Friday, May 17, 2013

A Teeny Bit Sheepish

Our beloved neighbors, Betsy and Don, are away tonight for Don's son's graduation. It is a tricky time to be away, because a whole bunch of lambs are due to be born any moment. They hired Cadence to  farm-sit while they are gone and she and I got a crash course in lambing.
It is predicted to be a rainy, stormy, muddy night, so of course it is highly likely that a bunch of lambs will elect to be born tonight. I went over to help with the evening chores and we were met by this darling lamb outside the fence (he was born a month ago, a result of the ram jumping over the fence before his scheduled rendezvous date.) It's ok of he gets through the fence- he won't stray far from his mom.
Aha! We spied a new lamb, apparently born just minutes before we arrived, still wet. We were relieved to see it up on its feet, looking strong and healthy.
Cadence decided we should do all the other chores first then try to get the lamb and ewe into the barn. The other sheep were hungry and we wouldn't have to contend with their demands if they were distracted by eating.
Cadence and Israel fed the sheep, donkeys, horses, chickens, and dogs while I prepared bottles for the lambs.
When we returned our attention to the newborn lamb, we discovered a second lamb! It must have been born while we did the chores. We  followed Betsy's clever strategy of  putting the lamb into a sled (two lambs and two sleds in this case) and dragging them slowly to the barn as the moms followed. Easier said than done, however; my hour-or-so-old lamb kept jumping out of the sled.
Don has built a nursery in the barn with a dozen small pens where the lambs can become securely bonded with their moms - no risk of getting confused with the wrong ewe. Weaker lambs will get extra attention and supplemental bottle feeding. The  blue pvc pipe down the middle is a watering system.
We bottle-fed a couple of lambs whose moms were not adequately nourishing them.
This lamb was born  last night in the rain and when Don found him this morning, he thought he was dead until he saw him wiggle a bit. He was a very large lamb and had been stuck for a while during birth so fluid had built up in his head, which was very swollen. Don said he didn't have a very good chance of surviving, but showed me how to tube-feed him this afternoon. Don had put the lamb under a heat lamp, but he was shivering and if you put your finger inside his mouth, it was cool, not warm like the internal temp should be. Tonight I put my finger in his mouth and his temperature was considerably warmer than this afternoon.  It also looked like the swelling of his head had gone down a bit, but he was still lying motionless beneath the heat lamp, his mom curled around him. I was really nervous about tube-feeding him.  If you accidentally slide the tube into his lungs rather than his stomach, that will kill him. But the tube slid in easily and I fed him a whole bottle of milk while Cadence held him. As we fed him he wagged his tail and then he pooped on her boot, both of which seemed like good signs! I hope this baby is standing tomorrow!
Kind of nerve-wracking, but I like these sheep!
If you want to know more about Don and Betsy's sheep, you can listen to my very first episode Prairie Air, my new radio show on the COBB, where I interviewed  Don about sheep-shearing and lambing season.

1 comment:

Tyche's Minder said...

Oh lucky you! I can see why it would be both fun and scary though.