News Letter: Spring, 1998

What We Have the Most of: Air, Rocks, & Sheep

Perhaps this accounting should start back in September, 1997, on the day before Keith took the last of the young buck lambs to market. It seems (in retrospect) that what must have happened was that little Ned made some parting shots at any of the girls who would willingly participate. That would be Cammella (who had mastitis years ago and wasn't supposed to), Jodie (who had cut her mouth years ago, healed badly, squirts her cud out, and so can't make efficient use of her food, so as to support lambs) Mouse (who was supposed to wait for Daniel), Emyline (who was supposed to wait for Freckles) and Maudie (who was supposed to wait for Daniel).

What this meant was, that we had two lambing sessions this year: one at the end of January (unplanned for) and then the one we planned for in March. The end results of all this are 8 little black lambs, that mostly look like Ned, and 11 assorted other lambs, that look sort of like their dads: Jack, Daniel, or Freckles.

On the whole it's been a good year for black lambs with beautiful white spotted faces: a sort of pleasant unexpected turn of genetics that of course, I can't account for. It has also meant some bottle babies from those ewes that weren't really supposed to participate.

If this letter seems to be "all about lambing", it would only be because that is what has been foremost in our minds and consumed our time. What follows is sort of an abbreviated version of lambing (in photos - as, a picture is worth a thousand words).

This first photo is of my head (on left) and Nona (her rear end) and her second lamb being "pulled". Normal presentation would be front feet first, with the head between the front legs. After the water has broken, and the water bags come out (sometimes before the lambs - sometimes between the lambs - sometimes after the lambs), and the lamb has been pushed so that the feet can be seen, then I like to pull out one leg, then the other leg, then by pulling out and down on both legs - then the lamb slips out.

This second photo shows the lamb slipping out.

This shows the lamb all the way out - and very wet. We keep bags of old, clean towels in the barn to dry the lambs off, if it is below freezing.

There may be some time delay, 15 minutes to an hour, before the second lamb is born. The second lamb is often up more quickly and more alert, as it hasn't been in the birth canal for as long a time as the first lamb was.

Nona will not let them nurse until both of the lambs can stand. They don't see well at all those first 12 hours or so. This means they have to locate mom by smell, touch, and her "verbal" sounds. (Most of the ewes start "talking" to their lambs with the onset of labor, and don't stop talking to the lambs for days after they are born.)

The placental materials may not be delivered for another 2 to 4 hours after lambing. It's always best to stay until the placenta is expelled, so that you know for sure that it hasn't been "retained". (A further plot complication that almost never happens, and would be quite deadly for the ewe.)

Average weights for our twin lambs are 11 1/2 pounds. Add to that the water bags and placentas, and our average 125 pound ewe has just delivered about a total of 23 pounds of lambs and another 20 pounds of birthing stuff. Then if you recall, we have sheared about a month prior to lambing, and at that time the ewe lost about 10 to 16 pounds of wool. I guess we are lucky there's anything left of that ewe at all. Just kidding (or lambing in this case)...... it all has everything to do with proper nutrition for the ewe all year long. Good food is what makes it possible to produce that beautiful fleece and those healthy, bouncy lambs.

The last thing to do is to weigh the lambs. We use a hanging scale, and WalMart bags. This works until about 20 pounds. If you know the birth weight, then it's easy to do weights a few days later to confirm their weight gain, and know they are getting enough milk. This is also the time to "band" their tails. If it is done in the first 12 hours, there is very little feeling or pain. The tails usually take about 3 weeks to "drop off". Tails are removed, as they also grow wool and can become quite bushy/woolly. Should the sheep have diarrhea (lush pastures can cause this) this could be a major health risk, with a long woolly tail.

Actually, the bagolamb is Iggy - one of Janine's lambs. Nona's lambs are Nana, the white lamb and Noah, the black lamb. Nona was bred to Jack, a registered white ram, and as the twins are "dizygotic" (cool word meaning fraternal, or from two ova), it's very common to have a white lamb and a black lamb from such a breeding.

As a personal aside: it was a very infected gall bladder that put me in the hospital for surgery,and kept me out of the barn for a couple of weeks. My daughter, Jane was a huge help and was there to supervise the lambing, and Keith kept the sheep going. I think it's safe to say that the sheep really don't need me nearly so much as I feel like I need to be there.

On the whole lambing has gone OK this year (in spite of me), and we have some of the most attractive little guys ever! As time goes on, we will take more photos and post their growth and progress. It has been a wet Spring for us, the Mountain Bluebirds have come back two weeks early, the pasture is greening up, and it's that time of year when life seems most hopeful!

Our very best wishes for your own hopeful Spring this year...

[an error occurred while processing this directive]