Our second lamb of the season was born today. Mama Chevette had a strapping, healthy 13 lb girl. We have named her Cher. Chevette was tired out after pushing out that big girl, so she laid down in the pasture and was using Cher as a pillow.
Our first lamb of the year was born this morning. Pita, our second oldest ewe at 8 years old, had a nice big 12 lb ram lamb. A strong and healthy little guy. Pita did not lamb the past two years. Sissy was talking about culling her. Pita is a Pain In The Ass, but she is a nice girl. I am so relieved she produced a lamb this year. That means she can stay. And hopefully Pip will grow fast and well so we can get a good price for him soon. The farm funds are getting low with lambing starting so late this year. We usually are winding up the season by now. We have never started so late before, thanks to the dud of a ram we got last fall. I’ve gotta say, though, it will be a relief to not have to worry about chilled newborns.
Since the big storm the other day the weather has been much cooler. It has been cool enough for sleeping without having the window fans running, but still nice enough to keep the windows open. I love it. I can once again hear something besides the sound of fan motors. Of course the traffic going by on the road is not an attractive sound, but as the night gets late there is much less of it. The crickets are chirping. Moths, attracted to my light, beat their wings against the screens. And occasionally a smart bat will come along and pluck a moth from the screen. The sound of their tiny feet being plucked from the fine mesh is slightly different from the sound of their wings hitting against it. Once in a while I can hear Tiggy, declaring his territory to the neighborhood. And just a few minutes ago I heard the local coyote pack yipping and yowling to each other. They sounded pretty close tonight. Glad we keep the sheep in the barn at night. Sometimes I can hear a lamb bleating for its mother. Most of the ewes are weaning or have already weaned their lambs, so the lamb might be calling for a while before she answers or the lamb decides to give it up and go back to sleep. Occasionally I will hear a bird twitter in alarm when something disturbs its sleep. Owls in the woods calling. Raccoons wooing. Frogs garrumping in the pond over the hill. I love it!
I am so very sad to report that Penny did not make it. She died during the night. I found her laying in her usual spot, already cold and stiff. She was laying in a completely normal sleeping position, with no signs of thrashing in the bedding around her. At least I can imagine that she just went to sleep peacefully without suffering. I don’t know what happened, but I don’t think it was bottle jaw that killed her. She just wasn’t showing symptoms of a life-threatening case. She was definitely not showing symptoms of listeriosis. We have also lost sheep to Johne’s disease, but she was not showing any signs of that either. Sissy is at a loss, too. We just don’t know.
All I know is I am going to miss her. She was one of the first ewe’s to make friends with me when I started helping with the sheep. She didn’t have a name at that point, but I looked up her ancestry and named her Penny after seeing that her mother’s name was Copper. I remember her first lambing. She ran out the door with the rest of the herd and it wasn’t until she was racing to the pasture that I noticed a lamb’s head hanging out of her vulva. Thankfully she was so friendly I was able to walk right up to her in the pasture. Her labor had stopped with the lamb only partway out. I helped her finish delivery and attempted CPR right there in the snow. She seemed to be relieved to have the lamb out, but didn’t show any motherly instincts toward the dead lamb. I was concerned enough by this that I kept close watch for days when she was due to lamb again the next spring. But she did just fine on her own, giving birth to twins, Peppa and Suzy. We still have Peppa. This year she had twins again, Peppy and Poppy.
Penny was a sweetheart. She was on the small side, but well-built for her size. She loved getting attention, but was not pushy about demanding it. She LOVED eating pumpkins. The photo was from last fall. She would stick her whole head inside a pumpkin to eat it. When she ate hay she liked to stick her head right into the middle of the hay in the manger. She would actually lay down and burrow her head under the hay through the bottom opening so her entire head was buried. I wish I knew what happened to her. I was giving her extra attention these past few days because she seemed to want extra love. I wish I could give her more. My poor girl.
Can you see my right foot in the photo? Are you wondering why I am sitting in this awkward position? Well, let me tell you…
The lambs have all gotten too big to fit in through the creep openings. So, I have to let them in and out through the gate. The problem? The big ones are constantly trying to sneak in there and eat the lambs’ food. So why don’t I just let the lambs in and secure the gate? Two reasons. First, the lambs often want to come out mid-meal and get a drink, then go back into the creep. Second, some of the lambs freak out if they think they can’t get out. They will try to squeeze themselves through the too-small creep openings and get stuck. I’m always afraid they will hurt themselves, crack a rib or something. I sit next to the gate with my foot holding the gate shut. When I see a nose peeking underneath I know someone wants to come out. I take my foot off the gate to let it swing open while blocking the big ones with my arms and legs.
The adults drive me nuts! Hovering around like vultures, just waiting for their chance to sneak in. Such greed! They are willing to steal food from their own babies! How cold is that? And here’s the kicker…
Do you see that cute, fluffy ewe in the photo? That is Maggie Mae. She comes over to me, asking for scratches. She acts so sweet and affectionate. All she wants is some lovin’. Until that second that gate starts to crack open! Oh, I’m on to your game, Maggie Mae!
This little guy is a pigeon fledgling. He must have fallen down through the hay chute from the haymow. I could not get close enough to catch him and take him back upstairs to his parents. He did join the chickens in pecking and scratching food the lambs had dropped. He can’t quite fly, yet. Just short, little flapping hops. If Tiggy doesn’t get him I will see if I can catch him tomorrow and put him back where he belongs.
Levi decided to nip some of the thistles in the barnyard. After cutting several down, he got the brilliant idea to feed them to the sheep. He insisted I cut them up and add them to the sheep’s feed tubs. THAT was a lot of fun! My sister had heard or read somewhere that lambs can be trained to eat thistles and nettles, so I figured I might as well give it a try. What she doesn’t know is how the heck I’m supposed to cut them up without getting pricked or stung. So, thistles were included in the sheep’s supper tonight and the lambs got thistles and nettles. Yeah, these items were NOT a big hit. They sheep ate around them. But, I think I will continue to add small amounts of thistles and nettles to the lamb food. Might even try some wild parsnip on them. It would be so awesome if they really can be trained to eat these plants. Our pastures could be a lot nicer in future years if these weeds weren’t left to grow and go to seed.