News Letter: Winter 2001-02

A Difficult Lambing Season ...

When we left off, we didn't know what sort of lamb crop we would have after the dog attacks during the breeding season last Fall.

The lambing this year has been the most difficult ever, for a number of cumulative reasons. Its seems that Mother Nature reasoned that if there were to be bad things like dog attacks, then the thing to do was limit the number of lambs to one.

So, many of the ewes had a single lamb, having lost one of the fertilized eggs. After we sheared on February 16, we had about one week of mild weather. Then things got incredibly bad.

A very cold, snowy, windy front arrived on March 1, with temps near zero and winds between 50 to 60 mph and wind chills in the -30 degree range. That night we lost old Freckles (our oldest grey Corriedale ram) to the cold.

Ariel at 3 pounds

The cold and wind went on like that for the next week and so the sheep didn't leave the barn. This is the worst possible thing for the ewes that are about to lamb. Most of the lamb growth takes place in the last two weeks before birth, so this meant that the lambs were growing to their largest size and the ewes weren't up moving around enough to get the lambs into the proper position for lambing.

What we then had were many large single lambs coming in mal-presentations: difficult and for some, impossible births. It continued on like this for the next three weeks with two more cold and windy fronts and many more difficult births.

The lamb in the photo is little Ariel. Her mom, Kalmia (the Australian Bond ewe that lambed last Spring) had a normal ram lamb, weighing 7.5 pounds and then Ariel, weighing 3 pounds. It's unknown if Ariel had poor placental support or was from a second, later breeding. Whatever the cause, it isn't possible for such a small lamb to survive out in the barn in below zero weather ... just not enough body mass. So, Ariel came into the house to become a "house lamb". She lived for the first four days in a small box on a heating pad, and was fed 1 ounce at a time every two hours around the clock with colostrum we had milked out of Kalmia.

Ariel the house lamb

A house lamb has to wear diapers and have diaper changes. Because of her very small size the vet thought it best for her to have goat's milk until she reached 7 pounds. He thought that perhaps her digestive system wasn't developed well enough to handle the Lamb Milk Replacer that would normally be used. Here is a formula he gave us to use so as to know how much to feed her: * give 15% of body weight per 24-hour period *.

How to figure this out (keeping in mind):
1 pound of liquid milk = 1 pint (2 cups) or 16 ounces
1 gallon of milk weighs 8 pounds
For example:
6 pounds of body weight X 16 ounces = 96 ounces of lamb weight.
96 ounces X .15 = 14.4 ounces of milk per 24 hour period.

If you think the lamb can hold 2.5 ounces that would be 6 feedings per day. You will have to see how much the lamb can take per feeding. They seem to adjust quickly to small increases in amount. Over feeding when they are so small can result in death.

Somehow Ariel has survived, living for about one month in the house. Slowly as the weather grew milder, we increased the amount of time she was out in the barn with the other sheep. She has become a best buddy with her cousin ... another little Bond sheep that is the closet in size to her. She remains the smallest in the flock at 13 pounds. She is doing the best she can for now and may just always be the smallest one.

lambs in the field

Ariel is out in the field learning to be a sheep. We put a little coat on her, hoping to make her appear larger and NOT look like something that a Golden Eagle would want for lunch.

April is the month for the eagles to hatch ... another reason to have lambed in March. They say that an eagle won't try to take something that weighs more than 20 pounds. I'm not sure how an eagle can tell the weights of other animals? I just hope they are right about the 20-pound thing.

Ariel in the field

March isn't usually like the one we just had. The cold temperatures and high winds broke many records. The ground stayed cold for such a long time this year, it seemed that the Pasque flowers would never bloom!

Here are the long awaited Pasque flowers in mid-April ... better late than never. Now, if it would just rain and break the drought. We really hope for rain as we go into this third year of drought. Please, send rains our way!


[an error occurred while processing this directive]