A good milk supply

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Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

It’s hard to believe lambing time is here again. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but lambing seems to creep up all the more quickly every year.

At home, lambing has gone very well so far, though I must admit I’ve had to take a back seat this year since the arrival of our third child. We’ve enjoyed a really good lamb crop and ewes have milked well. Thankfully the weather conditions through February were reasonably good so the ewes and lambs were turned out within a few days of giving birth, with only a handful of ‘stragglers’ remaining to lamb.

One thing I like to see each year is a good milk supply. I don’t mind bottle feeding some lambs, but when the pet pen starts to become crowded, feeding them all can seem like an endless task. Lambs are born with very limited energy reserves and virtually no immunity, so the risk of mortality is high.

Their digestive system is too immature to digest grass as well, so grazing is not an option. Lambs need a complete diet, easy to digest and rich in all the nutrients necessary to grow strong and healthy. Lambs needs milk, and plenty of it.

Colostrum, the first milk a ewe produces, is loaded with antibodies and contains around four times the level of fat and protein found in cow’s milk. That first suckle is, therefore, critical to a lamb’s survival and the more milk it consumes, the faster it grows.

Just like new-born lambs, God has provided us with food to fuel our spiritual growth, in the form of His Word - the Bible. In one of his letters, Peter urges new-born Christians to feed on this Word, so that they might grow in holiness. He says “like new-born infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation (1 Peter 2:2).”

As we read the Bible, we discover God’s abounding and unfailing love for all humanity, the seriousness of our sin and His awesome plan for our salvation worked out through the lives of countless ordinary men and women - and ultimately fulfilled through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

So the more we study God’s Word, the more we grow in our knowledge and likeness of Him, the deeper our faith becomes and the more we are able to resist temptation.

As the lamb matures, it must eventually be weaned off a milk-based diet and live on solid food. Without this, its physical development is impaired. The same can happen to us as Christians.

We can grow up with the easily-digested stories and truths of the Bible that many of us learned as children, but fail to develop personally any further. Paul warned against this, saying “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready” (1 Cor. 3:2).

The Bible is packed full of many amazing truths about God, if we take time out of our busy lives to consume them. This is where I have found that regular Bible study, alongside a good study guide or Christian book, can really help me get to the ‘meat’ of the Gospel message.

So if you haven’t done so already, why not “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)?

Ronald Annett works for a local animal feed company and helps out on the family farm in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains. He is a member of Mourne Presbyterian Church in Kilkeel, County Down.

If you would like to talk to someone about this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at khanna@presbyterianireland.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.