Traditionally lambs are born in spring time, when the weather is warming up and there’s a summer of rich pastureland ahead; when nature provides the best conditions for survival. Although sheep are hardy creatures, a newborn lamb is susceptible to the cold, and so most breeds only come into season when the days start to get short – in time to give birth in the spring.
In order to provide lamb throughout the year, many large retailers rely on lamb from New Zealand to see them through the winter, or else resort to animals born through controlled reproduction, where ewes are artificially brought into season through a type of hormonal intervention called sponging.
There is, however, one breed of sheep in Britain which can breed naturally all year round, and that is the Dorset. Dorset ewes will take the tup (ram) in early summer to lamb in late November, ready to provide spring lamb in time for Easter. The Dorsets are lambed in sheds to shelter newborns from the weather and from predators, and once they’re strong enough they’re back out in the fields, with drystone walls and their mothers for shelter.