Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eddie's Fertile!

Well, I've known that for a little while now, since the Shetlands have been bagging up and have big tummies! But we bought a new ram lamb last fall from Laura Matthews at Psalm 23 Farm, and in the end, decided to take a big chance and breed all our girls to him, an unproven ram. Our rams were all too closely related to many of them and we wanted some new blood. The gamble paid off, as three days ago Maia had twin ewes, the one in the back that you can't see I think is moorit, the one in the front might be one of those fancy katmoget sheep that everyone seems to be fascinated with (I have to look up the definition of katmoget - I might have it confused with some other marking, but I think that is what Eddie is). Anyway, both are in the "brown" color group - moorit, fawn, musket - it remains to be seen!

And this morning, Brie had a set of twins, one ram and one ewe. The ram might be another kat, in the brown family and the ewe appears more solid in the black family, like her mom. But when I left them, they were both still pretty wet and kind of dirty - mom decided to lamb in one of the "less clean" areas of the shelter. And with all the rain we have been having, there is not a dry spot on the farm, inside or outside.

So, that gives us four Shetland lambs and 61 "other" lambs, for a total, so far, of 65 lambs. So, I think I will finish my cup of coffee and then get on with the chores - check on the new lambs, move the three sets of twins and their moms out of the jugs and into the nursery, feed the rams, fill water tanks/buckets, put some new bedding in the Shetland shelters, wash up a fleece sample that I should have done yesterday, do the dishes (we can't eat until I do that - household chores, while never on the top of my list, get shoved WAAAY down that list during lambing!!), maybe some laundry - boy, I'm exhausted just reading that list, maybe I should have another cup of coffee and knit a little! The rainy weather is much more conducive to knitting then to being outside - but, I don't think the sheep would understand - I'll just have to dodge the raindrops and try to avoid the biggest mud puddles!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lamb Shots

Well, we spent this past weekend moving almost all the sheep. First, Larry moved the three big rams into their new pen area, complete with padlock so no visiting friends or family (young children in particular) can "inadvertently" open up the gate and let the rams out. Then, about 2 dozen ewes and 40 lambs were moved from the nursery pen to a small pasture area beyond the barnyard. Then the ewes from across the road (Group 3) that will start lambing shortly, were loaded into the trailer and brought here to our barn, so we can keep an eye on them as they start lambing. Then the ewes of Group 2 were brought from their pasture closer to the barn and joined with the ewes of Group 3. A few of the ewes and lambs yet in jugs were put in the nursery area and the Shetland rams were moved to a new pen. The only sheep that don't get to enjoy new digs are the Shetland ewes. They are behind the house in their pasture and that is where they will stay. A busy weekend and I got a little sun, as Saturday was warm and sunny. Yesterday it rained all day and tomorrow they are predicting snow, so I am glad we got everyone into their proper positions for the next round of lambs.

And speaking of lambs, here are some photos of the lambs from round one. In the center of this shot, you can see my yuglet Coopworth. His face is mostly white, with brown eyepatches and his body is a variegated brown and silver. I will probably keep him, depending on how he grows. If we do keep him, I can't wait to see his fleece next spring!

Some lambs - no the ewe does not have the mumps, she is merely chewing her cud!

A shot of our other colored Coopworth ram with the "yuglety" face:

A cute lamb on a sunshiny day:

A couple of the lambs reclining next to one of the big bales of hay. A nice, warm, sunny spot:

Coming back into the barn to get out of the sun:

Lambs pick the strangest places to sleep sometimes, like this tire impression in the nursery pen:

And sometimes they scare the crap out of you, doing their impersonation of a dead lamb:

This lamb is fine and is alive and well and out in the pasture with the rest of the older lambs and their moms. And a parting shot:

If you notice that the tail is quite wide at the top and then becomes very skinny, that is due to the fact that we dock our lambs' tails with tiny, thick rubber bands that are made especially for this purpose. The rubber band cuts off the circulation in the tail and after a few weeks, the tail drops off.
Current lamb count - 53 lambs, purebred Coopworth and Coopworth crosses, 25 ewes and 28 rams. We are about a third of the way there. The first group is almost done, only a few who haven't lambed yet and they technically have until the first week of June to lamb, since the ram was left in with them for just over two months, so that he wouldn't have to go back to his ram pen and be all alone while our other guys were with their girls. Groups 2 and 3 might start as early as about Thursday of this week and the way some of them look, I think a bunch of them will go early. I only have seven jugs, though, so I hope and pray they space the lambs out a bit. And the Shetlands should start lambing soon, but they aren't as labor intensive as the BWS. But it can get exciting around here at this time of the year!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The First 9 Days of Lambing

I am taking advantage of a lull in the lambing. We started lambing on March 31 and, over the course of nine days, have had 28 lambs. A few more singles than I would like, but also two sets of triplets. All have been born uneventfully, except for one set of twins - the first of the two had a leg back, but once we corralled the ewe, the lamb was pulled successfully. In fact, the "problem" child is a colored Coopworth ram, with the cutest yuglet face. I don't know if it's called "yuglet" in the Coopworth world, but those of you who raise Shetlands will know what I am talking about. I don't have a picture of him, but I do have a picture of another of our colored Coopworth ram lambs. He was the first colored Coopworth born - not a great picture, but at least it breaks up the script a bit. I guess he has a bit of the "yuglet" face going, too.

We do actually have purebred Coopworth lambs this year. Last year, we had one. That was due to the fact that Val, our Coopworth ram, apparently thought the grass was greener, as it were, on the other side of the fence. He jumped out of his breeding group, which included most of our Coopworth ewes, and jumped over to the mostly Polypay group. So last year, we had a lot of crossbreds. Oh well, hybrid vigor is good. This year we were a bit smarter and put cattle panels between Val and the other breeding group. While he is an escape artist, he cannot jump that high.

Speaking of colored Coopworth lambs, all of the colored lambs are rams. No ewes yet. I want a couple more colored ewes. Does anyone want to buy a colored Coopworth ram? Purebred, but not registered? I am planning to keep one, but the rest will end up going to market. This little guy above will be headed that way, as he is a single and the others are all twins, so the keeper will be chosen from that select group.

As mentioned earlier, two sets of triplets, so far. The first set was born to a ewe who did not look like she would have triplets - I was thinking twins. Two of the three were very small when they were born, one of them just under five pounds, the other just over five pounds. I have been supplementing them with a bottle, but mom still loves them all and nurses them all, I just don't think she has quite enough milk. But I was very pleased that she lambed at all. You see, about a week and a half before they were born, I found her lying on her back in a rain storm. Torrential downpour, all the sheep in the barn, I'm out there with them about to skirt fleeces. Since most of them are lying down, chewing their cuds, I decided to count them, to make sure they were all there. Sure enough, I come up one short. So out to the barnyard I go and I see, on the other side of the big hay bale, legs flailing in the air. Well, I get her rolled over, but her back legs have gone numb and she can't stand up. She outweighs me by a bit, but something has to be done - she is shivering and grinding her teeth. And remember, the rain is coming down in buckets. So I go into the barn, grab some rags to dry her off a bit and, to keep us both dry, the big yellow and white golf umbrella that Larry keeps just inside the barn door. So there I stand, out in the barnyard, holding this big, bright umbrella over this down sheep, who I'm thinking is probably going to die out there from exposure. Not much wool on her, as we had already sheared. Back legs numb, she can't stand up. I made several trips back to the barn, leaving the golf umbrella propped over her, so at least she wasn't getting any wetter - and she was lying on a nice pile of straw, wet but not mucky, at least. I tried massaging her hips, but no luck getting her to stand up. (I thought maybe this huge umbrella looming over her might scare her into getting onto her feet, but no such luck!)

What to do? I am all alone, no one to help me. Well, something has to be done, so I get the deer sled (no one hunts, but it is great for hauling hay and the occasional sheep, dead or alive). I line it up next to her and through some maneuvering, get her rolled onto the sled, again on her back. I jockey her around until she's not really on her back any more. (When a sheep gets onto its back, it is often not able to right itself - especially when very pregnant - and they will suffocate eventually.) Then I pull her into the barn - again, remember she outweighs me - and to make matters more interesting, there is a sea of muck between the barnyard and the barn. No, I did not fall over, but I did almost lose my boots in the muck several times. Well, I did get her into the barn, rolled back out of the sled, got some Power Punch into her and she was up and about later in the day and had triplets about a week and a half later. So while I have kicked myself for not being able to save some sheep, this one was a victory. And for all you PETA people out there (I'm sure none of them actually read my blog), don't think that just because we raise our sheep for the purpose of a tasty leg of lamb, we don't take care of them. Just picture me, standing out in the pouring rain, holding a bright yellow golf umbrella over a shivering ewe. I did come in and have a nice hot cup of coffee after that one!

As I said, we have had a lull in the lambing - no lambs here since the 8th. And we still have just over a dozen to go in the first group. I expect they will all go at once! But, all the jugs are empty, so I'm set. The lambs already on the ground are in the nursery area, playing with all the other lambs. The oldest ones are so much bigger than the youngest ones - and there is only about a week's difference in their ages. I'll try to get some better pictures. These pictures were taken as my camera battery was dying and I was trying to just get a couple of shots before that happened. But the sun is shining today and I will try to get some better pictures.

A parting shot - some of the lambs in the creep area, enjoying time away from their moms.