WHILE farming is a demanding job all-year round, most farmers would agree that lambing is the most fraught time in the calendar.

The long hours and the vulnerability of the ewes all adds to the tension, and the more people around to lend a helping hand, the better.

Vital assistance provided to the Mackay family comes in the form of their two young daughters, Rebecca (13) and Rachael (11).

Despite their tender years, the sisters love nothing more than helping out on the family’s four farms at Billsmoor Foot, near Elsdon, Whitton Farm, in Rothbury, Sharpington Farm and The Hermitage, in Warkworth.

While they help out most days, their help during lambing season is of particular use to parents Robert and Tanya.

“During lambing, the girls do everything and you couldn’t get more hands on,” said Tanya. “They help put the pens together and help us get the sheep in.

“They even get up at 2am and 3am with me to go and check the sheep, and then, if they see a sheep lambing, they catch them.

“If they didn’t lend a hand during this time, we would have to employ somebody to help out.”

It is not just the lambing season when Rebecca and Rachael help out though, and they are always on hand to provide what assistance they can.

A long list of tasks they complete includes feeding sheep, making hay and stacking it in sheds, helping fill in movement forms and other paperwork and carrying out manual jobs, such as painting and fixing roofs.

Growing up on the farm, the agricultural life was also instilled in them, especially when their late grandfather Tom bought them both a Bluefaced Leicester at birth.

They also showed early interest in the geese when they hatched and looked after them at a young age.

The girls show great knowledge of farm life, which reduces their parents’ stresses about them being around animals.

Tanya said: “If you bring a child on to a farm, it can be dangerous. But they have got so much common sense and they know where the dangers are.

“You can trust them with anything, especially as they get older, because you know they will do a good job.”

The assistance from the girls also comes in handy when show season arrives.

Robert proudly exhibits at agricultural shows across the area, and battles it out with local farmers for top honours.

Without the girls, the Mackay family’s name might have been missing from the list of exhibitors, however.

Tanya said: “Robert is very independent with his sheep and his show sheep which he shows when he can.

“When we went across to Bellingham Show this year, there was nobody to help us so the girls were showing the sheep. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to show.

“I felt bad for Rebecca because she had plans to show the dogs, but she missed that because the sheep overran. But she was ok with that.”

The day turned out well for Rebecca, though, as, at the same event that her uncle Steven clinched the championship trophy, the teenager was celebrating success in the young handlers’ class.

Providing so much help during the year was greatly appreciated by Robert and Tanya, who could not sing their praises high enough.

Whether early mornings or late nights after school, they are always willing to do their bit for the family business.

Tanya said: “We’re really proud of them and they are just brilliant helpers.

“It’s brilliant to see two sisters wanting to help out and it’s just a lovely way of life for the family. They’re not the type of children who will sit indoors playing on their phones, and they’re really ‘outdoorsy’ children.”