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.


1 comment:

Melissa said...

Congrats on the lambs. Quite the picture in my head of you out in the pasture holding an umbrella with the ewe thinking now what. I believe we have all had those moments and if not we will come upon them sooner or later. I glad you found her in time!