A Watched Pot Won’t Boil

… and most people will tell you that a watched ewe won’t lamb either.  Our first 4 lambs were born pretty close together.  Saturday (3/2) through Monday (3/4).  You can read their story here.  Twins, Beatrice and Bertha were the next 2 ewes to lamb, and they did so within 18 hours of each other!

Beatrice had her single ewe lamb close to midnight, Tuesday night (3/5).  Everything went well.  We woke up to baby-lamb baas over the baby monitor sometime before 1am and I went out to the barn.  The lamb was already standing and nursing so I decided it could stay with Beatrice in the big stall until the morning when I was more awake.  I dipped the lambs navel and weighed her (9.25 lbs), then went back to bed.

Beatrice lamb

Wednesday afternoon (3/6), we had a pediatrician appointment after school and got home around 4:30 to Bertha cleaning off twin ram lambs!  I got out to the barn quickly to make sure both were nursing, and to weigh them.  The older one was 8.75 lbs and was lighter in color; his darker twin was 9.5 lbs.  Since I still had to get ready to leave for work, I hurried back to the house and Dave took care of moving Bertha and the twins to the lambing jug.

bertha lambs

The first 5 ewes to lamb were 4 sisters and 1 daughter.  I’ve heard that related ewes go into heat around the same time … I wonder if that is true.

Thursday and Friday didn’t bring any lambs, but Esme had a single ram lamb (10.75 lbs) early Saturday morning (3/9).  We got out to the barn around 1:50am and got her and her lamb to the jug.  This is her first lambing and she did very well.  Esme seemed a little nervous about her lamb nursing but quickly settled down and we were back in the house in just a half-hour.

Esme lamb

We’ve past the last possible lambing date from the ewes being exposed to the ram lambs and Camille is still definitely pregnant.  We’ve estimated that she will probably not have her lamb(s) until at least 3/30 since after being exposed to the ram lambs, she was exposed to our ram, Ezra beginning on 11/1/12.

Stay tuned!

1 Weekend … 4 Lambs

I had to work this past Saturday and Sunday so Dave figured that all the lambs would be born while I was gone.  Well, only 4 were born, but right after I went to work Saturday morning Annie had her twins!  I left around 7:30am and Dave called me at 8:30am to tell me there was a lamb in the big stall when he went in to feed.  He got the lambing jug (pen) ready and moved Annie lamb to the smaller space to bond and continued feeding.  He checked back and Annie had 2 lambs in the jug with her.  Dave said she was so quiet that he didn’t even hear her pushing!

Dave’s 1st solo lambing couldn’t have gone more smoothly.  The 13 lb ram lamb was born first, followed by the 10 lb ewe lamb (no wonder she groaned every time she was laying down!).

Annie twins

When I got home from work Sunday afternoon Abigail was the only ewe laying down in the stall, but she got up when Dave brought their hay and grain in.  During our dinner, I noticed on the barn monitor that Abigail was the only one not really eating.  She was standing to the side of the stall by herself and only half-heartedly munching on hay.  Her ears were droopy and she had a look of concentration on her face.

I went out a couple of times to monitor her labor after dinner and was concerned that even though she was pushing I hadn’t seen a water sac or feet.  Warning …. graphic birth description …. may not be for the squeamish.

I “gloved-up” and found the sac was about to emerge.  After a few more minutes and as many pushes I saw a foot.  A single, rear foot.  Okay, I’ve done this before.  This is a breach birth, but at least the lamb wasn’t in the full breach (or butt first) position.  I felt to see if only one leg was presenting and found the other leg next to the 1st, but with the foot bent backwards.  That was easy enough to correct.  Once both feet were out Abigail started pushing again, but with no progress.  I examined again and found that the legs were bent, so I gently straightened them out and she pushed again, but  then got up to find another position.

I was getting nervous here because once the umbilical cord is pinched in the birth canal the lamb will instinctively breathe.  If the lamb is in the breach position when the cord is pinched it could try to breathe while its head is still in the mother and inhale birth fluids.  This is a concern because any aspirated (inhaled) birth fluids can cause pneumonia in the lamb.  Abigail laid down again and with each of her pushes I pulled the lamb’s legs side-to-side and downwards.  I only pulled with her pushes to lessen any tearing or damage to Abigail.  The ewe lamb came out easily and I quickly wiped any fluids from her nose and mouth so that she could breathe.

We waited for a while before moving her to the lambing jug to determine if she was going to have another lamb, but she ended up having just 1 ewe lamb that weighed 10.25 lbs.

abigail lamb

This morning (Monday) was the 1st day of Noah’s Spring Break so I got to sleep in till 7:30!  I heard lots of baa-ing over the barn, but figured it was just because Annie and Abigail were across from the rest of the ewes and they were “talking” to each other.  I got outside around 8 or so and discovered that Erin (one of our 2 first-time moms) was licking a nearly-dry lamb!  She was almost under the video camera and out of view on the screen, which explains why I didn’t see a lamb on the monitor.  I brought Annie and her twins out of the jug and carried Erin’s lamb (with her following) into it.  The ewe lamb weighs 10 lbs and Erin is very interested in her and standing still for her to nurse.

Erin lamb

We now have 3 ewes successfully lamb, with 4 more to go.  Our lambing percentage is 1.33 so far (divide the total lambs by the total mothers).  I hope we have some more multiples to boost the percentage a little.  By comparison, last year’s lambing percentage was 1.8.

Happy lambing!

A Contest!

You may already have read or heard about our breeding “accident” last fall with our sheep.  If not, read about it here.

Since we don’t know when our lambs are due, we’ve decided to run a “Guess When our Lambs will be Born” contest.  We are pretty sure that all 7 of our adult ewes are pregnant and that they are due in the next 3 weeks (probably before 3/13).

Lambs

How to enter our contest:

1. “Like” us on Facebook (click here to visit our FB page)

2. To enter reply to the status pinned to the top of the page.

3. Only 1 guess per person/household.

4. All entries must be received by Saturday (2/23) at midnight (EST).

5. I will announce winners as the lambs are born. If you win please PM or email me your snail mail address.

Anyone to correctly guess a lambing date will receive a photo of the lamb(s) born on that day.  Ready… Set… Go!

You’re Doing What to Your Sheep?!

Many shepherds crutch (or crotch) their ewes about 4 weeks or so before lambing.  If you aren’t familiar with sheep terms you’re probably wondering, “What in the world are these shepherds doing to their sheep?!”

Let me begin with lambs.  Newborn lambs usually have to find their dam’s udder on their own and may try to suck on any wool that is near the udder while searching.  When the lamb sucks on dirty wool it can injest harmful bacteria.

When a shepherd or shearer crutches a ewe, (s)he is shearing the wool from around her udder, rear legs and bum. This is done primarily in sheep that are shorn after lambing to remove any dirty wool that the lambs may try to suck on.

Another benefit from crutching ewes is that the shepherd can more easily monitor how close each ewe is to lambing without having to handle her.  The ewe’s vulva becomes increasingly swollen and pinkish-reddish as she nears her lambing date.

In the picture below you can see 2 ewes that were crutched next to one that wasn’t.

crutched ewes

Our shearer is coming over today to crutch our ewes.  That means that lambing isn’t too far away and that’s every shepherd’s favorite time of year!

When Abortion in Sheep Can be Prevented

When Abortion in Sheep Can be Prevented

This is Duffy’s story:

Duffy

Duffy was born to Rosy in 2010, our only triplet birth on the farm so far (you can read about it here).  She was due to lamb for the 1st time in early March, 2012.  About ten days before she was due she went into labor – on February 25th – and I was the only one home because I was sick.  I went to feed hay in the late afternoon/early evening and found Duffy in the back of the pasture by herself.

I got her into the barn but her labor did not progress so I tried to assist.  She was hardly dilated and I couldn’t get to the lambs.  Plus there was an odor… a bad odor.  I called our vet, Dale (who is now retired and missed dearly), and he and his wife got to our place about 45 minutes later.  He pulled twin lambs with a lot of difficulty and gave Duffy antibiotics and other medications.  He estimated that the lambs had died a day or so prior to her aborting them.

He told me to call him if any other ewes aborted because if the cause of Duffy’s abortion was infectious, it could go through the flock.  Over the next days and weeks I watched the other pregnant ewes closely and researched causes for abortion in sheep.  I learned that a large percentage of sheep abortion is caused by non-infections diseases – read: injury, rough handling, poisonous plants and inadequate feeding.

Causes of Abortion in Sheep in N Ireland

During this time I began to consider that Duffy had been injured prior to aborting her lambs and tried to remember any incidence of injury.

Two days before Duffy aborted her lambs we vaccinated the pregnant ewes.  I remembered that Duffy had gotten pushed by another sheep into the stall doorway on her way out of the barn when we led the sheep back to their pasture.  The doorways had O-rings on them from when the barn housed horses and I believe that is what caused her abortion.  I immediately took the O-rings off the doorways of any stall that the sheep would enter.

stall doorways - before and after

Our other 5 ewes lambed normally in March and produced a total of 9 lambs (4 sets of twins and a singleton).

Please look all around your sheep handling areas to be sure there are no potential hazards.  We used this stall without any trouble for 6 years, BUT it only takes 1 second for a freak accident to happen.  This time it cost us 2 lambs.

The Shepherd’s Lament

Someone shared this on one of my Yahoo groups.  It’s cute and I thought I’d share it, too.

by Dr. Darrell Salsbury, DVM

Now I lay me down to sleep
Exhausted by those doggone sheep;

My only wish is that I might
Cause them not to lamb at night;

I wouldn’t mind the occasional ewe,
But lately it’s more than just a few:

Back into bed, then up again,
At two o’clock and four a.m.

They grunt and groan with noses high,
And in between a mournful sigh,

We stand there watching nature work,
Hoping there won’t be a quirk:

A leg turned back, or even worse,
A lamb that’s coming in reverse.

But once they’ve lambed we’re glad to see
That their efforts didn’t end in in tragedy.

There’s no emotion so sublime
As a ewe and lamb that’s doing fine.

I’m often asked why I raise sheep,
With all the work and loss of sleep;

The gratification gained at three a.m.
From the birth of another baby lamb–

How can you explain, or even show?
‘Cause only a shepherd will ever know!

Right Now?!

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks everything always happens at once.  Does the phrase, “Never a dull moment” describe anyone elses’ life perfectly?

Today I had an appointment with the state veterinarian at 11 am to complete our annual inspection for the USDA Scrapie Eradication Program.  Hannah and I had been outside feeding the critters earlier and then came in for a break for a while.  We bundled up (it was 20 degrees colder today than it was yesterday!) and ventured back outside at 10:30.  While I brought fresh swimming water to the ducks I saw the vet’s SUV coming up the drive.  OK… I had wanted to get the ewes into the barn before he got here … luckily he had some paperwork to finish so I had time to persuade my girls to come to the barn.

I got as far as the gate when I heard it.  Little, tiny, adorable lambie baa’s.  I was expecting our ewes, Beatrice and Camille, to lamb at any time but I had let them out of the barn for some exercise and fresh grass.  Beatrice was on the other side of my garden with 2 still wet lambs!  One was standing; the other hadn’t been cleaned off yet.  I quickly fetched 2 towels, helped dry off the 2nd lamb and brought mama and babies into the barn.  Once I had them together in a lambing jug (or pen), I went to gather the other ewes into the barn.

Our inspection went well and once I had made Hannah lunch I went to check on Beatrice and her twins.  The ewe lamb weighed 9.5 lbs and the ram lamb weighed 8.75 lbs.  I made sure the both knew where to nurse and headed back to Hannah in the house.