Orphaned lambs are keeping warm this winter in adorable hand-knitted jumpers, which will help them survive the droughts.
Maria Knight, of Berrumbuckle Farm in Coonabarabran, New South Wales, has sent 400 jumpers to New South Wales farmers, to keep their baby lambs warm as temperatures plummet to minus nine degrees.
“It might seem simple if you just knit one jumper, but it means an awful lot to a farmer that’s feeling down and isolated,” she said.
“I’ve had men crying,” she said of the response from farmers.
Ms Knight and her husband are farmers with 1200 merino wool sheep across their various properties in rural New South Wales.
Her husband’s family has been farming since 1856 and Ms Knight said, “this is the worst drought the family has ever known”.
Ms Knight explained that since the drought worsened in mid 2017, the ewes have been struggling with the lack of feed and have been forced to abandon their young.
“The ewes are doing it so tough, even though they’re being fed. They don’t have enough to look after one lamb,” she said.
“If they’re having twins and triplets, which for some reason, in a drought, they all are, they’re only having one and leaving the other behind,” Ms Knight said.
When lambs are orphaned, they are unable keep warm on their own, as they rely on their mothers to act as a wind break and cuddle against her to regulate body temperature.
Last winter, Ms Knight’s mother Doreen Norris and the Narellan Knitting group, created special jumpers for her lambs and she had a few spare jumpers to give away.
On Wednesday last week, Ms Knight posted a lamb jumper pattern on Facebook and asked people to send in jumpers that she could redistribute to farmers and the response was overwhelming.
“I just put out a thing saying, who would like to knit some jumpers, here’s the pattern, need some help,” she said.
“The response was so quick,” she said.
Ms Knight said that people posted jumpers on Thursday and “big deliveries started coming in on Monday”.
“I’ve already given out about 400 jumpers,” she said.
Ms Knight has sent the jumpers to farmers in NSW, along with beanies for farmers that were also donated. She said she has taken a few donations to help with postage costs.
“I have a few donations for postage, I just say if you’re able, pay a little bit towards postage, because we’re doing it tough, I can’t cover everyone’s postage, but definitely the jumpers are free,” she said.
She has already sent out 400 jumpers, but welcomes more lamb jumper donations.
“I will basically distribute all of those this week, so I need more knitting now,” she said.
“Farmers are very stoic and don’t like asking, even for a lamb jumper, but they love their stock, they feel responsible for these animals,” she said.
“Everyone you can give comfort and everyone you can save, I can’t explain how important that is to farmers,” she said.
Charles Alder, CEO, Rural Aid an organisation founded in 2015 to support rural communities supports the idea of lamb jumpers.
“I think it’s a fabulous idea, I think anything we can do to keep our underfed lambs alive and warm, I think is a great idea,” he said.
“I haven’t heard of it before, but I think it’s another great piece of Australian ingenuity that if people have got the time and they want to knit something, or they’ve got the ability to source jumpers that can be utilised for lamb,” he said.
“It’s not just about the lamb, it’s about the fact that the farmer is looking at one of their children that’s dying. And that’s how farmers see their animals. And if they can do anything to save their animals,” he said.
People wishing to knit jumpers for the project can find the knitting pattern and further information at the Facebook group ‘Lamb Jumpers “Helping Our Farmers”’.