By Anita Kelsey

We did a thing and I am very proud of it.

My posts are always about cats so forgive me if I go off piste and chat a moment about LAMBS!

I’m writing this piece as some people have been asking me how our lamb rescue came about.

Well….

…..it all started with an idea.

I had actually toyed with the idea before of buying some lambs to save from slaughter but years back I could not find a place where they could be taken. The vegan animal rescue farm, FRIEND Farm Animal Sanctuary, were, at that time, dealing with a personal tragedy and so my idea got stored into my minds hive and did not surface again until now.

lambs at Pett Level – Pett Level Preservation Society

One day I was walking with my husband in one of my favourite places, Pett Level, and the views were magnificent. Walking along the beaches edge you can look out over miles of green lush fields where hundreds of sheep, and further afield, cows, grazed happily on the grass. On this particular day, the fields had come alive with lambs, all jumping, playing and causing mischief as all very young baby animals do! The sight was lovely and stopped us in our tracks as we watched with huge smiles across our hearts.

 

Many weeks had passed before I went to Pett Level again, this time alone. I rushed to get to the part of the beaches path where the sheep and their lambs would come into view and what greeted me was barren and silent. No lambs. My heart sank. I knew the reality of what I was seeing.

It hurt.

It wasn’t until I had met up with a friend, Cathy, who is equally crazy about animals, when my idea, stored away many years ago, came tumbling out of my mind’s hive again. We had just visited a lovely petting farm called Rare Breed Centre. It was funny because we were the only adults there not with children! The animals there are treated like kings and have a really good life for the rest of their days. They are not stressed and they seem to relish being stroked and cared for and it felt like all parties, humans and animals, were benefitting.

Driving home from our visit I told Cathy the story of my visit to Pett Level then followed this with “Let’s rescue some lambs”. I was expecting silence or a brush off but instead the simple words ‘OK!”

At that precise moment Cathy’s husband, Terry called, and in the excitement of the moment we both blurted out our plan to rescue some lambs. Then the phone cut out due to bad reception. Terry tried to ring us 4 times, probably in a state of sheer panic, as, knowing us, he thought we had the lambs in the car with us already!

And, so it was… the idea came alive and this time I was determined to see it through. With Cathy on my side there was no way this wasn’t going to happen.

The first thing we needed was a place to take the lambs too. Once we had a place the next step was to find a sheep farmer, who would sell us some lambs. At this stage we had no idea of the cost of lambs but we thought 2 lambs would be doable.

Info: Most lambs/sheep are slaughtered at 10 weeks to 6 months, though some may be 14 months old.

This is where the power of Facebook came into its own.

Cathy had befriended a lady on FB called Jo Riordan, who was a volunteer worker at a beautiful vegan animal sanctuary called The Retreat Animal Rescue. Once they were friends Cathy was able to see Jo’s regular posts of the animals at the retreat. It seemed like they had all sorts of animals living there with sheep and lambs being amongst them. Once I was told about the retreat it was my job to contact them to ask about a placement. I started to investigate the place, read up about their work and about its founder, Billy Thompson, and even went to company house to see if the place was registered and whether the charity had good standing.

Once I had all the information I knew this was the place I wanted our lambs to spend the rest of their days.

I emailed Billy directly and we waited for a reply. A few days later we received the best news. Billy simply said ‘bring your babies here’. We were so excited. My job was over and it was Cathy’s turn now to find a farmer! Easier said than done.

Cathy works part time for The Sara Lee Trust and it was around this time that Cathy had put a call out for volunteers for a Beatles day event which was to be held at The White Rock Theatre in Hastings. One of the volunteers, whom Cathy is connected to on Facebook, had posted a video of herself with some lambs. This prompted Cathy to message her to ask whose lambs they were. The reply:  her son in law, a sheep farmer.

I guess the stars were aligning for our venture.

Cathy sent a text message to the farmer. We were told initially that there was a ‘killing’ market for sheep on a Tuesday at Ashford where all the sheep in the market go to slaughter but finding  2 will be hard as they are sold in batches of 25 or 50. However his sheep were not going to market until August,  through to October, having been born end of March.

He was also, and rightly so, very guarded and asked many questions about the lambs destination and their ongoing care. He had two very young orphans available that were currently being milk bottle fed. Who was going to take over that care?  Who was going to pay for that care? There was also the financial factor. Lambs cost money! It is his livelihood after all. We were impressed by the concern he showed and this gave us encouragement that he was taking our request seriously. This could be our man!!

We gave the farmer as much information on the retreat as we could and also reassured him that the lambs would be milk bottle fed 3 times a day.

Info: The lambs feeding schedule was 7am, 12 noon and 5pm. 500ml of milk per lamb

Whilst chatting to the farmer and trying to arrange a time to visit our 2 lambs, we were told that 2 orphans had turned into 3! I felt slightly panicked. There’s no way either of us could have left one behind but what if the retreat had no space for them. I quickly emailed Billy to tell him our predicament and within the same day he had replied.

We were rescuing all three!

Cathy and myself couldn’t have been happier. We were so excited. It was happening!!

Our visiting day, to meet our lambs, had been scheduled for a week later, on Sunday 21st April. It was meant to be the first meeting of our lambs before we arranged transportation. However, the farmer asked for us to take them on the 21st, which meant getting the final assurance and green light from Billy. Neither myself nor Cathy had met Billy face to face and I felt quite nervous of agreeing to taking the lambs on the 21st without ever meeting the man who said yes so easily. After speaking to Cathy about my anxiety we both decided we needed to look Billy in the eyes to truly trust what was about to happen plus see for ourselves the conditions of the retreat and the animals there.

Me, Billy and Cathy at the retreat

Billy was more than happy to meet us, and having agreed that Sunday 21st was fine for our ‘delivery day’ we set out to meet him on the Friday before.

It was pouring with rain as we turned up early waiting for the gates to open for visitors, not realising we could have easily just walked in. In fact, we were so excited we stood by the gate in the rain until a member of the team approached us, wondering why we were just standing there soaked through.

Billy joined us in their wonderful cafe and put our minds at rest. He has amazing mediterranean soft sea blue eyes that showed kindness and compassion and he spoke with such love for animals that all of our anxieties faded away. Our lambs were going to have such an amazing life at this place especially with the love and care all of the volunteers were showing.

 

Everything was ready.

On transportation day myself and my husband Gordon, were picked up in Cathy’s husbands work van. I had bought along some blankets that had been donated to me a month ago by The Sara Lee trust, for an impromptu doggie party I had arranged on the beach at St Leonards in Hastings. I also bought along a huge dog crate that I had purchased for my cats rehabilitation, when my cat had her arm amputated due to cancer. Cathy and I sat in the back of the van and giggled like school children all the way to the farm, being thrown about like ragdolls from all the potholes and eroded country lanes.

Meeting the farmer

Steve, the farmer, was a lovely man. Not only did he show real concern for where the lambs were being taken but he had decided, in the week, not to charge us anything.

This made both myself and Cathy cry.

His words ” You are doing a lovely thing so I’m gonna donate them to you’. Before we had heard this we were expecting to pay roughly £110 per lamb.

Steve had two lovely sheep dogs that wanted to be part of the day and they went into the pen in the field where our three lambs were, trying to herd them together and to keep them still as we tried to pick them up, one by one. The third one was having none of it and Steve had to chase him around the field with the help of his dogs that seemed quite nonplussed with work on this day.

 

 

info: ongoing care of the lambs included worming, foot trimming, fly treatment, and shearing.

 

We decided to name our lambs Kelsey, Lincoln and Steve.

I needn’t have worried about my dog crate being too small as Kelsey, Lincoln and Steve fit nicely into it with loads of room left over. They were very comfortable, not like Cathy and myself who were crammed into the only available space next to and in front of the crate.

The lambs eventually lay down huddled together, one even going to sleep, which was so lovely to watch. Occasionally, with our fingers poked through the dog crate, one of them would occasionally suckle our fingers.

Gordon giving a helping hand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

getting ready for the journey

 

the lambs settling down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we arrived Gordon, my husband, had to walk in front of the van up the dirt track to the main reception area of the retreat, like a pallbearer at a funeral. This was to ensure the van did not run over any of the hundreds of freely roaming chickens, geese and pigeons. Funnily enough, one of the magnificent huge cocks there, with lots of little hen wives, was actually called Gordon!

Gordon the cockeral – photo from The Retreat Animal Rescue Farm Sanctuary and Cafe FB page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plan initially was for Kelsey, Lincoln and Steve to be placed with 7 other lambs, all being bottle fed, until they were old enough to be placed into the fields. However, upon our arrival and being checked over, we were told our lambs had Orf and had to wait to be placed with the others whilst being treated.

Info: Orf causes scabs around the animal’s nose and mouth, which may spread to their legs and teats. It’s not usually serious but is passed easily between animals.

Lots of volunteers, as well as Billy, greeted us all with open arms and the love and happiness felt was amazing.

Our lambs were carried into a seperate pen whilst volunteers rushed to find straw for them to rest on.

We said our goodbyes to Kelsey, Lincoln and Steve happy in the knowledge they were safe and would have a very happy well cared for life here on the retreat without any threat of being butchered for meat or impregnated to make more lambs for slaughter.

In fairness to Steve, it was his last year being a sheep farmer and he did the most amazing gesture of goodwill by giving us Kelsey, Lincoln and Steve. His kindness will pay off. I felt that he genuinely cared for them and had their wellbeing at heart all along. He showed kindness to myself and Cathy when he could just have easily been hostile or defensive.

After a hearty lunch at the retreats cafe and a quick look around to say hello to the donkeys, cows and pigs in view, we set out for home.

We did a thing and it feels really good. Video of the day below.

With Billy on delivery day

 

 

 

 

 

For donations to the Retreat Animal Rescue click HERE 

 

Our lambs 28th April 2024


 

CAT BEHAVIOUR CONSULTATIONS - info for vetsABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming challenging or phobic cats. Anita, a strong advocate of a vegan lifestyle, is based in East Sussex but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and 1 Norwegian Forest cat, Kiki.

Her first book ‘Claws. Confessions Of A Professional Cat Groomer‘ was published by John Blake in 2017 with her second book, Let’s Talk About Cats self published via Amazon worldwide in 2020. The Little Book Of Extraordinary Cats is Anita’s third book out now 2024.