Oops… or, Another Lesson Learned

We have bred our sheep and had successful lambing seasons for 6 years. This fall breeding season, however, turned out to be a learning experience for us.

Usually at 3 months our lambs are separated from their dams for weaning. After 2-3 weeks we move the ewe lambs back to the pasture with the adult ewes. The ram lambs go in the pasture with our adult rams and wethers. For some reason (I can’t remember why right now), we let ALL the lambs go back to the pasture with their dams for the summer.

On October 13th, we took all the ram lambs away from the ewes because we saw some *frisky* behavior going on.  We had decided to put our rams in with the ewes in early November so that we wouldn’t have lambs until April.  We separated our rams so that Ezra and Camille we together in one field (Camille is our only ewe that Ezra is not related to), and Raulie was with Annie, Abigail, Bertha, Beatrice, Erin and Esme.  We put all the lambs in a 3rd field with our wether BFL and goat.

{Some background info on sheep breeding… We put breeding harnesses that hold crayons on our rams each breeding season.  When the ram mounts the ewe the crayon on the harness rubs on her rump.  We then have  visual evidence of breeding and can mark our calendar accordingly so we can calculate when any lambs will be born.  Sheep cycle ever 14-18 days, therefore, you should change the color crayon in your ram’s breeding harness every 14-15 days.  If a ewe is marked with the second color, this means she did not conceive during the 1st cycle.  Any ewe that did conceive in the 1st cycle will not cycle again and the ram will not have any interest in mounting her.}

After 2 weeks of rams and ewes together, not one of the ewes was marked with color on their rump.  We usually breed in October, I started to wonder if we missed our window of opportunity, but I didn’t really think that was the case because we have had rams breed ewes though December.  Since none of the girls were marked, I didn’t bother changing crayon colors for their next cycle.  Two more weeks with nothing, and during that time I started thinking that we left the ram lambs in with their dams too long because the adult rams were not mounting the ewes at all.  You’ll remember that we did see some frisky behavior earlier in the fall, but we didn’t witness any actual breeding.

Now that we’re in the New Year, we are anticipating a surprising lambing season because we think our ewes are pregnant, but we don’t have any idea when they are due.  We guess that any lambs will be born BEFORE mid-March since we took the ram lambs away from the ewes in mid-October.  Unfortunately this lamb crop will not be able to be registered, but we will look forward to the lambs anyway!!

Nothing Dramatic

Hannah woke up at 6 this morning… the 1st time since we changed the clocks that she hasn’t slept in.  I got up with her but I really wanted to go out to the barn.  I heard lambs baa-ing over the baby monitor and wanted to see what was happening out there.  I didn’t want to bring Hannah out in pj’s so I waited till Grandma woke up.  Abigail and her lamb were fine, Rosy and her twins were fine.I put Annie in her lambing stall yesterday because I thought she looked ready to go and, sure enough, she  had twin lambs cuddled up to her.  They were mostly dry so I gave all 3 moms some hay and went in the house for breakfast.  I weighed and checked them out afterwards.  The ewe lamb was 9.75 lbs and the ram lamb was 11 lbs.  We already have more ewe lambs than we did last year!

Annie and Twin Lambs

Whew!

Last night Dave couldn’t sleep because of his cold so he went in the living room and watched some tv.  Well, at 12:45am he woke me up because one of the ewes went into labor and he could hear her pushing over the baby monitor we keep in the barn.

We got out to the barn pretty quick with my lambing box and discovered it was Abigail who was in labor.  We moved her into a smaller lambing stall (or jug) and persuaded Rosy and Annie to return to their “ladies in waiting” stall.  We got some things together and sat by the straw bales to wait.  Midnight and Tiger were very happy that we finally decided to come join them in sleeping in the barn.  🙂  Not much happened so we decided to go back to sleep for 30-45 minutes and do another check.

At 2:15am, I mean 3:15 daylight savings time, we went out again because we still heard pushing.  I checked and only saw 1 hoof….not good.  I felt around and found the other foot quickly.  It was bent at the “ankle” and corrected easily, but the emerging legs didn’t look like front legs.  I felt around again and found a tail….not good.

The next time Abigail laid down to push, Dave knelt down and held her for me.  I attached my lambing cord to the lamb’s legs and, with each contraction, pulled.  Poor Abigail was a trooper through the delivery.  Dave said she chewed on his jacket when she was pushing.  We had to get that baby out quickly so that it didn’t start to breathe while still in the birth canal.  Pneumonia can develop when fluid gets in the lungs.

We got the lamb out – a ram – and cleared its nose…after a little chest rub he started breathing and shaking his head.  What a big boy!  After mama cleaned him off and he stood up I weighed him… 12lbs!  No wonder he didn’t have a twin!

I finally got back to bed at 4:15 daylight saving time.  What a night to be out in the lambing barn!  And I had to teach Sunday school this morning, too!  Whew!

Noah & Hannah with Abigail and ram lamb