Mumu had twins today. Both girls weighed in at 10 lb.. The black one is Ebony, the white one is Ivory. Notice the white patches on the back of Ebony’s ears. I am loving all these nice big, healthy babies. And such a late lambing means we don’t have to worry about chilled newborns.
Another new baby today. Flower became a first time mama today. Floyd weighed in at 11 lb, big for a yearling’s lamb. Being a first-timer, Flower has to learn a few things. She did well cleaning him off and letting him nurse. But, she needs to learn that she can’t head out of the barn at a run with the rest of the herd. Poor Floyd didn’t even know what happened. One minute his mama was there, the next minute she was gone. I carried him out to pasture with him bleating the whole way. A soon as Flower heard him she remembered she had a baby. She started running around frantically, calling for him. She couldn’t seem to understand that he was with me. I finally made her understand where he was and, using the lamb to coax her, got her back into the barn. I felt she needed some more practice at being a mama before being outside with him.
In the meantime Lily, Cora, and their respective babies seem to have sorted everything out. The correct babies are bonded with the correct mamas.
As soon as I entered the barn this morning I could hear the “chuckling” of a new mama. Looked around to locate the new lamb and saw TWO new lambs. Here’s the problem: there were two ewes circling, chuckling, and licking both lambs. Say whaaat? In the meantime the rest of the flock is milling around, looking for scratches and yelling at me to let them out to pasture. OK, first thing is to open the door and get the rest of these fools out of the way.
Now how in the heck do I figure out who belongs to whom? The lambs are mostly dry and are fairly small. If not for the two ewes I would have said they are twins. They are both responding to both ewes. On closer inspection of the ewes I can see that Cora has both mucus and blood discharging from her back end, while Lily has only mucus but no blood. Hmmm… I think what happened is Cora gave birth to twins while Lily began labor and Lily got confused. That is what I thought, but I wasn’t sure.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want the lambs to bond with the wrong mama and then get rejected by the right one. Called Sissy in on the case. She also was “pretty sure” the lambs both belonged to Cora and that Lily had not lambed yet. While Sissy and I were assessing the situation, Levi was helping to come up with names for the new lambs. So there we were; two insistent ewes, two confused ram lambs, two adult humans, and one little boy, grouped in the corner of the barn. It was too much for Lily. She felt threatened and knocked Levi down. Then she backed up and knocked him down again before Sissy and I could even react.
Levi was crying because he was taken by surprise and his hand had hit the wall when Lily butted him. Sissy and I felt bad because Levi was hurt and because we hadn’t been quick enough see it coming and prevent it. Plus we still weren’t sure what to do with the sheep. Every one is feeling pretty low at this point. Along comes Ruby to dispel the blues. She flaps up onto Lily’s back as if she wants to play mid-wife. Levi stopped crying and we all got a good laugh.
Sissy decided we should pen Cora and the lambs in the creep for now and wait for Lily to lamb. It wasn’t too long after this that Lily started getting into serious labor. She was still calling to Cora’s lambs, but was too busy to hover outside the pen. Every time she finished straining she would whip around to examine the floor behind her, expecting to see a lamb there. Maybe she thought if she stole two babies that were already born she would not have to go through labor?
Anywho, it was not long before Lily had a lamb of her own to clean off. And a short time after that she had ANOTHER lamb to clean. Two little girls this time. And about 30 seconds after number 2 was born, Ruby started her egg-laying cackle from the wall ledge she jumped to from Lily’s back.
I texted Sissy and she and Levi came back to the barn so Levi could name the babies. He had already named Cora’s boys Spot and Dot. Now he named Lily’s girls Ginny and Hermione. (He loves Harry Potter.) Sissy and Levi left and things were quiet in the barn. Cora and her lambs were calm, Lilly was busy taking care of her lambs. I decided it should be safe to let Cora, Spot and Dot out of the creep. Yeah, not so much. As soon as Lily noticed them out of the pen she tried to steal Spot and Dot again. She started calling to them and running back and forth between them and her own lambs. She wanted to keep ALL FOUR lambs! And Spot and Dot were so confused. Lily’s smell told them she was the mama they belonged with, but Lily’s voice told them they should go with her.
To sum things up, all lambs are with their correct mamas now. Cora, Spot and Dot are spending the night in the creep. Hopefully by morning everyone will be bonded with who they should be bonded with. Apparently Spaulding had a busy day some 5 months ago!
Monday was brutally hot and humid. The girls spent most of their outside time panting in the shade, rather than grazing. Mary kept coming to the gate wanting to come back in the barn. She had passed her mucus plug, so I knew she was close to lambing. So I let her in the barn. 5 Minutes later she wanted to go back out with the rest of the flock. She could not decide between the security of the barn and the security of the herd. We played the in-and-out game a few more times until I got irritated and made her stay out. She did not appear to be in labor yet when I finished chores, but I was fully expecting to find a new lamb when I entered the barn Tuesday morning. And was disappointed. She went out with the others and came to the gate a couple times but I made her stay out this time. Her water broke right before I let the girls back in. I checked on Mary before I headed to the house to get ready for work. She seemed to be progressing normally and I was not worried. I Showered, changed, and ate some lunch. Checked in her real quick before I left for work. She was cleaning off a nice big ram lamb. He was on his feet, wobbly but looking healthy. I was dressed for work and had to leave. Texted Sissy to please check on them when she came to pick up Levi when she got out of work. She found and named little Mario. She also found that Mary had delivered a second lamb. This was a big ewe lamb. Mary was trying desperately to get the lamb up, but she was dead. Sissy says that while Mary had cleaned the ewe lamb’s back half, the placenta was covering the lamb’s face. We have no way of knowing for sure if the lamb was born alive, but it looks like the poor little thing suffocated. Sissy weighed Mario in at 12 lb. and the ewe lamb was just as big. That is really big for twins. When I saw how big the ram lamb was, it did not occur to me there might be a twin still to come. So, we had our first casualty of this year’s lambing season, but I am happy to say Mario is doing very well.
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!