Jackie Paynter relishes nurturing lambs at Blue Shank Farms
Jackie Paynter was filled with anticipation over the arrival of a barn load of babies.
There was anxiety as well.
â€œItâ€™s always fun to see the new babies come, but itâ€™s absolutely exhausting,â€™â€™ says Paynter.
â€œTheyâ€™re coming day and night. So we really donâ€™t get very much sleep.â€™â€™
Last month, roughly 60 lambs were born over a 24-hour period at Blue Shank Farms in Kelvin Grove, located just outside Summerside.
The Sheep Lady, as Paynter is affectionately known (the licence plate on the back of her truck simply reads Sheep), swung into action.
The very small babies were put in socks so they wouldnâ€™t use up precious energy keeping warm. As a result, they get fat quite fast, notes Paynter.
Ewes have on average three babies each. But for those that have more, the additional babies feed on an automated milk machine to relieve stress on the mothers.
Paynter does her share of feeding the baby animals with milk bottles as well.
She has the motherly touch.
â€œI think women do better with sheep because they know everything those babies need,â€™â€™ she says.
â€œIâ€™m just watching over them all of the time. Thereâ€™s so many of them I need to be here pretty much all of the time when the babies are small.â€™â€™
Paynter says raising sheep suits her to a T.
The strong connection goes back to her teen years when she tended to registered Suffolk sheep on her parentsâ€™ farm in Springfield.
When she married Robert Paynter in 1983, she brought 20 ewes to her husbandâ€™s dairy farm.
Unfortunately, the sheep business struggled and the animals were sold about eight years later.
An improving market and a never-ending yearning to work with ewes saw Jackie start up again 10 years ago with about 50 ewes.
Today, she oversees a sheep operation consisting of 270 ewes and seven rams that are bred in five separate groups. Lambing runs from mid-winter into May.
Rideau Arcott is the bulk of the breed. There is also a sprinkling of registered Suffolk.
The industry is healthy. Prices are good.
Blue Shank Farms sells mostly to Northumberland Lamb Co-op in Truro, N.S., while plenty of breeding stock is sold across the Maritimes.
The heart of sheep farming for Paynter, though, is the regular interaction she has with the animals.
The connection is clear as she gently cradles a small lamb in her arms, the animal hungrily drinking from a bottle.
â€œThose Iâ€™ve helped with the bottle, they remember me â€” and they follow me around,â€™â€™ she notes.
â€œI canâ€™t think of anything else I would rather do.â€™â€™