Levi has 1/2 days at schools all this week, so when he gets off the bus he heads down to the barn to help me do chores.
After Martha’s triplets and Peppa’s single lamb on Monday I was hoping for a break. After I left for work that afternoon Sissy texted that Hazel had twins. Six lambs in one day, bringing our total to 27 so far. We are at the halfway mark. Hazels’s babies are a boy and a girl, Henry and Hillary.
My vision of a giant co-family with Martha and Peppa mothering the 6 lambs together did not materialize. Once the lambs started to get dry Martha went one way with her three and Peppa went another way with her single. And poor Farah was left out in the cold again. So we have a bottle lamb. Sissy holds Frannie so Farah can get some real mother’s milk twice a day, but my back issues will not allow me to do that. So I feed her a bottle 3 times a day. And Hazel’s girl, Hillary, has been falling behind her brother in gaining weight, so we are supplementing her with a bottle, too.
The sheep have given me a break, no births for two days. Whew! I needed the rest! I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
When I got to the barn this morning I found Martha and Peppa already in labor. Martha was very close to birth. Her water had broken and she was nosing around, looking for a lamb to clean off. She happened upon Farah, the twin Frannie had rejected yesterday. Farah was bleating, looking for a mother who did not want her. She was hungry and desolate. Martha, looking for a lamb to mother, started sniffing, licking, and chuckling over her. I knew from past years that Martha is an excellent mother. So, I made an executive decision. Rather than wrestling with Frannie on a daily basis, forcing her to suckle a lamb she didn’t want, I decided to not separate Farah from Martha. It seemed like an ideal solution. I allowed Martha to continue bonding with Farah and adopt her.
I opened the door and let the rest of the sheep out. Martha was too busy to care about going out, but Peppa took off with the rest. No biggie. I would just have to keep going out to check on her. She was only out there about 10 minutes when she was at the gate, asking to be allowed back in. Great. It’s much easier to watch them when they are in the barn.
Not long after Peppa came in Martha gave birth to a little ewe lamb. As soon as I saw the size of the lamb I had a strong suspicion Martha was going to have twins. I felt a twinge of concern. I had no doubts at all that Martha could feed two lambs. She could probably handle three, but I was thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have allowed her to adopt Farah. But then again, it would probably be fine. My suspicion about twins was verified when Martha gave birth to a second lamb, a tiny ram lamb this time.
While all this was happening, a few yards away Peppa was straining for all she was worth. I was just about to get a closer look to see if she needed help when I realized that Martha had just dropped a THIRD lamb! Holy Crap! Triplets! Two girls and a boy. Martha was a busy girl, cleaning off all those lambs. All FOUR lambs because she had already decided that Farah was hers. This is a first for us. We’ve had triplets born a few rare times in the past, but never had all three survive the birth. And Martha had 3 live-born lambs plus a 4th adopted one. There’s no way she can feed four…is there?
By now Peppa had finally given birth to her lamb, a nice big ram lamb. I was checking the sex of Peppa’s lamb when I realized Martha was helping Peppa to clean him off. Come on, Martha, you really want to claim 5 lambs? Oh, no. I moved Peppa with her lamb and Martha with her lambs farther away from each other and got back to doing chores.
I noticed Peppa kept looking over at Martha and the 4 lambs scrabbling at her feet with envy. Next thing I know, Peppa had crossed the barn and was licking Martha’s lambs and Martha was over by Peppa’s lamb, mothering him. Are ya kidding me?
But wait, what is this brilliant notion growing in my mind? Peppa has supported twins before and only had one lamb this year. Martha is a great mama, but 4 lambs? What if I just let them both bond with all the lambs? I made my second executive decision of the day and just let it happen. It’s what both ewes wanted. Two mothers between five lambs should have enough milk for everyone. But will it work? I don’t know. It seemed to be working today. The lambs were suckling whichever ewe was handy and both mamas were standing for whoever was hungry. Two mothers with five lambs. If it works I won’t worry so much about ewes in labor at the same time interfering with bonding.
I have named the lambs in order of their birth; Eeny, Meeny, Miney, and Moe (plus Farah). Today I also got to see one of Shylo’s kittens. I know she had them weeks ago, but I have no idea where. I still don’t know where she has them stashed or even how many she had. Up until today I wasn’t even positive they were still alive. At least now I know there is one alive, not to mention friggin’ adorable.
Twelve lambs on 3 days. I. AM. EXHAUSTED. Please girls, nobody give birth tomorrow. I need a break!
Today’s first baby was born this afternoon to Chevelle. Chevelle chose to give birth in the middle of the flock as they gathered at the barn door, demanding to be let back inside. Within a few minutes of exiting the birth canal, little boy Chevron (10 lb) was in the ditch, getting covered with dirt. Chevelle was cleaning him off and bonding with him among everyone else’s feet. Things probably still would have been fine if Frannie, who was also in labor, hadn’t decided to claim Chevron as her own. I had a hell of a time getting her away from the lamb. Finally had to move Chevelle and Chevron to the other side of the gate.
Frannie was desolate that she could not reach “her” lamb.
In the mean time, Minnie was busy giving birth to her lamb under the apple tree on the other side of the barn.
Minnie, a first-timer, had the good sense to have her lamb in the shade and away from the others. Her boy, Mickey, weighed in at 10 lb as well. Minnie took to motherhood like she had been doing it all her life.
While I was getting Mickey and Minnie and Chevelle and Chevron into the barn, Frannie dropped her first lamb in the barnyard.
Luckily Frannie no longer had any interest in Chevron. She was happily cleaning off her little girl, Farah, when I left to get some lunch. Checked in when I finished eating to find that Frannie’s second girl, Fawcet, had safely arrived.
Frannie was busy cleaning off Fawcet and all seemed well. I left to do some brush-hogging. Decided to do a last check before I headed up to the house for the night. That is when I discovered that Frannie had decided to reject Farah. She still wanted Fawcet, but wanted nothing to do with Farah. STUPID SHEEP! First she tries to claim another ewe’s lamb, then she rejects one of her own.
I tried the old trick of rubbing Farah with Fawcet’s placenta to make her smell like the accepted lamb. Frannie wasn’t having any of it. Maybe because the placenta was now cold? I also tried rubbing the lamb and Frannie’s nose with some of Frannie’s discharge. She still wasn’t going for it. In the end I tied Frannie (after a brief, back-wrenching wrestling match) and held her still so Farah could nurse. Laid her down next to Fawcet whose belly was already full. I am hoping morning will show a wiser Frannie, but am not counting on it.
Three new babies yesterday, 4 new babies today. That means some 5 months ago Spaulding bred 6 ewes in 2 days. I gotta tell you, I am impressed. No wonder he lost so much weight when he first arrived. (He has gained it back since.) Sissy and I were a bit concerned that, being a baby doll sheep, Spaulding would sire smaller lambs than we usually get. However, at the time we were desperate. We just needed any sperm donor for the girls, quick. And we didn’t need to worry. We have 20 lambs so far (not even halfway through yet) and they have all been between 8 and 14 pounds. And they are growing very well. They are all nice and solid. Way to go Spaulding! And he has a great personality to boot. I can walk through the barn and the pasture and never have to worry about being attacked. IT IS AWESOME! I’m pretty sure we will be using him for next year’s breeding season, too. Thank you so much Mary and Robbie Spaulding!
Normal chore time is a frenzy of activity in the barn. The sheep hear me coming down the path and start yelling at me before I even open the door. Getting in the barn is sometimes a challenge because the girls are crowded around the door to greet me. They want to go out. NOW! So I have to work my way through the swarm as they simultaneously beg for scratches, yell at me to hurry up, and block my path to the pasture door. Right now as I am fighting my way through, greeting the scratch-beggars, I am also checking for new lambs and ewes in labor.
When it’s time to let them back in it is another tumult. I can’t even get the door completely open before they rush in en mass. They want their grain. NOW! Mass confusion as they run frantically from tub to tub, just in case somebody else has something tastier to eat. Then it is a mad rush to the water tub when it is hot out, or to the mangers when the temperature is comfortable. The bottomless pits stuffing, stuffing, stuffing their bellies. In the mean time I am trying to herd the lambs that got left outside in the frantic rush. Their mamas get so worked up at the idea of eating they leave their lambs outside and the lambs can’t figure out what to do. They run around the barnyard bleating for their mamas and evading my attempts to get them inside. (The little buggers are QUICK!) Once everyone is inside and the door is shut the mass confusion continues are the lambs bleat and rush around in search of their mamas. The ewes are busy chowing down occasionally answering their lambs with mouths full of food. It’s a real hubbub.
Tonight I had to go out to the barn to check on a first time mama who needed a little persuasion to allow her lamb to suckle. I have frozen my digits off many times doing night checks. Tonight was a lovely, mild night. Peaceful. The sheep knew it wasn’t chore time so they were quietly chewing their cud. I could see well enough by the night light so I didn’t turn on the main lights. The ewes were calm, the lambs were calm. And I got to observe some of the drowsy time scenes that always make me smile. Ebony was snoozing on her mama’s back until her twin sister, Ivory, decided it was time to play “king of the mountain”. Mumu just kept chewing her cud through it all.
Found three new babies in the barn this morning. Fawn’s lamb, Frank, was the driest of the three so must have been born first. He weighed in at a whopping 14 lb.!
Marty’s girl, Marge, was still somewhat damp. She weighed in at 11 lb..
Barb’s lamb, Babs, dropped minutes after I walked in the barn. This is Barb’s first time being a mama. She did a great job cleaning Babs off and bonding with her. They seemed to be doing fine when I finished up with chores. Sissy checked on the new lambs when she got out of work. She texted me to say that Barb would not allow Babs to nurse. This happens sometimes with new mamas. They just don’t like the sensation of the lamb touching their udder. Usually if we hold the ewe still while the lamb nurses a few times the mamas get used to it and don’t have further problems. Sissy held Barb this afternoon. Apparently she was really freaking out about it. When I got home later that evening I did the same. Maybe because Barb is more comfortable with me, maybe because it was the sheep’s drowsy time, maybe because I just used the light from the 24-hour night light rather than turning on the barn lights, Barb was quite a bit calmer for me. Babs did not seem ravenous for me. I’m thinking Barb just needed to get used to the idea. I’ll see how they are doing in the morning.