Not Always Roses

Yesterday morning when I put the dogs out I heard the very distinctive sounds of new lambs crying. Still in robe and slippers I went to check and found three lambs scattered amongst the ewes in the night pen. Each was close to a different ewe and each ewe was ignoring the lamb. Seeing me, the ewes came to the fence and the lambs started searching among the ewes for their mom(s). This was not a good sign although all had been cleaned off so the ewe(s) had to have had some interest in the lambs at least initially.

When I first decided to raise sheep I was looking for two things: first, someone to buy my sheep from who would continue to be available to me as a resource if I had questions and second, older ewes that were experienced breeders where my potential problems in lambing would be minimized. This scenario of lamb rejection was exactly what I was hoping to avoid.

Foregoing the morning coffee, I went back in just long enough to exchange robe and slippers for boots and coat. I threw some hay to the sheep in the night pens and took a quick look at the ewes and lambs currently residing in the lambing jugs to determine if they were ready to be moved back into the general population. They all looked healthy so I turned them out while I cleaned the lambing jugs and prepared them for new sheep. I then searched among the ewes to see if I could determine which ewe(s) had lambed and whether the lambs were all singles, a single and twins or triplets. I found one ewe that looked a likely possibility who was at the feeders rapidly munching and totally oblivious to the crying lambs. It took considerable effort to move her away from the feeders but I eventually sorted her out and moved her to the lambing jugs where I had placed the three lambs. She ignored the lambs and started in on the hay I had placed in the feeder there.

I checked ewes again and didn’t see a likely second candidate so I moved the other ewes with their lambs back and finished chores. Back at the lambing jugs, I held the ewe so that each of the lambs could nurse and then went back inside.

After a much-needed cup of coffee I went back out to check on the lambs. In looking at ewes again, I found another one that might have possibly lambed so I went ahead and moved her into the lambing jug with the first ewe and the three lambs.

I went out periodically throughout the day to check on the lambs. I occasionally held a ewe to allow the lambs to nurse as I wasn’t sure the lambs were nursing otherwise. Last night on my last check, the smallest of the lambs wasn’t interested in nursing and had a very minimal sucking reflex so I wasn’t surprised to find her dead this morning.

I’ve had very good luck with lambing the past couple of years so I guess I was due for some of the usual and common problems others experience in lambing. This was a reminder that it isn’t all roses and to be thankful for the fact that my lambing seasons have fewer complications than most.

The lambs from earlier this week are all doing fine and are at the gamboling stage which is so much fun to watch. I’ll try to upload video later this weekend.

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