Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Some good things that happened today, in no particular order:
There was a delayed opening in my school so I didn't feel too much guilt about calling in "sheep."
I found a lovely black ram lamb, born to first time black mother and a beautiful white ewe lamb, born to a ewe who is at least ten years old, maybe more. They are both feeding their babies.
I got both moms into the maternity ward without having to use the leg crook and lasso.
I managed to load the dishwasher with three days worth of dishes (the Irish faeries never showed up).
I made a batch of anise soap. I love anise soap.
I found a little ram lamb in the hay feeder in the way back. He was quiet as a church mouse. Mom was standing close by and only made a noise when I picked him up. Got them into the maternity ward where the inn is full up. They are living in the middle aisle with another mom from this morning.
Chores took me from 5 pm to 9:30. I got some nifty hay feeders Gerry rigged in the maternity ward. All the pens will be taken down soon to let the moms and lambs mingle in a kindergarten. Will make my life MUCH easier when I have one hay feeder and one water source. I sure hope the mommies can cope tonight because I am going horizontal for a while. Spouse is going to call me from his hotel to wake me up at 5 am.
Why would anyone want to work SO hard on a sheep farm, devoting so much time and money on having lambs born all time of the day and night? Because it's wonderful, that's why.
Sunday, March 01, 2015
Not to worry - the piggies are not being neglected with the onset of lambing. My regimen of a giant pan of warm slop twice a day along with lots of fresh hay is making the piggies fat and happy. They spend their days slurping up slop, playfully chasing the chickens who try and take advantage of the slop, and napping in their bed of hay. The piggies are putting on weight and spouse is already talking about the inevitable day when they will go to visit Miss Tammy. Last year he was in the hospital when the fateful day arrived. Mary and Robert Jordan stepped in to lend a hand before Scarlett and Sue Ellen took over the farm. They were pretty much running things by June at eight months. I plan on keeping Natasha, the only female, forever and ever. Spouse doesn't know about this, but then, he never reads this journal so my secret should be safe for now.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
I was so worried about more lambs freezing in the way back that when I saw a black ewe with one lamb at the end behind the old stanchions I got ready to move them forward. I noticed the placenta had passed
and the lamb was standing, yet still I waited a while, maybe a half hour to make sure they had mothered up. I got Matt to help me, always good to have an extra pair of hands with my monster sheep the size of ponies. We caught the mom and right away she started freaking, so unlike the little ewe from this morning who had followed me quietly all the way through the barn to her pen in the maternity ward. This girl wouldn't follow her lamb held at eye sight. She bucked and kicked. Matt had her by the halter and couldn't make her move. She lay flat on the hay, panicked. I took the lamb to the safety of the maternity ward and put her in the pen with lovely fresh hay underneath. Her wool was glistening black from the bath she received from her mother's loving tongue. Back to the ewe and Matt who was with her. I looked at her back side and saw hooves sticking out! She was trying to birth a twin when we interrupted her! Here I was trying to prevent a disaster and I was making one! She was not trying to push it out so I helped her. The head was right there, so I reached in, capped my big hand around the top of the head and pulled downward. A long black submarine of a ram lamb slid out. I wiped the nose and mouth and laid it next to mom. She was so upset about the manhandling she totally ignored it. Matt wisely said, wait a minute, give her time. The lamb quivered and shook a bit, then made a sound. She answered back. I decided to take the lamb to the pen and come back and help Matt with her. She didn't make it easy. In a perfect world I could have left her to come to her babies when she was ready, but in a barn full of sheep, in the dark, on a night with plunging temps, I wanted them all together, on fresh hay, with molasses water to invigorate her, and where I could check on them. We pushed and pulled and finally got them together. I thought, oh, no, she will reject the ram lamb in favor of the ewe lamb she had first. I gave the lambs a shot of Nutridrench and left them alone to mother up. As I walked away I saw mom munching on hay. Good girl. I'll go out and put their sweaters on now and hopefully she's calmed down. Good intentions on my part got in the way of what would probably have been a normal maternal bonding. Maybe she'll forgive me with a dinner of cracked corn. Maybe.
Friday, February 27, 2015
My beautiful Margot, Bluefaced Leicester/Border Leicester ewe, first time mom, just can't get used to a lamb pulling on her teats. She does not try to hurt her lamb but she does gently butt him away, kick at him, and lie down so her teats are hidden under her voluminous fleece. She is beautiful enough to get away with this behavior, as often happens with beautiful women. I was tying her to a post and standing next to her, leaning on her so she couldn't prevent him from nursing. Now all we have to do is give her a hug and she stands still. Sandy is so spunky and leaps around the pen playfully. He will dive under her and try to nurse as if to steal some milk before she can move away. I offered him a bottle to supplement his milk but he doesn't like it. I think he has some oral dysfunction as his tongue can't quite latch on to the Pritchard's teat. It slides all around the nipple and sticks out on either side. Maybe he's acting like a "special lamb" so I'll get frustrated and put him back in the pen where the real nipples are. What a smart little guy.
I slept like the dead last night...right through til dawn...and woke up with a start. I usually get up two or three times a night to stoke the stove or do what nature calls for. Not last night. The tip of my nose was cold and spouse was snoring away. He had offered to work from home today to baby sit the lambs and watch for more dropping. No wonder his alarm didn't go off. I got up and built the fire, suited up and went out to the sheep. Little Sandy jumped up to greet me. He still thinks I'm his mother since I've paid more attention to him than the lovely and aloof Margot. I stood still for a moment, listening, and there it was....the sound that cuts right through you....the cry of a new born lamb. I sighed when I realized it was coming from the way way, the coldest place in the barn. I stepped carefully through and over the wooly bodies strewn about and there they were - a big black ewe with a shivering but standing black lamb. I scooped him up - couldn't help but notice the little sac on his belly - and held him to my sweater. Mom didn't like that a bit and instead of following me walking backwards with her lamb to the maternity pen, she bolted. This is never easy. I went inside and woke up my long suffering husband, who quickly suited up to come help me. It works so much better with TWO people. He caught her with the leg crook while I popped on the halter. We got the pair in the pen and I did my business - sweater on, Nutri Drench, cord clipped and dipped in iodine. Matt held mom while I nursed out her teats and caught some colostrum in a cup. I was pleased to find her udder soft and teat unplugged. This strong little guy had surely been nursing already and that's why he is alive. At minus 8 last night, and him born in the freezing way back by the open door, well, he is one tough ram lamb. My daughter said something very wise to me. She said, mom, remember, the lambs that don't survive you have to attribute to natural selection. It's true, in the wild only the strongest lambs born in this frigid cold will survive. I want them all to survive and do my best to make that happen. Sometimes I slip. I used to be very hard on myself about this but over the years I've become more philosophical. If it was up to me I would camp in the barn with them all night long and really be a shepherd. Historically shepherds have lived in the fields with the sheep. Remember who the angels chose to be notified of the imminent birth of the Saviour? They were in the field, under the stars. I like that.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
I had to go back to work today. My aides were valiantly holding on without substitutes while I tended to my lambs. I thought I could make it work if I supplemented little Sandy with a bottle and held mom still while he nursed for a while. Poor little guy, he is uncoordinated a bit and his tongue can't grasp the Pritchard's teat long enough to suck on the bottle. The tongue slides all around his mouth. I had to squeeze gently so the milk would fill his mouth. I worried all day and rushed home as quickly as I could. Sandy seemed to be okay and was happy to see me but not screaming for food. Was mom letting him milk? We filed down his sharp teeth with a tiny file the night before. Was it helping? I didn't have long to think about it as I saw, half way down the long barn, a lamb standing next to her mother. She was very muddy but looked as if she had been on this earth for a few hours. Mom leered at me like "don't you take my baby away." She walked toward the back of the barn and the baby toddled after her. I picked her up and noticed she was cold and wet with mud. Sheep don't always pick the cleanest places to have their lambs. I took the hefty ten pound or so ewe lamb with me and gave her the newborn Nutri Drench, got her clipped and dipped - trimmed the dirty cord and dipped the stub in iodine to prevent infection - and put on one of my larger sweaters. I set her down where mom could see her and went about taking dogs outside to pee, etc., and change my clothes. I set about finding mom, who was calling to her baby but keeping a safe distance. Some people do this so easily, but it's never been easy for me to catch a great big sheep. They run fast and are very powerful. The next hour or so is a blur, mercifully. I toyed with the idea of letting the lamb go to find her mother and live happily ever after. I decided against it when I thought of lambs getting into trouble, or worse, in the past. I was losing my light, and the leg crook kept sliding off her leg which was covered with wool. I decided to do it the old fashioned way and put corn out. While everybody was mashing around the corn I found her in the mob and got her ankle with my crook. l dropped the crook and picked up both her back legs with my hands. Having chased her for so long I was not letting go but she was determined to kick me in the face with those back feet. It must have been quite the scene, with my arms flying in and out in time with her leg thrusts.. I finally, in desperation, pulled her down and laid on top of her while wrapping the rope around her neck I am sure she thought I was going to kill her. At this point spouse came in from work and helped me open the maternity pen gate. Panicky mom was reunited with her baby, who she had been calling to but was not willing to surrender to confinement. Now she is loving it, with cracked corn, warm molasses water, fresh hay, etc. Now mother and child can get to know each other and the baby will be sure to get her belly full whenever she wants it. I served dinner and did chores and suddenly it was ten o'clock at night. Now it's almost eleven. I think I'm too tired to go to bed. Some chamomile tea with milk and honey and I'm going to give it a go. I'll say a prayer and ask God to take care of my barn until morning. He might have to.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I found this little girl flat on the hay this morning. She was fine at 1 am barn check. I suspect she was nursing on the side dry side of mom's udder. Her sister is fine. I've got her in a copy paper box from school, in front of the wood stove, with a heating pad underneath. I nursed out Margot, the young ewe with the ram lamb, and gave it to this baby along with Nutri Drench. She was able to swallow which is much easier than tubing her. I'm hopeful I can bring her back. Breeding older ewes is very tricky. Many lamb just fine, but the babies are not as viable as the lambs young mothers produce - kind of like humans. I won't put her back with mom for fear of a repeat. Looks like I've got myself a bottle baby. Wish I had a milking goat but my Nubians won't give birth for a while. We'll see how it goes...In the mean time Cooper is standing guard. No cat or dog dare come near.
20 above instead of 20 below. Forty degrees makes a world of difference. If it would only stay like this...but it won't because it is upstate New York and I'm lambing. Everything was fine at 1 am but not 6 am. I don't know what made me think I might be able to go to work today. Thank goodness I have sick (sheep) days and two very capable classroom aides to help me through this challenging time. I didn't lamb for the last two years which lulled me into a dream-like world of happy dancing lambs who are born easily and who all survive. Reality bites. Nobody standing over chilled lambs in the way back this morning but one of the little ewe lambs born of the aged mother was lying flat in her pen. I scooped her up, warm mouth, but obviously starved. She was probably nursing from the non-working side of the udder while her sister had the one with the milk. I've got her in a box inside my workshop covered in sweaters, Luckily she's able to swallow. Gave her Nutri-drench with the propylene glycol, molasses, electrolytes, etc. Sandy, ram lamb, was yelling for breakfast. Margot, his drop dead gorgeous young mother with the heavy lustrous fleece (or else I might strangle her) was still not letting him nurse. I tied her to the post, leaned on her with my thighs and put Sandy under her. I heard slurping and licking and finally a sucking sound. Maybe one day old makes enough of a difference and he can finally nurse by himself - if she would only let him. I held her there for a few minutes so he could get his fill. When I let go Margot was pee-ohed me and tried to butt me. Kind of funny actually. I turned her massive body around and milked out the other udder for my weak ewe lamb. Sandy stopped yelling so I guess he's full for now. Many shepherds cull sheep who are not good mothers, but I don't want to lose this girl. Her fleece is magnificent, like her father, Zack, a Border Leicester ram I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool a few years back. What a pussycat he was, gigantic with a thick fleece. I have hopes that Margot will calm down and let her boy nurse. She gets cracked corn and all the hay she can eat. Life is good in that hotel, all I ask is that she feed her baby. Now for a bit of breakfast for the shepherd and a bath. I've had the same barn clothes on for two days. If anyone came to the door I would faint. Or maybe they would. The intercom is quiet except for chickens and ducks. Even the pigs are quiet right now. I'm exhausted but that's how it goes. When I came back in at 2 am I shut off the intercom and got a few hours sleep. Doesn't feel like it. Will milk out Margot and feed the weak girl in a couple of hours.
Little ram lamb born today is not happy. His beautiful mother, first timer, is still very nervous and doesn't like him around her teats. She dropped him in a great spot this morning, near the lambing pens, but ran off to join her friends at the hay racks in back of the barn. The fact that he is a monster, ten pounds at least, didn't make her feel any more kindly toward him. I had to pull her back up front and put them together in a "jug" so they could get mothered up. Not going so well. She has lovely teats and a virgin udder producing rich milk but she's not giving it up easily. I had to tie her head to a post and nurse her out several times today to give the boy a meal. I'm worried that she didn't pass the placenta, but she might have dropped it in the hay in the way back where I didn't see it. Don't think there is another monster in there. The lamb, I named him Sandy after my friend Sandy McGuire - it's her birthday - is a real sweetie and keeps "rooting" on my leg. I spent so much time in the jug with him today he thinks I'm his mother. While holding mom I put his mouth up against her teat and did my best to make him suckle. He's a little slow on the uptake, sliding his mouth all around but not latching on. I think I have a bottle baby on my hands. That presents all kinds of issues, like how the heck do I go to work? I've taken lambs to work with me before and always got caught. People see them in my car where I can visit them on my lunch period for bottle feeding and report it to the office. I sneaked a lamb into the classroom a couple of times. The students loved it but the principal found out and reminded me that we don't have an animal husbandry program at our school. Matt has heroically taken lambs to work for me without too much trouble, but that's only in a last resort. All this is very muddy at one forty in the morning. The intercom is noisy, with Thor barking all night - I noticed that Knut sleeps better than Thor - and roosters crowing. I heated a milk replacer bottle for Sandy but he's not crazy about it. I don't blame him. Nothing like mother's milk. He's a little uncoordinated with the sucking thing just yet. I wanted to wander back to the end of the barn, where most moms like to drop their babies, but everybody is lying down like big wooly mounds scattered about and I don't want to make them jump up and run. Hopefully my chamomile tea will help me get back to sleep and I will be able to figure out what to do in the morning light. I might have more lambs by then. Many pregnant girls with huge bellies. The tiny ewe lambs from yesterday are wonderful, delicate little angels. They take turns nursing from their aged mother with one working teat. I picked them up to check their bellies for fullness and mouths for warmth - that's how I take their temperature. I kissed them and thanked them for being such good little girls. I need an area for moms and babies so the little ones won't get trampled. A space that would be perfect for that is taken up with PIGS right now. I'll figure that out later, after some blessed sleep...