Kate Humble talks about delivering her first lamb on the new BBC2 (Sunday-Thursday) nightly show Lambing Live.
So what was it like delivering a baby lamb?
“It was the most incredible experience, I will never forget it. There is now a little black lamb, which is strange because her mum and twin sister were white… I have managed to help give birth to the only black sheep of the family! So there is now a little black sheep called Humble – which was the farmer’s choice of name, not mine, I promise – running around the farm. I have mucked around with animals all my life and seen plenty of things being born, but to actually be there and be absolutely intrinsic to the process was amazing.”
Besides the obvious ‘Aah!’ factor, why do you think it is important to do a show like this?
“In spring we see little lambs gambolling about and we go to the supermarket and buy chops on polythene trays with a bit of plastic over the top, but we don’t actually have any idea how one becomes the other. But if we are going to care about our countryside, our farmers and what we eat then we do need to understand the process – how we get from gambolling lamb to lamb chop and that is what this series is all about.”
So basically you become a trainee shepherdess?
“I haven’t got my Little Bo Peep outfit yet, but I am working on it. We found a family – Jim and Kate Beavan and their two children – who live not too far away from me – about 40 minutes from my house. They didn’t want me to move in with them, because frankly what have they done to deserve that? But they wanted me to be close enough so I could get a really good idea of the day-to-day life and be there at key points in the lambing year.”
And was it tough?
“Yes. You think – a few sheep, keep them in a field, cast your eye over them now and again, they will be all right. Not a bit of it. Jim works 15-hour days, 365 days a year – it is a hard, hard life.”
What do you hope to achieve with the show?
“I hope that viewers will share the experience with me, we tend to take our food for granted in this country, we don’t really have to think about it too much. You might make a bit of fuss, ‘blimey £7 for four chops’ – but when you see the work that goes into producing those chops – that is a year’s work for £7.”
What was it like taking lambs to the slaughterhouse?
“I found it hard. Jim needed a couple of lambs for the butcher’s shop. We choose two from a small group that were born last year and took them to his local abattoir. What helped was when I asked Jim how he felt about this part of the process, he said ‘proud’. He’d helped these lambs to be born, they have wanted for nothing and had a great life and now they were going to produce really good meat. It is like a dress designer producing a beautiful dress – a job well done.’
You have great success with Springwatch and Autumnwatch. Are you confident Lambing Live will be as popular and successful as those two shows?
“Do we know if Lambing Live will work? No, we don’t know if there is going to be a live birth. We have done everything we can and hope that there will be. But in the end it is up to the sheep, we can’t go round with raspberry tea!”
You keep loads of animals (two donkeys, two pigs, two dogs, ducks, chickens, geese and bees) what about sheep?
“I don’t own any sheep. However, watch this space. If a couple of lambs go missing on the night and you see a little black nose sticking out from under my jumper, Humble may not be going to the abattoir, she may be the start of my new breeding programme!”