killed.

One batch of ewes had green, black, red or orange marks on them... I asked what they meant and he wouldn't tell me.

I was left on my own over the last 3 days and he told me to give him a phone if I needed a hand with lambing. He checked that I had his mobile number so that I could call him as and when I needed him. Whenever I called he either had no signal, didn't answer or answered and was frustrated with me or hung up.

Yesterday was the icing on the cake. A ewe was pushing out one foreleg at the bottom of the field, I caught her (with a crook he didn't show me how to use, I had to copy what he did and persevere). The lambs head was twisted back and one foreleg was between its hindlegs. I got it out ok and checked her and there was another. This ones head was back. I fixed that and it got out ok. I checked again and there was one more. Its head was twisted back and both forelegs were tucked under its body and the ewe was pushing it out. I got the forelegs ok and tied with with my lambing rope but couldn't sort out the head. I admitted defeat and tried to phone him.... 4 times and no answer. I paniced and knew that I needed help. I tied the ewes legs together, ran up the field to the cottage and had the farmers wife phone him. He took his time and couldn't see what the problem was. I wanted to say 'there's two legs and no ******* head!!'. He then said mockingly and with a smirk 'I thought you could lamb'. I held my temper and reminded him that he knew full well that I had no experience and didn't appreciate being mocked.

I left early as I just couldn't take it. I phoned the RVC a few days ago and was told to try and stick it out to make my two weeks and then leave. I was told to be professional and come up with something like a family emergency but it was unfortunately beyond being able to do that.

Apparently, according to the farmer, a 12 year old can lamb on their own and I should have been able to castrate, worm, vaccinate, lamb, calve etc all on my own with no problem. I explained that I was there to learn which he would have none of.


Has anyone else had an awful experience? I'm now terrified that he won't fill out the new form that the RVC will send for my two weeks work. I'm so frustrated.

I have done my pigs, dairy and equine placement, I am a graduate student with a degree in Equine Science and have absolutely no previous sheep and lambing experience. All of my other placements were great. Is it me? Am I just awful? Please help.
This is not my area of expertise at all, but as a general observation, the farmer you've described doesn't sound like the kind of person who should be getting the opportunity to take people like you on and help them to learn. It sounds like he doesn't have any appreciation of backgrounds different to his own, and doesn't have an understanding of how people learn best - his behaviour with his dogs suggests that in getting someone to do the right thing, he just mistreats them when they don't do it.

I don't think it's a situation that you can be blamed for. It's better that you admit your physical limits than push yourself and make a mess of things, and asking for help is a responsible thing to do when you've got a problem that you're struggling to resolve alone. It's very unfair to invite you to ask questions and then ignore them or act disapprovingly. A farmer supervising you needn't be all warm and cuddly, but the way he's been behaving seems to have been working against the aim of you being there. Preventing you from collecting the lambing data is a concrete example of this.

I'm pretty certain you're not 'awful', as you put it. I hope he does fill out the form that you mentioned. I don't think you can be blamed for the experience being a bad one - you've done well with other placements, the only new things in this situation is the farmer and the lambs, and I seriously doubt that you've got an anomalous incapability with sheep.
i have quite a few friends that live in the country and lamb.
they've usually done it / helped out from the age of about 10.
and the farmers are usually horrendously busy so don't really have alot of time to help out, and probably expected you to be more competent then you were due to your age.

to be honest though you probably did very well. the farmer sounds like a dick. i'd put in an complaint about him, people really shouldn't be placed with people like that for experience
Reply 3
Thank you so much, I'm still annoyed though and I feel pretty useless.
My lambing experience was relatively nice. The only grief I was given was from the farmer's daughter, who had similar opinions to your farmer, whereas her father was really nice, patient and understanding. I feel really sorry for you. I know lambing is the type of environment where you can feel very emotional because you're often left on your own and when a lamb dies, or is abandoned by its mother, it's very easy to convince yourself that it was your fault.

As dilgerido said, the farmer probably expected you to be able to do things easily because almost every kid in a farming background has probably grown up helping with lambing...Some people just aren't good at seeing things from other people's perspective. My dad is the same; if I ask him for help with something, he'll get angry and irritated that I don't know how to do it, because he thinks that because it's obvious to HIM, it should be obvious to me. (Other than that he's really nice though...)

I made some stupid mistakes during my 2 weeks of lambing: I flooded the lamb pens twice (the place where you keep them after they're born but just before going out to the fields). I was left alone for just 2 hours and I managed to get myself in a situation where I had to decide between adopting a rejected lamb to a ewe who had just lost her two lambs, or just leaving them alone. I did a rub on by myself and at that exact moment the farmer's daughter arrived and started shouting at me for taking an initiative. That was 3 years ago and I still feel heart-wenchingly guilty about it, so I understand how you feel.

Lambing can be incredibly rewarding though. I would definitely do it again. Just try and go to a farm where someone else has gone before and found it good. :frown:
Reply 5
EquusSomnium
Thank you so much, I'm still annoyed though and I feel pretty useless.

i had a terrible experience with lambing last week that sounds pretty similar to yours.
I'd done a little bit with sheep before but never done any lambing and i made this very clear but on my second day, the day wen ALL of the sheep were due, the shepherd didnt get there until 1.30 in the afternoon, i'd been there on my own since 8 in the morning trying to keep things under control and i felt id done an ok job, only one lamb out of the 15 or so that were born died! but the second he arrived he started yelling at me for not penning sheep up or asking why that sheep was over there and what was wrong with that one and basically told me i was rubbish
i stuck it out for a week but in the end i made an excuse to leave because he made me feel like the most useless incompetant person in the world, aside from the fact that i successfully delivered triplets on my own even though the first came out backwards! he just kept yelling at me for not castrating and docking them before he got in at lunchtime even though id never been shown what to do!
theres a difference being thrown in at the deep end and being left on your own with nobody else on the farm at all with no phone signal and no experience and 500 pregnant sheep!

just try and look at what you did learn as valuable experience and hope you get a nicer placement next time! i guess you could say to the farmer that you need to be shown what do and try to stick it out again :s-smilie:

and im sure you werent useless, there are some things you cant control and you clearly tried ur best but the farmer just didnt appreciate it!
Reply 6
Sorry, this is a quick answer but I'm a little short of time today.
1. Leaving was the best thing, no point staying there.
2. I'm sure RVC have had situations like this before and they will probably have ways and means of sorting this out if your form isn't signed.
3. Don't feel inadequate ...... you're not!
4. Is there a placement database where you can leave feedback to warn other students? The RVC may not authorise any student to go there again anyway.
5. Have you logged everything in writing for RVC?
6. Some people can try to undermime vet students there are lots of reasons why. It happened to me too on an equine placement. I was given all the cleaning jobs and had more horse contact at home with my horse than on a day's placement.....despite them knowing I was a BHSAI.

Chin up, and don't let it get to you :smile:
Reply 7
The RVC know everything and have been fantastic. I'm just gutted that it went so badly.

Starfall, it sounded like you had a lot to cope with and you should be proud of yourself. Apparently a lot of people are having bad lambing placements... maybe it's because of the bad winter we had.. I don't know.

I hope everyone else on placements had good experiences with lots of support.
Reply 8
EquusSomnium, try not to let it get you down. It's no reflection of you as a person or your ability. It's just an unfortunate placement to have picked, that's all. The course of action you took was probably the best anyone could've come up with given the circumstances.

I can totally imagine your frustration and worry as to whether or not he's going to sign off your form. Have you enquired as to whether the RVC have any procedure in place if this sort of thing occurs? You may find that they will accept your circumstances as being mitigating or something and simply allow you the benefit of the doubt under production of other evidence. e.g. train tickets that confirm you made the journey there etc.

I hope things get sorted for you; keep us updated. Chin up :smile:
I'm sorry you've had such a bad experience as lambing really is the best placement if you get a good one. You probably did the right thing leaving and it was pretty harsh of him not to give you any help. Having said that, this is what working as a vet is like, there will be farmers who are complete and utter dickheads and others you could chat to for hours. You sort of have to learn to deal with the formers. My lambing placement in first year was pretty bad, the farmer was a stress pot, I had almost no idea what I was doing, I was pretty unfit! And yep I couldn't roll over a big round bale! But I stuck it out, every time he told me off I would swallow any comments (I was often told off for things I didn't do or had no idea about anyway!) and just try to learn from it.

Towards the end of the three weeks I got shouted at less and I actually went back every year through vet school. They are now my second family and I love them to bits!!! I actually have discovered that the farmer genuinely thought vet students would know so much and would know exactly what to do at lambing time. So perhaps your farmer expected a lot more (unfairly so esp. as you had told him).

Farmers are a funny breed. But there are so many lovely ones out there, don't take this to heart. Make sure next year you go to a farm which some one else recommends to you.
SlipperyWhenWet
I'm sorry you've had such a bad experience as lambing really is the best placement if you get a good one. You probably did the right thing leaving and it was pretty harsh of him not to give you any help. Having said that, this is what working as a vet is like, there will be farmers who are complete and utter dickheads and others you could chat to for hours. You sort of have to learn to deal with the formers. My lambing placement in first year was pretty bad, the farmer was a stress pot, I had almost no idea what I was doing, I was pretty unfit! And yep I couldn't roll over a big round bale! But I stuck it out, every time he told me off I would swallow any comments (I was often told off for things I didn't do or had no idea about anyway!) and just try to learn from it.

Towards the end of the three weeks I got shouted at less and I actually went back every year through vet school. They are now my second family and I love them to bits!!! I actually have discovered that the farmer genuinely thought vet students would know so much and would know exactly what to do at lambing time. So perhaps your farmer expected a lot more (unfairly so esp. as you had told him).

Farmers are a funny breed. But there are so many lovely ones out there, don't take this to heart. Make sure next year you go to a farm which some one else recommends to you.

You can recommend the Morgans to anybody!!! I loved it there, and going back to help them over shearing hopefully :biggrin: I did pop in to your surgery once for a c-section that Trever performed, he also offerd me a job there in 5 yrs time! hehe so yeah thank you sooo much for gettign me the placement :biggrin:
Coming lambing with me on different farms, most farmers I work with are pretty decent.
I didn't have the same sort of experience but on one of my placements I was treated horrendously and unfortunately I had to lose the week of ems :frown: but we were told if we had a terrible experience, to make sure uni knew about it (we have a database for some placements) and make sure there's a paper trail after you've left the placement. I can only assume this farmer was stressed (as they all are during lambing time) and presumed you would be quicker to learn stuff because of your age but it's not acceptable at all to be treated that way.


Posted from TSR Mobile
Original post by EquusSomnium
I finished two weeks of a lambing placement yesterday which was awful in the last few days.... I need some moral support.

I was to start two weeks ago for a total of 6 weeks with a farmer who has 700 breeding ewes lambing outside, and a herd of 500 Aberdeen Angus. So, I was to do 3 weeks lambing and 3 weeks beef. I finished after two weeks because I couldnt take the abuse.

When I started all was well and I was told that I was part of the family blah blah blah and to make myself at home. I was encouraged to ask questions and if there was anything I didn't know just to ask. The farmer works on the farm with his brother and no other workers and at the time his 17 year old son was home on holiday to help out.

The lambing started before I got there so I got stuck in from day one and he knew that I had no previous experience and said on the phone the first time I spoke to him that it was fine as long a I was willing to learn.

Things started to go sour when he got frustrated that I couldn't tip bales on my own.... they were big round bales and half of them were soaked with water and had gone bad on one side due to bad rain before christmas. Is it fair for him to be annoyed that I couldn't tip them over on my own? I don't consider myself to be weak but I have my limits.

I wasn't as strong as him and couldn't put 50kg bags of feed over my shoulder. I wasn't as fast and he never explained what he was doing and why he was doing it. He had two working dogs who he beat a lot when they disobeyed him. When moving cattle he used plastic or sometimes a metal pipe to whack them in the face. He left a few calves for 9 days before castrating them and tagging their ears.

As part of our lambing work experience we're asked to collect lambing data (number of singles, twins, triplets etc and how many dead and alive etc). He refused to let me do this, mainly because he was frustrated that in the first 3 days that I was there nothing was born alive. I asked him if he scanned his ewes and he gave me a look that could have killed.

One batch of ewes had green, black, red or orange marks on them... I asked what they meant and he wouldn't tell me.

I was left on my own over the last 3 days and he told me to give him a phone if I needed a hand with lambing. He checked that I had his mobile number so that I could call him as and when I needed him. Whenever I called he either had no signal, didn't answer or answered and was frustrated with me or hung up.

Yesterday was the icing on the cake. A ewe was pushing out one foreleg at the bottom of the field, I caught her (with a crook he didn't show me how to use, I had to copy what he did and persevere). The lambs head was twisted back and one foreleg was between its hindlegs. I got it out ok and checked her and there was another. This ones head was back. I fixed that and it got out ok. I checked again and there was one more. Its head was twisted back and both forelegs were tucked under its body and the ewe was pushing it out. I got the forelegs ok and tied with with my lambing rope but couldn't sort out the head. I admitted defeat and tried to phone him.... 4 times and no answer. I paniced and knew that I needed help. I tied the ewes legs together, ran up the field to the cottage and had the farmers wife phone him. He took his time and couldn't see what the problem was. I wanted to say 'there's two legs and no ******* head!!'. He then said mockingly and with a smirk 'I thought you could lamb'. I held my temper and reminded him that he knew full well that I had no experience and didn't appreciate being mocked.

I left early as I just couldn't take it. I phoned the RVC a few days ago and was told to try and stick it out to make my two weeks and then leave. I was told to be professional and come up with something like a family emergency but it was unfortunately beyond being able to do that.

Apparently, according to the farmer, a 12 year old can lamb on their own and I should have been able to castrate, worm, vaccinate, lamb, calve etc all on my own with no problem. I explained that I was there to learn which he would have none of.


Has anyone else had an awful experience? I'm now terrified that he won't fill out the new form that the RVC will send for my two weeks work. I'm so frustrated.

I have done my pigs, dairy and equine placement, I am a graduate student with a degree in Equine Science and have absolutely no previous sheep and lambing experience. All of my other placements were great. Is it me? Am I just awful? Please help.

That sounds disgraceful, this is the sort of thing that gets farmers a bad name.I am of the opinion that we all have a duty to pass on knowledge to the next generation no matter the industry or there is no future.
I can only apologise on behalf of farmers and hope this doesn’t taint your opinion of all of us

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