Thursday, January 31, 2008
My chickens are waiting out the winter in the room where they live. The young Bantam hens I rescued last year are starting to lay their little eggs. I have some gorgeous roosters who make the hen's lives rather miserable...but they sure are pretty to look at. I caught them after they got up high in preparation for going night-night
24 hours of watching and waiting brought another ram lamb into the farm family. He's a big strapping boy and doing fine. Matt was on night duty and let Prudence and Patience out of their pen to put this pair in. I was nervous about letting them go, but it was done and they seem to be fine. I just came in from chores, which take longer now with five lambing pens that need water seperate from the stock tanks. It gives me time to be with the flock and I can watch what's going on with them while I work. I did tail and scrotum docking on two pair of twins so I can let them go if I need pens during the night. I'm on night duty tonight, which means staying on the sofa and going out into the barn every two or three hours. Many of the resting sheep have little ears and eyes peaking out from under them. Snow and sleet expected tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The barn is alive with lambs, and now goat kids coming. Buddy, Benny and Betty are doing fine. Betty hardly weighs a thing and I don't know how she is alive, but she's tip-toeing around and doing little hops in the air. Does my heart good. After a day like today I could use it. I asked the auto tech guys to look at my truck to try and fix the heat. With no heat there is no way of melting the snow and ice on my windshield and the truck is not driveable. I handed over the keys on the way into the building. After lunch the teacher came to get me. A student was driving my truck into the garage and cut the turn too tight. My right side is bashed in. The kid was hiding somewhere in the school. On top of that, they couldn't fix the heat. Now I have a wrecked truck with no heat. Tomorrow I will find the kid no matter where he is hiding. The stars and planets are stunning tonight and it's just the right temperature - about 20 F. Lambs and kids won't freeze too quickly. Breeze is still outside, which I understand because he likes it there, but I want him in the barn. He hates to be petted, so I started petting his ears, head and neck. He started pulling himself away from me, in the direction of the barn which I wanted, then stopped. I tried lifting up his rear then he did something he's never done - he showered me with spit! I decided to leave him alone. He got his Banamine tonight and I pray it gives him some relief. We'll call Dr. Rachel tomorrow.
As Matt was going to bed after the night shift he told me to let the flock out before I leave. We had the fence panel up over the East End door so that nobody would go outside to give birth in the wet and cold. I got my bath ready, got my jeans out of the dryer, etc., then went out to say hello/goodbye to my babies and let the flock out to play. I slide the panel aside and the thundering horde ran out in front of me. I looked down and gasped when I saw a tiny goat kid right in front of me, trampled by the mob. How could I not have seen it???? I scooped it up and held it to my chest. Poor thing was wet, cold and flattened, but still alive. I knew there must be a mom nearby, as goat moms do not abandon their kids. Sure enough, she ran back in the barn, confused and calling for her baby. I tried to grab a horn, but she was too quick. I decided to take care of the kid first. Do I wake up Matt? I had to leave for work...I had about ten minutes. Ran back in the apt. to get my newborn kit and heard Matt snoring loudly from the spare bedroom. I frankly didn't want to wake the sleeping dragon and deal with his stuff. Ran back and laid the kid down in a jug, did his cord, put a sweater on. I still couldn't catch Mom who was on the other side of the barn, standing next to the spot where I found the baby, calling for him. She freaked and ran away again. I decided to get some colostrum from the mom who gave birth yesterday. Goats don't like their teats fiddled with, even less than sheep. Fortunately they are smaller and have horns (handles) and this one was captured. I pulled her baby off her teat, straddled her back and held my cup under her teat. I nursed her out while keeping her still with my thighs. Got about a quarter cup and gave it to the newborn who was flat out on the hay. Goat kids don't take milk squirted down their throats as well as lambs. They gargle, cough and protest while trying to spit out every precious drop. I was determined and made him take it. Went to look for Mom again and somehow caught her, then dragged her to her baby. Locked them in then ran to get ready for work. As I went out the door to my truck with no heat, I saw Mom lapping up the warm molasses water I gave her, a good picture for me to take with me. I'll call Matt in a couple of hours to make sure he knows he has a new charge in the maternity ward.
My first goat kid was mewing outside behind the round bales in the dark. Breeze was straining to get up and check on the baby. I got behind him and pulled/pushed with all my might. He jumped up, walked a few steps to take a look - llamas LOVE new babies - and down he went. I focused on the baby as my heart was breaking for my big white ANGEL who is so sick. Mom was right there with her baby but I discovered, to my horror, that her foot was tangled up in baling twine. She couldn't have come into the barn to give birth if she wanted to. This twine issue is extremely annoying. I'll have to cut if off when the bale comes in. New goatie baby is just fine, a good size buck kid - a miniature Tommy Boy. Mom adores him. I have a few small goat sweaters...good thing considering cold and wind is coming back. Patience tried to jump on Prudence's back to sleep and mom didn't like it. She's still getting comfortable with her Mommy role. Off to work.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I was lying in bed this morning savoring those few moments when I can allow myself to rest a bit before rolling out. I heard clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop coming into the bedroom and there they were...two tiny little long-legged creatures in their knitted sweaters, exploring around. It was Benny and Buddy, my two little alien creatures, with pointed ears and twitching black noses. Betty is not strong enough to walk around that much. She's so tiny and barely weighs a thing. Bluefaced Leicester lambs are unlike any other that I've seen. They resemble fawns with their pointy noses and ears. Their black hoofs against the wood floors makes them sound heavier than they are. Once in a while their legs take over and down they go. I'm reminded of the Imperial Walkers in the Star Wars movie. The lambs looked at themselves in the big mirror, still sitting on the bedroom floor, and were quite amused with what they saw. The boys turned around and clip-clopped back out again. What a treat - I thought about them several times today. When I got home I checked on everybody, with special attention to Prudence and her lamb, who I've named Patience. Patience is still trying to nurse and Prudence is still skittish about it. I opened the gate to the pen and stepped in. Patience went under her mother's back legs and found the teat. To my delight (and I'm sure Patience's) Mom let her nurse. Maybe she remembered me holding her up against the wall of the pen last night? I don't know...but I stood there for some time so Patience could get a bellyfull. Let's hope Mom decides it's better to suffer the discomfort of her lamb's mouth than have her udder engorged with too much milk. My truck has no heat...not too much of a problem today but cold, cold weather is coming back again tomorrow. The BOCES automotive students will look at it tomorrow. Breeze is still down - Matt got him up for a few moments today, then he went back down. I want to get a halter on him and haul him inside the barn. I don't like those bent limbs on the icy ground. Have to call Dr. Rachel and ask her for another assessment before we make any decisions. Kelly says the lambs she took are doing fine. She and Steve have them for the week before they go to the horse farm. They bought them sweet feed and corn and put up heat lamps. They even seperated the bigger ones from the tiny runts to help the little ones catch up. I looked it up on this journal and found that I got the ram out on Sept. 23 (ouch - way too late.) Three more weeks of birthing. Light at the end of the tunnel.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Went out to do my last barn check before I wake up Matt for his shift. Prudence was butting away her new lamb who was trying to nurse. She kept dancing around this way and that, trying to get to the teat, for the teat is life itself, and mom would butt her away. I watched for a while then became slightly annoyed. I got in the pen and did one of my Rulan Gardner wrestling moves, pinning Mom up against the rail with my body, restraining her head and rear with my arms. She didn't fight me as much as I thought she would. Little ewe lamb ran under her mother and latched on to a teat. I was very satisfied, leaning my head on the wooly back while listening to sucking and slurping underneath. This went on for about ten minutes then I let Prudence go. She didn't leap away, just stood there wondering what happened. Maybe there is hope for them...but I am off to bed.
Prudence, Yellow Tag #1, dropped a gigantic ewe lamb outside under the stars. Fortunately Matt went outside to check on Breeze and saw four lambs with sweaters standing in a circle around another lamb. On closer inspection he saw the one in the middle didn't have a sweater. It was a newborn, standing up, as big as the others and glistening with wetness. Mom was nowhere around. He got me out of the apt. where I was feeding the babies and we searched for the mother. I put lambie in a pen on dry hay. Found Mom with an afterbirth hanging, caught her and put her in with the lamb. She wants nothing to do with it but is not seriously rejecting her either. I took care of the lamb, marvelling at the size of the baby produced with mom eating only grass hay, and pulled a sweater onto her healthy torso. Prudence is a first time mother, two years old. Popping this hefty lamb out must have hurt like crazy. She ran away from the pain and who could blame her? She let me nurse her out without too much trouble - amazing considering that she is flustered from the birth - and I gave it to the hungry lamb. Matt threw some hay in the pen for us and Mom was ravenous. While she was eating I guided the lamb to the teat. You should have seen Mom's face when that little mouth latched on to her...wide eyed amazement. I sat with them a while and took it all in. Mom butted the baby a couple of times but not too bad. I believe she got some nourishment. At this point I am hoping they get used to each other. Mom is not talking to the lamb at all, a bad sign. Poor little girl. I surely don't need another bottle baby. Slightly overwhelmed by my situation, I wandered outside and stared up at the stars. Thankfully, this light show is free. I saw two shooting stars in the space of five minutes and realized how insignificant this all is. I can't afford batteries for my camera, or ear tags for my lambs and had to skip my Sunday NY Times yesterday, but I can still enjoy the stars. I saw constellations I never knew existed, and planets glowing in colors. Jupiter is supposed to be visible next to Venus in the next couple of days. I think I have five more ewes to go, and bet they will come in the next few days. The angora goats will start any day now too. They pose a different problem as they will have to be "crotched" after birthing. There is so much hair around the teats it's very hard for babies to find them. Matt is feeling so guilty about being out of work for so long and causing us so much difficulty, along with not getting the ram/buck out in time, that he's trying to be especially helpful. I confess it's convenient to have someone home during the day. Bottle for Buddy, Benny and Betty then back out to the barn to make sure everyone is on the teat. I'll take another peak at the stars.
I drove 50 miles to the staff development meeting at our sister school in Masonville and got the best bagel I've had since I've moved to New York. They must have had them delivered from The City, as they call it. Hmmmm, good, and it held me up for most of the morning. A whole day of learning how to do special ed paperwork. Somebody please shoot me! The bureaucracy of special education is daunting...with random files being pulled and examined by the State. I wish it was just about helping the kids. I had a good time with my friends from C-Wing and we made the best of it. I am special ed, on loan to the academic section of our alterntive school, so I do some workshops with both teams. I staggered out of there, bought a few things to give Matt for dinner, and made it home to find he had just put a new mother and twins in the jug. The maternity ward is filling up again. Only three tiny ones in the apt., two from aged ewes who are retired as of now. Most of the lambs are fine. I'm running out of sweaters! Jan has a box of three in the mail now. I have another one on the needles. I figure I maybe another month of births then its over. I know I had the ram and buck out before Oct. 1 and it takes five months to grow a lamb/kid. Beautiful day out today but I was stuck inside - ugh! Breeze still down...I'm going to lie down myself before chores.
Finally! The long awaited birth of Dulce's lamb just happened. I did my pre-night-night barn check and Dulce was walking up and down the corridor on the side of the East End barn addition, baaing loudly to her unborn lamb. I watched her push for a while then realized it would be a long delivery. She pushed and pushed and the little hoofs showing wouldn't turn into legs, face and shoulders. I tried pulling gently to move things along but Dulce wouldn't have it. I decided to make myself some chamomile tea, fold the laundry, get my birthing kit together and let Dulce do her thing. When I came back to the freezing end of the barn, there was a HUGE ewe lamb - up and prancing around in the cold, but Dulce was stretched out and not moving. I feared she was dead. Dulce is an "aged ewe" and the lamb is so big, I thought it did her in. I picked up the lamb and put it by her nose. She immediately started talking and licking it. I squirted some Nutri Drench into both their mouths, dried off the lamb and put one of Auntie Jan's sweaters on. Tight fit, but just fine. I decided to check Dulce for a possible twin inside, but nothing there that I could feel. It was years before I could put my hand inside a sheep, but sometimes it has to be done. Nursed out colostrum for the baby and gave it to her. I pulled Dulce's head up, swung her around and she jumped up. As soon as she was on her feet she started fussing over her lamb. Good girl, Dulce. I led them into a pen on the warmer side, got the bucket of hot molasses water and a flake of hay. Wished them good night - same to you. One AM and work tomorrow.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Breeze got up with assistance and walked over to a round bale rather steadily tonight. Gives me some hope. Matt came in the apt. to tell me a "big white sheep" just had a lamb. Got out there in time to see a BIG slimey white torpedoe sliding out of her - she had a pair of giant ram lambs. Mom was licking and talking to them both as they struggled to their feet. All births should go like this. Healthy lambs sliding right out to a loving mother. I don't recall every having lambs so heavy. She had so much colostrum I milked out a jar for the tiny bottle lambs inside. I had some big sweaters ready and got the boys cleaned up and "dressed." Mom has very pendulous teats, which can be a problem for bigger lambs - they have to bend down to get ahold of them. I was in the jug helping them "find" the teat, but mom gave me a gentle butt, telling me to get lost. I'm hoping the boys it themselves before mom gets tired and lies down. My camera needs new batteries, hope to post a picture tomorrow. Back to work tomorrow. It's staff development day in Masonville, our sister BOCES, almost 50 miles away. Expensive trip, but a good topic - "The Trouble With Boys." It's a topic I'm familiar with (three brothers.)
It's one of those days where you could lie on a snow bank and get some color on your face. Up until three AM with lambs, up at 7. Two of my aged ewes gave birth last night and neither was in shape to take care of them. Lonnie had the tiniest little ewe lamb and not a drop of milk. I saw her doing that standing and staring during feeding time and put her in a pen so I could feed her seperately, without interference from other sheep. She ate corn and hay like she was hollow inside. Low and behold, around midnight, there was a tiny mewing little baby in the pen with her. Lonnie was standing, looking away from the baby and chewing on hay...still hungry. Did all my tricks but not interested. When I milked out her teats, there was nothing there. Brought the baby inside. Around two I went for another walk-through and on the way back was shocked to see my Donna, who had prolapsed last year, was lying on the floor with two ram lambs behind her, still in bags, wavering slightly, not licked off. Got them all penned up, wiped off, heat lamp, Nutri Drench, the whole deal. Got a few drops of colostrum from her and gave it to all three. She, also, was not in any shape to nurse lambs. Babies too weak to stand and cold. I decided to help the moms get back in shape and take care of the lambs myself. Lost one of the ram twins in the night. Three in the neonatal ICU. Matt got round bales this morning and most of the flock is chowing down on them in the sun. It would be a wonderful site to see but poor Breeze is not good and can't get up to eat them, despite the Banamine which helped when he first became symptomatic with meningeal worm. Matt and I together can't get his back legs up. I won't let him suffer and lay in the weather they way I have seen other people do with their llamas, putting off the inevitable. When I bought Chris and Breeze in New Jersey they were living on a hard packed patch of dirt in the front yard. Ironically, the fields, streams and ponds they enjoyed so much with me contained the snails that carry this parasite. It's the high, dry pastures that are less dangerous (unless a deer carrying the worm decides to walk through and drop thousands of eggs with a single poop). After losing my goats to it last fall, and now this, I could just give up. But that is farming - the agony and the ecstacy. Unbearable cuteness, incredible sadness and tragedy. While in the barn today I watched the new lambs running and jumping, doing their little mule kicks and loving life. That's what keeps me going even with blows like this gut wrenching meningeal worm. When Dr. Rachel was last here for Breeze she told me about local alpaca people with deep pockets taking their animals to Cornell for treatment - to no avail. I'm not going to put Breeze or myself through that. If a miracle happens and this marvelous sunshine and the meds gives him the strength to get up, I will be ecstatic...but I have to prepare myself for the worst.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Kelly and Steve came to get the ten lambs. I shouldn't be in the sheep business. It was like seeing my children go out the door. Kelly had a bale of hay in the back of her mini-van and the sheep started chowing down right away. They will stay in Kelly's back yard in South Otselic for a week and then go to join the flock at the horse farm in Cortland. I gave her five ewe lambs, four wethers and one intact ram lamb, but he is the runtiest, tiniest one. Maybe with enough food to eat he'll start growing. He kept getting pushed away from the hay with my big bruisers. From the sale of these lambs I can buy ten round bales that will last a week - hopefully. We cleaned my future work room which had become a catch all for all the apartment overflow - what a mess with tools, painting supplies, fiber, fabric, plastic storage tubs, veterinary supplies, etc. all helter skelter. Doesn't company coming work wonders. The cleaning frenzy combined with the sale of lambs helped boost Matt's outlook on life for the better. He's decided not to pack his bags and head out for Argentina or New Zealand. He says that even with the poverty, misery and drudgery of living with me on the farm he finds me more exciting than any other woman he's been with. The poor man has really gone off the deep end...
Friday, January 25, 2008
Kelly arranged the sale of some of my flock to a friend of hers. The well-to-do friend owns a 500 acre horse farm near Cortland and has a barn full of hay and corn. I can hardly stand to think about it but I want my sheep to have enough to eat. This is a fiber, not meat, home and I don't see how I can turn it down. I've put it off as long as I could, but with Matt out of work for two months...well, you know the story. My moms need hay and I don't have it. Kelly will come tomorrow and get them with her trailer so it's over quickly.
No lambs today. I spent my morning proctoring a Regents exam and the afternoon riding around with my friend Kelly, the Career Academy aide, delivering exams to the home schools. It was a nice break and we had time to chat about this and that. We were going to stop for lunch but since we both had about a dollar fifty in our pockets we decided to just enjoy the ride around beautiful and sunny Central New York...all 100 miles worth. Our sending districts are spread all over. On Monday we have to drive to our sister BOCES school in Masonville, 50 miles away from me. We'll be attending a seminar entitled, "The Trouble With Boys." Growing up with three brothers, I can write a book on it. Kelly is going through a real rough time right now. Her husband, Steve, helped us build this apartment, then had a terrible accident. He fell through the rotted bottom of a hay wagon and broke his back. Four discs crushed. Steve is permanently disabled but lucky for him, he is married to Kelly - a real tough, kind, talented and capable farm girl. She will hold it all together. I wonder if she knows how much she inspires me to hold this Farm all together. I got home to find Buddy and Benny doing very well. Buddy is sucking on the Pritchards teat and Benny is running across the floor of the apt. I just have to keep up on Buddy so he doesn't slip. Still very cold, but will be milder this weekend. No lambs today. Have to keep an eye on all the little ones to make sure everyone is on the teat and not getting trampled by big ones. We'll get those big wethers, Andrew, Frodo, Bilbo, Aragorn, Patrick, etc. out of the girls pen this weekend. I want the main barn to be the maternity ward. Better get out there and check on everybody. Dark now at six instead of five - spring is on the way.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Made my way to work feeling guilty leaving the Farm, with so many babies and pregnant moms on deck. Matt had a job interview in Norwich and had left before me. The icy winter wonderland glistening in the rising sun helped me forget my worries and I actually arrived at work on time. It's Regents week and I was on proctoring duty in the PM. A meeting after work took an hour and a half, putting me home much later than usual. Matt was hanging on by a thread. He had one two year old black ewe give birth to a beautiful, hefty black ewe lamb - "Serena." She was skittish but he got her jugged up and milked out. I fixed dinner while he started chores. Afterwards I went out to check on all the newborns and moms and do bunnies, hay, water in all the jugs, etc. I walked to the East End of the barn and there he was, a tiny white lamb, curled up against the cold blowing in the open door, licked off but no mother in sight. The sheep were all eating so I looked around for a cord hanging from a rear end. There she was, my new purebred BFL ewe, purchased from Kathy Davidson in Pa. I snatched up the baby and wrapped him in my sweater. Teeny, tiny, thing, he was a ice cube. Matt helped me catch mom, but there was no room at the inn! All the lambing pens were full. We had to "process" lambs and moms (selenium shots, tail and scrotum bands, worming) in two pens to free them up for this pair and at least one for whatever comes in the night. In went Polly Purebred and her ice cube. I put a thick angora sweater on him and squeezed enough colostrum from mom to fill his belly. He could swallow but not much else. The thick collar held up his head, and the long sweater covered his whole back. Matt moved our one heat lamp to shine on him before he staggered off to bed. He will be up at 1 am to take over. I went about bunny and chicken feeding and kept an eye on the new lambsicle. I decided to take him in the house and give him some of the colostrum I saved from his mother after the first feeding. I held him on my lap and warmed his still translucent hoofs in my sweater. Fed Buddy, too, then put them both in the laundry basket. I can't put "Benny" back in the barn. It's wicked cold out there, and the wind is shaking the barn over my head. Just can't do it. Maybe we'll see about tomorrow, but for now, Buddy has a friend.
Just got another set of twins in the jug. They must have been on the ground for a while as I was feeding Buddy, watching TV and knitting on another lamb sweater. The ewe lamb is fine, up and nursing, the boy is weaker. Mom, a gorgeous purebred BFL, let me nurse her out but she didn't even have hardly a cup full of colostrum. There was no panel to close them in, so I had to dismantle part of another one and cut wires to hold it together. I had to get her some hay, but ALL the sheep were up and looking for food, as if it were their normal feeding time, not twelve o'clock at night. Up in the dark hay mow, throw down the bales, and a riot started down below. Climbed down, threw them out, and somehow pulled one away from the mob for the new mom. It was a pretty green bale and she was famished. Made it easier for me to pull on her teats and squeeze out some gooey milk. The little ewe was on the opposite teat, the boy lying down looking very sleepy. I filled him up with as much as I could get and got sweaters on them both. Did their cords and got Mom her molasses bucket. The White Boys are going crazy out there in the moonlight. Coyotes on the move? 8 degrees outside but I got so hot in with the sheep I had to take my jacket off. Guess I am getting acclimatized. Breeze is not looking so good again. Had to make him get up twice today. All I need is a sick llama now! Have to wake up Matt for his shift. He is snoring so contentedly I hate to do it...
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
It's just too cold in the barn for this skinny little lamb. He is nothing but skin and bones. The doggies are very amused with this tiny creature. I am trying to keep him full of milk, hard to do because he is not an aggressive nurser. I changed his sweater from pink to grey/blue, more appropriate for a young ram lamb.
Sometimes I think is this really happening? That's why I've got to write it down, at least the part that I can remember when the dust clears. I took the evening shift while Matt slept. Did my last barn check at midnight then went to bed. Matt agreed to take the midnight shift but I didn't wake him up until 2 am. When I woke at 5 and saw he wasn't in the apt. I knew something must be going on. Laid back down and sure enough he came in and said he needed help getting a new mother in the jug. This can be very tricky. Sheep pick a spot and "dig" out a hole to have their lambs, and that's where they like to stay. I told him to go to bed and I would take care of it. There she was, in the middle of the barn with a huge ewe lamb. I tidied up the jug then went to get her lamb. I did my Quasimoto backward walk with the lamb screaming - it's better if she yells to keep the ewe's attention - toward the jug. Mom got half way there then turned around and ran through the barn calling for her baby. I decided to try a different tack and put the lamb in the jug. I found the mother and got behind her and walked toward her. Naturally she ran away from me but in the right direction. She noticed some sheep eating the hay that was in the jug from the last lamb and ran in there with them, and her baby. Whew! In the pasture a lamb might or might not mother up okay, but I like to minimize my losses, especially when it's costing me a small fortune to have these sheep. If I'm going to have them I'm going to try to do it right. I found a sweater - unbelievable what different sizes I need for these lambs. Last year's sweaters are partially felted from washing and don't stretch well. They will be fine for the goat kids when they come. For now I find myself using bigger sweaters - a relief in a way since I was worried about the size of my lambs with no grain being fed to the pregnant moms. Found one that might fit and got in the jug. Mom had a cord hanging but no afterbirth...always a concern. There might be another lamb in there. Retained placenta can cause infection. Should I give her oxytocin? I only like to do that if I have to...I waited and took care of the lamb, a big beautiful girl. Mom let me nurse her out, to my surprise, and I fed the lamb with my little syringe. I saved some for Buddy. Colostrum does not have the same antibodies when consumed by a lamb after a day old. The lamb's stomach is lined with receptors that take in the antibodies with decreasing efficiency after a day of life. I still wanted to give Buddy some warm, gooey milk. It has to do him some good. I went back to check on mom, still no afterbirth. Took a walk to the East End, also the Ice Box of the barn. This later addition has no insulation at all in the roof and with the big door frozen open the temperature here is dramatically colder. Then I heard the sounds - a mother speaking to her unborn baby, talking it into the world. I saw my most beautiful ewe, Myrna's daughter, pawing at the hay. Okay, it's 7 am. Matt is unconscious. I had to make a judgement call, am I going to work? I hate to take sick days but I couldn't leave this new mother in the freezing cold to give birth alone. The BOCE people have been very supportive of my farming efforts, and I haven't taken any sick days in January. I dialed up the computer and reported in "sheep" today. Went back to the barn and there was the bubble, then there was the lamb!! Same deal as before, she didn't want to leave the freezing spot where she dropped her lamb, and the walk back to the inner barn where the jugs are is a long way. We did it in three steps. I took the lamb a ways, then when she broke away I put the lamb down and let her come back to inspect it. On the third leg I put the lamb in the jug and the same thing happened - she ran in to get the hay. I went in to get my second (third?) cup of coffee and clean up my jar and syringe from the last birth. I decided to give this mom some time to get used to her new baby and the jug. I thought I should get hay down for the flock and the new moms, too. Up the ladder. I always marvel at the enormity of my "house," and imagine a time when it was a thriving 350 farm, with the mow filled to the brim, and the pre-Sisters climbing up the bales to change the light bulbs every year. Back to the task at hand. I threw down bales from the hole we cut in the wall to the new addition, then a bale to the Rambos and Merinos with the goat kids, then three bales down the ladder to the West End where the jugs are. I have to climb down and wade (or fight) my way through the sheep to get to the bales. They are so desperate for food they stand on the smaller sheep. I pulled a yearling out from under the crowd last night who had fainted away. I usually keep the bales tied up so less is wasted, but I needed to break open a bale for the three moms in jugs. I turned around and there was another lamb in the pen with the latest mom! Two little black twins! I got my gear, climbed in with them and found that they are one of each, a ewe and a ram lamb. This is especially satisfying because these are Myrna's grand lambs. Myrna is one of my early ewes who had twice miscarried full term twins. It was just hearbreaking and I will never forget pulling up to the field and seeing two little black dots lying in the grass. Myrna had run up to me, baaing like crazy, as if to say, Mama! Mama! You can't imagine what just happened! They were huge, must have been an awful birth. And they were dead. So last year when Myrna had these gorgeous ewe twins, one white and one black, I rejoiced. These lambs are her legacy. I think Myrna is pregnant again. Let's hope things go as well as they did this morning with her daughter.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Last night a "teenage mother" dropped this baby and decided "I'm outta here." We caught her and tried to get her to like her baby, or at least tolerate him enough to let him nurse. No deal. She wanted nothing to do with him and kept trying to escape from the jug. After much exasperation I decided to let her go and try to get the ewe who just had the twins to accept him. I took the pink sweater off the ewe lamb because she was very slimy when I put it on her. It would be sure to have a scent the mother would recognize. She nuzzled him and didn't look very perplexed or annoyed at the extra baby. Trouble is, this little guy was too weak to stand. I'm not surprised - the mother is skinny as a rail and hardly looked pregnant. She never even bagged up. What to do, what to do. I nursed some colostrum out of the twin's mother and gave it to the orphan. I put him under the light and went to bed. Matt took night duty. When I got up at 5 Matt reported the new baby looked real bad and we should probably let him go - not something I accept easily! I did not have any milk replacer in the house, and the ewe was lying down with her twins. She looked at me like "don't even think about pulling on my teats with your icy fingers!" I didn't have the heart to steal the twin's milk. Time was running out and I had to go to work. In desperation I got my feeding tube, big syringe and mixed some molasses with warm water. The tube went in fine and I filled his belly with the sugary breakfast. Off to work. I could see as I ran out the door he was perking up a little. I called Matt from work who told me he would milk out the mom again and give him a little milk. I bought a bucket of milk replacer (ouch! $$) on the way home and here we are. He drank and drank on the Pritchard's teat. Jan bought me this nifty carrier at a pet shop where her student was doing some work/study. "Buddy" loves it! I will try my best to get him strong and back with the twin family before mom says no way. A sheep raised by humans is neither here nor there. He needs to be a member of the flock. In the meantime, I am loving the heck out of having my own baby!
Monday, January 21, 2008
When we put out the hay bales the feeding frenzy begins. We try to seperate the hay enough so that everyone gets in, but the little ones are often squeezed out. My big steel hay feeder fell apart after only three years. I've started letting the runty yearlings and pregnant moms out for a corn treat - something that has become hard to manage with so many moms. As soon as I can manage it I'm going to hire some BOCE kids to build some hay feeders for me. They will probably last longer than the steel feeder I paid so much money for. While the sheep and goats are eating hay, the lambs are wondering what is going on and calling for their mothers who are totally absorbed with getting something in their own bellies
I opened the door to the barn and heard a familiar sound, the tiny little baaas of newborns and the mother-speak of a just delivered ewe. Sure enough, there were tiny newborn twins tip-toeing around their mother, savoring the newfound freedom of their limbs in all that cold air. Sometimes they come out almost clean, and sometimes they are really messy. The little ewe-lamb was covered with slime and dirt. I think mom had gone to work on the ram-lamb first. She's a real good mom and there was no problem getting them all in the jug. The twins are tiny and I have to keep an eye on them. They are up and looking for the teats - a good sign. I also have to knit some more sweaters a bit longer! Their tiny bony butt ends are exposed to the frigid cold!
It was such a lovely afternoon with bright sun and very cold, although the wind died down a bit. I took the doggies for their afternoon walk since Matt had gone to get hay. Knut is soooo happy when I come to get him off the line for his daily run. When we get back and I hook him back up again he gives me a big kiss - no hard feelings. When I get some good fencing up in the spring I plan on letting Finn and Knut run free with a line and a milk crate connected to it. The crate prevents them from jumping the fence and running away - a trick used by many shepherds to train their LGD's (livestock guardian dogs). It takes these dogs 18 months or so to grow up and figure out what their job is. They are so lovable I wish I could bring them inside...but their jobs are outside where the predators are.