Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lamb Report - 30 Live Lambs

I knew she was pregnant but was sorry I let it happen.  She's so old, and so frail, that when I bump against her she falls right over.  I had her in the maternity ward for a few weeks, letting her eat all the hay she wanted without being bothered by the big sheep.  She scooted out and was hanging by the pig pen, where she could poke her nose through just enough to lick the pig slop from their bin.  I'm not sure how old she is, but she has a yellow tag.  The yellow tagged sheep made the trip with us to the farm nine years ago.  She was full grown then making her at least 11 or 12, ancient for a sheep.  They live on average from 8-10 years.  Pampered sheep can live longer, but mine are not what you would call pampered.  They live on hay alone, with a smattering of grain now and then mostly for keeping them in the barn.  I came home from school yesterday, took the dogs out, and went out to check on everybody.  Lamb count was at 24.  I knew more were coming but I thought I had a couple of weeks to go.  There she was, standing up, with two tiny white twins on either side.  I couldn't believe my eyes!  She was making mommy talk and the babies were nosing around her teats.   I ran to get my kit and gave the babies a squirt of the high-energy Nutri Drench I give all newborns.  One must weigh five pounds, the other three or four.  I got mom a bucket of warm molasses water and climbed the ladder to fork down some fresh hay.  She had made her way past Thor and Knut, which most sheep are reluctant to do, and gave birth to the twins in front of the chicken room.  I threw the afterbirth to Knut to thank him for not hurting the mommy when she dared to tread on his turf.  I clipped and dipped the cords, then reached under to strip the waxy plug from her teats and check for, oh please, some milk.  I held the cup underneath her and gently ran my fingers down the teat.  Nothing.  I reached for the other teat and got a tiny squirt, not even enough to draw up a three cc barrel for the babies.  What to do???  If she had any milk at all I would have to get it started.  I did not have any other moms who had given birth in the last 24 hours.  The belly of the lamb takes in the benefits of colostrum in decreasing efficiency over 24 hours.  It contains all the antibodies from the vaccines the mom has been given plus the mechanisms she's used to fight off diseases her entire life.    It is the most important meal of a sheep's life.  What to do???  I gave mom a warm bucket of pig slop and she slurped up half of it in one long rhythmic draw.  I went inside to post a question on my sheep group's page and went back out to the barn.  I thought I would get chores going since I was out there and got busy.  As I was mixing more pig slop, forking down hay, delivering it to each maternity pen, and toting water I looked down the dark barn - the light sockets down there have long since stopped working - I saw a tiny white long legged figure dragging a hose around.  Could I be so lucky as to have a birth happening now?   I crept to the back and, sure enough, mom was eating hay at the feeder with afterbirth hanging out. I heard another cry and followed it to the other side of the barn.  There was a twin, wondering where everybody went.   I scooped up both babies and attempted to coax mom to come with me.  No deal.  She was acting a little disoriented and distracted.  I got Matt to come help me.  Fortunately he had brought home Chinese and with a little food in his belly he was ready to come out.  I needed someone to hold the gate to the maternity ward open for the new mom without letting out sheep.   I tried again to coax her in but still nothing doing.  We got a halter on her and he pulled while I pushed.  She flopped over on her side, exhausted.  I checked a teat while she was down and no milk came out!  I knew I really had a problem on my hands.  We got her up and pulled, pushed her into the maternity ward and into her pen with the babies.  To my horror I watched as she kicked at the babies who tried to nuzzle her udder.  I knew I had a better chance of getting milk started with this one instead of the ancient girl.  I gave her wet slop, warm water and hay.  I popped her with the 1 cc of Oxytocin as recommended by my sheep group.  Oxytocin makes the uterus contract and expel birth debris along with assisting in milk let down.  As I was fishing around in my bucket I found a jar of colostrum from Sunday's birthing!  What a blessing!  I gave it to the tiny twins straight away, one tiny syringe barrel at a time.  By this time it was midnight and I had to go to work the next day.  I had major meds on board for this awful cold and the infection under my nail was getting worse.  I needed to lie down for a couple or three hours.  At 5 am I woke up feeling a little better.  Got the fire built, coffee brewed, and dogs out for a pee/poo.  I'm having to walk Tanner on a leash now as the after-birth scent has brought the dogs in the barn to snoop around looking for tasty treats on the barn floor.  I got them back in the house and ventured out.  Tiny twins, still alive, looking stable.  The "monkeys," bottle lambs, scooted over for me with their bottles. I got them fed while I skimmed my eyes around checking everybody out.   I had resolved to bottle feed the old girls tiny twins before I left for work as I had no idea what was going on with mom's udder and didn't have much hope of finding it full of milk.  I checked out new twin mom and was greatly relieved to see a relaxed willing ewe with two happy twins poking around her udder and finding teats.  Her milk must have come in during the night.  Thank you pig slop and oxytocin.  I picked up the babies and checked for warm mouths and firm bellies and found both.  Sigh of relief....As I was thanking my lucky stars I heard a little cry.  There it was...a tiny white long legged figure dragging a cord.  Another birth!  A big black ewe was standing by, but then, another ewe was circling around baaing like she was calling a lamb.  The white newborn was confused too, and looking for a mother.  It took some calm study of the situation to figure out that the black ewe was getting ready to deliver another twin and could not pay attention to her lamb the way she would like to.  The white ewe was probably thinking she had miraculously given birth, or wanted to have that cute little lamb for her very own.  I went back inside to wake my poor bedraggled spouse and ply him with strong coffee to come and help me again.  After all he had gotten 6 hours sleep - a marathon at lambing time!  This mom was also a little weak and confused.  Her lambs are huge and wore me out carrying them both while bending over in front of her.  She wore herself out growing these monsters.  We got them clipped-dipped-stripped, no milk to speak of, and dosed with oxytocin.  I ran around doing other morning chores and hit the tub at quarter of eight when I should be pulling out of the driveway.  Somehow I got to work on time, a little rough around the edges, but that's what my colleagues are used to from me.  Matt fed this morning's mom the same warm slop and hay menu that worked so well with last night's ewe.  He bottled fed the ancient mom before he left for work.  He is management and can "manage" a late morning better than I can, and he doesn't have kids waiting at the classroom door.  I'm rushing home not knowing what I will find.  Lamb count is a 30!  I pray I don't lose any.

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