Life and Death

The other morning a yearling ewe (born in the spring of 2016) started to lamb. It soon became apparent that she was too small (or the lamb was too large) and that she was in trouble. However, since she was confused about the whole process, she wouldn’t allow me close enough to assist. As I was trying to move the ewe into the lambing jugs, the littlest triplet darted underneath her and started nursing – evidently aware that the ewe was other occupied and unlikely to chase her off. I moved the lamb off but she quickly returned, not so willing to give up a free meal. Luckily for me, the farrier was there and willing to lend a hand. Between the two of us, we managed to get the ewe into a lambing jug where we could close her in (and the littlest lamb out) and I ran to the house for gloves. The lamb was presenting correctly – two front hooves and a nose – but not progressing. There was so little space inside the ewe I was taking it on faith that there was only one lamb and it wasn’t tangled with a second one. By the time I finally was able to get a front leg (the elbow had caught on the pelvic ring) straightened out, the lamb’s tongue was hanging out and turning blue. While I was convinced I was going to lose the lamb, I wanted to save the ewe if possible so I continued to work until the second leg was straightened out. Even though the head looked like it wasn’t going to fit, finally with effort on both our parts, the head finally emerged. At that point I let the ewe finish the job and the rest of the lamb came out. I was pleasantly surprised to find the lamb still alive. Once the ewe had a few minutes to rest up, she did start to clean the lamb. A couple of hours later I went out to check and the lamb was up and nursing. A ram lamb weighing 12 lbs which is large for a Katahdin and especially large for a first time ewe.

So while the season had definitely gotten off to a very slow start, it was progressing well until . . . . When I went out to feed last night I found a lamb, the largest of the original set of triplets, next to the fence, dead. I couldn’t find any apparent cause of death. The ewe didn’t have enough milk for three lambs which is why I’ve been supplementing the smallest lamb, but I hadn’t seen any signs from the other two lambs that they weren’t getting enough milk. All of the lambs had been running around earlier in the day playing chase games and all, including this one, had appeared to be fine. My guess is that she ran into the fence and hit a fence post, breaking her neck.

Bummer Lamb

My first set of triplets was born on Sunday, February 5th. The smallest ewe lamb wasn’t getting enough milk from her dam so I have been supplementing her feeding with a bottle. She had learned she could sneak some extra food from the ewe I had put in the lambing jugs after the ewe twinned on the 12th, but then on February 14th another ewe had triplets and I turned out the two ewes and their five lambs from the lambing jugs, cleaned the jugs and moved the new mom and her three into the lambing jugs. When I went out late that night to check on the lambs and ewes, I found the one ewe with two of the triplets but not the littlest lamb. I finally found her with the other ewe and her twins. However, with the wide open spaces of the working pen, the ewe was finding it easier to get away from the lamb when she tried to nurse and with the dropping temperatures I had visions of the littlest lamb freezing over night. I had lost a triplet the previous year in such a situation when it had gotten separated from its dam and the other lambs. So I brought the littlest lamb in for the night and bedded her down in a dog crate in my bedroom. She turned out to be easier to both crate and house train than many puppies that I’ve raised. Every night since then she has been spending the night in a crate and then going out during the day to spend time with her mom (and any other ewe she can nurse off of) and the lambs. With one exception, she waits to pee in the morning until after I put her outside and she happily follows me back to the sheep pens. She has adapted quite well to her new life.

Two weeks old

Two weeks old

She is growing well on the goat milk and is a similar size to the two triplets the dam is still nursing.

A little ingenuity

Today was cold and bleak. The snow from last night soon melted with the rain of this morning. It rained off and on all day and the mud was deeper every time I went out. When I fed this morning the smallest triplet seemed to have a full stomach so I didn’t offer a bottle. I checked sheep throughout the day, expecting more ewes to lamb, and each time I checked on the ewes and lambs in the lambing jug. [The lambing jugs are set up so that I can create small pens to segregate new moms and their lamb(s) but since the two ewes I put in the jugs were both experienced and taking care of their lambs, I went ahead and opened up the jugs so that the entire space was available to the two ewes (and their combined five lambs)]. Each time I checked, the littlest triplet didn’t appear to be hungry. The bottle I took out a short while ago was the first bottle I gave her today. When I first went out she didn’t come running as usual and as I watched she went to the ewe that was not her dam and started nursing. She actually nursed for a short while before the ewe realized it wasn’t one of her lambs and walked away. At that point the lamb came over for her bottle. I had figured she was nursing off her dam and getting some milk at night, but I guess the little one has found a new way to supplement her own feeding without requiring a bottle.

The rain is supposed to continue through tomorrow so I’m hoping the ewes who haven’t lambed will hold off until things dry out a bit and I can turn the ewes/lambs in the jugs out to make room.

Temperatures dropping. . .

and so, of course, are lambs. We’ve had several days of beautiful (t-shirt) weather and no lambs. We did get a few rain drops this afternoon but other than being cloudy and grey, today was fairly warm. No lambs. Just about dark one of my ewes started showing signs of being in labor. I just went out to check on her and found her cleaning off her second lamb. Both appear to be of good size so am debating whether to leave them alone or try to shepherd the ewe into the lambing jugs.

ADDENDUM: Shortly after writing the above post it started raining so I trekked out to the barn for hay and set up a lambing jug for the new mom and her twins. See the comments for that story. The temperatures kept dropping however and by the time I did my night check only a couple of hours later it was snowing. It has warmed up (raining again) so much of the snow is now gone and I didn’t lose any lambs overnight. Today promises to be a dismal day so more lambs can be expected.

A slow start. . .

Once lambing started on the 1st I was expecting a ewe to lamb every day or every other day. However, nine days into lambing only four ewes had lambed. Finally, late Thursday afternoon, an older ewe went into labor. Here she is with her lamb. She only had a single but it was 13.5 lbs.

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Since then, no new lambs. However, rain is predicted for tomorrow and as sheep prefer to lamb in bad weather, if we do get rain I expect at least one more ewe to lamb.

A Little Help

Monday morning the smallest triplet was hunched over and when I put a finger in her mouth, her mouth was cold. Both are signs that the lamb isn’t nursing. I had seen all three lambs nurse shortly after birth on Sunday morning and, obviously, since the smallest lamb was still alive on Monday morning she had to have nursed at some point during the night. I wasn’t sure if the lamb wasn’t doing well because of a congenital problem or if she simply wasn’t getting sufficient milk from the dam, so I figured I had nothing to lose by offering a bottle. While I won’t bottle feed a lamb per se, I am not opposed to offering supplemental feedings so I came into the house and found the extra nipples I had bought when I was bottle feeding Joey’s kids after she died. However, I didn’t have a bottle so had to make a run into town to buy a soft drink. I warmed up some goat milk I had in the refrigerator and went out to offer the smallest lamb some milk. The first couple of feedings I had to open her mouth and insert the nipple but it didn’t take long before she was eagerly accepting the nipple. From there, she has started bleating and coming to the fence every time I go out to the pens even though I am only offering a bottle four times a day. She has also not been shy about letting me know she prefers the milk straight from the goat as opposed to milk I have refrigerated. She is doing well with the ewe and other lambs and apparently nursing at night when I am not offering a bottle so I have high hopes that she will survive. Here she is at feeding time tonight.

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Do you want that Super-Sized?

This morning when I went out to feed I found a single lamb, plaintively bleating and wandering among the ewes. Each ewe the lamb approached would smell it and either walk away or nudge it on. Across the working pen, a ewe who was cleaning off a lamb would periodically pick up her head and baaa but the lamb ignored her and kept moving on. As a quick glance showed the ewe had a second lamb on the ground I started searching among the ewes to see if I could find one that showed signs of a recent lambing. After no success, I decided to see if the errant lamb actually belonged to the only ewe who was showing any interest at all — the ewe with the twins. When I picked up the lamb and carried it to where the ewe and her two lambs were in the corner of the pen, the ewe sniffed the lamb. I put it down and the lamb promptly headed back towards the group of ewes near the gate. The ewe followed the lamb for a few steps but then looked back at the two lambs on the ground and turned back to them. Following a hunch, I picked up the two lambs and headed for the lambing jugs with the ewe following behind. I put the lambs in the jugs and then went looking for the third lamb. I put her in with the trio and then headed to the barn for hay. After feeding chickens, horses, goats, sheep and hogs I had a cup of coffee and then headed out again to check on, and weigh, the new lambs. On about the third check later in the morning, I found the third lamb (the largest, BTW) nursing so it appears this “order” was indeed super-sized and the ewe had triplets.

It is exhausting being lost (she started on her knees and gradually oozed into a down)

It is exhausting being lost (she started on her knees and gradually oozed into a down)

Lamb One (the errant lamb) is a female and weighed almost 8 lbs. She is white with a couple of dark brown spots – one at the base of her tail and one on her right side.

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Lamb Two is also a female and weighed about 6 lbs. She is white with brown on her neck and black on the right side of her face.

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Lamb Three is a male and also about 6 lbs. He is white with brown on his neck.

No room at the milk bar

No room at the milk bar

Still here. . .

It has been a depressing winter though warmer than usual.

Counting 150 days from the introduction of the ram last fall, the earliest date I could expect lambing to start was February 1st. Wednesday morning (the 1st) I went out to feed and found a ewe had indeed lambed.

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A single ram lamb. I didn’t have time to weigh him, but when I finally did on Friday morning he weighed a hefty 12.75 lbs. I’ve never had a brown this dark before. I wonder if a sheepskin rug can be made from a hair sheep.

Nothing on Thursday, but on Friday morning my most productive ewe gave me twins.

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The first born, a ram lamb, weighed 10 lbs, while his twin, a ewe lamb, was a petite 6.5 lbs. She, however, was the first one up and nursing.

Although I was expecting a couple of ewes to lamb sometime last night, neither seemed inclined to get on with business. A ewe who hadn’t been showing any particular signs of lambing delivered twins mid-morning today. Again a brown ram lamb (9 lbs) and a ewe lamb (8.5 lbs).

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This ewe is the daughter of the ewe who dropped the first lamb this year. So a good start to lambing this year.