Kyle’s First Time Outside

We usually let the mamas and lambs out of the barn on nice days.  If we are still waiting for mamas to lamb we keep them near the barn instead of sending them out to a pasture.  With Kyle not having any wool we waited till the temperatures were a little more mild, though because we didn’t want to keep Annie and him in the barn while the other mamas and lambs went outside.  March 6th was a warm day and Kyle was 10 days old.  He and the other lambs got to test their speed around my garden while the mamas got a taste of fresh grass.

 

Afterwards, the lambs were tuckered out and Kyle enjoyed some time warming up in his barrel.

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The lambs were able to play outside again on March 8th.

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You can see where the hair starts on Kyle’s legs, and the hair on his face in this photo.

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Trying to win the race

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All 4 feet off the ground!

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More Pictures??

They spent a lot of the time outside racing around the garden!

Kyle

We woke up on Saturday, February 25th, and checked the barncam – there was a newborn lamb in the maternity stall!  Annie labored quietly and had the single lamb already cleaned off and it was standing up.  (Annie’s mother, Star, had delivered her lambs right under the baby monitor without us hearing a peep from her.)

We headed out to the barn and I was first struck by how wrinkled his skin appeared.  Then it hit me … he had no wool.  I had heard about this – in 2016 a woman on the Facebook group Goat Vet Corner posted about one of her goat kids that was born with no hair.  The vets on the page suggested he may have a condition called hypotrichosis, which is defined on wikipedia.com as “a condition of abnormal hair patterns – predominantly loss or reduction.”  Merriam-webster.com defines hypotrichosis as a “congenital deficiency of hair“.

Annie’s ram lamb was a big boy, weighing 11 pounds.  He had normal hair on his legs and tail, but very little hair on his head and no wool or kemp fibers on his torso.  We eventually named him Kyle so we wouldn’t have to call him “the lamb with no wool” or “the bald lamb”.

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As I moved the pair to a jug (a small pen for the mama and lamb/s to stay for a couple days) I noticed that the Kyle’s skin was almost sticky.  I am guessing it was residual amniotic fluid or still damp from 5 months in utero, since his skin felt normal after a couple days.

Once he was mostly dried off, we put a lamb sweater on him to help him stay warm.  We were concerned about him the first day and weren’t sure if he’d make it.  He had a bit of difficultly finding Annie’s teats to nurse and he slept flat out on his side and seemed to have trouble getting up.  We ended up dressing him in a smaller sweater so he wouldn’t step on it, and went to check on him repeatedly to help him nurse.

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By day 2 Kyle was eating and acting like a normal lamb, although he shivered a bit – remember it was February.  We hung a heat lamp on one side of the jug for him, which he slept under.

On day 3, we band our lambs’ tails and apply ear tags.  Now, Annie was almost 10 years old at this point and had had lambs 8 other years.  She’s always been a great mama and cared for her lambs, but as I handled Kyle she became very alert and every time I had my hands off of him she would pull him to her with her nose and nudge him behind her.  I found this surprising because many times when a ewe finds something “off” about her lamb, she will reject it.

After getting banded and tagged, the lambs and their mamas go back into our large maternity stall to join the other ewes.  Annie kept a watchful eye on her lamb as he ran around with the 2 other lambs that were born a couple days before him.

 

Because of the temperatures in PA in February and early March, and because Kyle had no hair to protect his ears from frostbite we bought a metal drum and made a lamb warmer for him.

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The drum has a hole in the top for the heat lamp and the cord to fit through so it is stable and an opening on the side for the lambs to enter.  As you can see, Kyle wasn’t the only lamb to enjoy the warmer!

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Stay tuned for more posts on Kyle!  I will explain more about his condition and describe how he’s been growing the past few months.  Questions?  Please post them below and I will answer them as best I can.  I may also address them in future posts.

Color Changing Lambs

I’m often asked about Tunis wool.  Is it soft?  What projects are it good for?  Why do lambs have different colored wool than adults?

Tunis wool is a fine to medium, down-type wool with lots of loft.  If you’re not familiar with wool or fiber terms this means Tunis wool is soft and bouncy and makes light and springy yarn which is great for a variety of projects.

Explaining the lambs’ coloring isn’t as simple.

Tunis lambs are born with a short layer of cream-colored wool over their torsos and necks and light to dark cinnamon colored hair on their legs, heads and tails.  Intermixed in the wool are longer kemp fibers (think guard hairs) that can sometimes completely hide the wool.  The amount of kemp fibers can vary between lambs, just as the cinnamon shade can.  Below are twin lambs.  Notice how one is much darker and also has more kemp fibers covering his wool.

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twin Tunis lambs

Over their first few months lambs appear to change from cinnamon to the lighter cream color of their parents.  Their color doesn’t actually fade during this time.  Their wool grows longer, though the kemp, but they also begin to shed much of those longer, darker kemp fibers.

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close-up of a kemp fiber

You can see this in the photo below of a 6 week old lamb.  The kemp fibers are longer and becoming more sparse overall.

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close up of Tunis lamb

By the time Tunis lambs are 3-4 months old they have the typical coloring associated with the adults.  As Tunis sheep age their wool does lighten slightly.  Their first fleece is usually a beautiful cream color and each year it will become whiter, although Tunis wool doesn’t ever become pure white.

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Jack at 1 year old, before first shearing

You can see the differences in color in the photo below.  The two shorn ewes are 5 years old in this photo, the smaller lambs are all up to 8 weeks old and the larger lamb on the far right is 4 months old.

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And that is the not so simple explanation of why Tunis lambs seem to change color.  Hope you enjoyed it!

 

Textbook Lambing

As I stood feeding our Jersey calf his bottle last Thursday (2/23), I noticed that Bertha was pacing in a small area and sniffing the ground a lot.  I figured she was in labor – a few days earlier than I had calculated – so after Cookie was finished his bottle I decided to watch Bertha and make my first Facebook live video.  I realize not everyone is on Facebook so I wanted to share the video here, too (our farm page is public and anyone can see it).  I tried to keep it from being too graphic for folks who don’t want to see too much of the birth.

Enjoy!

Lessons from Across the Fence…

… or {more accurately} through the fence.

We brought Camille and her 2-week old ram lamb home in May 2009.  After weaning, we sold Camille’s lamb “Cameron” to Christine E. in NJ to be the herdsire for her flock.  He produced beautiful offspring, but in 2012 Christine decided not to breed her sheep.  It turns out Cameron had other ideas…

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Here’s Christine’s story:

We had Cameron and 13 ewes.  We decided not to breed, so in May 2012 we separated Cameron from the ewes in a connecting pasture separated by 4×4 mesh sheep fence.  On January 16, 2013, I noticed that one of the two-year old ewes was bagging up.  We were not set-up for lambing (had disassembled lambing pens), so we put her in my horse trailer.  Within 48 hours, she delivered 2 lambs.
After that, I got down on my knees to study all of the ewes as they walked around in the pasture.  The ewes were of course very woolly, so it was difficult to tell for sure as they all looked fat and the only way to really get an idea if they were pregnant was to see if they were bagging up.  As they are on 5 acres, it was impossible to catch each one to get a hands-on check of them.
I noticed another ewe bagged up, brought her to the horse trailer, and she had a lamb.
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I thought that was it.  2 days later, I went out to the pasture to feed, and I noticed all of the sheep were laying outside of the shelter even though it was windy.  It made me suspicious, so instead of just throwing hay over the fence, I went inside and walked to the shelter.  There was a ewe and a lamb.  All of the sheep stayed outside (I’m guessing) to make sure they didn’t step on the lamb.  My horse trailer was not safe for any more ewes, so we put her in my old chicken coop.
I then noticed that my 11-year-old ewe was bagging up and even though she was fat around her stomach, I could feel her spine and ribs.  I brought her up to the coop so I could grain her.  About two weeks later, she had twins.
Another ewe was bagging up.  I had to put her in the horse trailer because we were running out of room in the coop.  We set up an outside pen so the sheep could go in and out of the trailer.  That ewe had a lamb but it was weak and I was afraid to leave it in with so many sheep (afraid it would get trampled), so we made it a bottle baby.
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It was snowing one morning, and I went out to the sheep pasture, and found a lamb laying in the snow with mama nowhere to be found.  My second bottle baby.
In total, we had 8 lambs born to 6 ewes.  One of the first set of twins died because the mother rejected him.  I kept him in with the mother, holding her and forcing her to let him nurse and supplementing him with a bottle.  One morning, I found him dead.  It looked like his neck was broken.  Either his mother or the other ewe must have stepped on him or shoved him against the wall when he tried to nurse.  He was almost 2 weeks old, so it was very sad.
The first lambs were born on January 18 and the last on February 11.
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Besides losing the one lamb, my only regret is that I didn’t get to see Cameron breeding the ewes through the fence!
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I’ve heard of rams breeding ewes through a fence… but this is the first time I heard of one breeding 6 ewes through a fence!  Now I know why some breeders have “Abstinence Alleys” (space between fences so sheep cannot have direct contact)!  I am so thankful to Christine for letting me share her story.  I hope she doesn’t mind how long it’s taken me to post it!

Just when We Thought We were Finished…

… we had more lambs!

Remember that 1980s film For Keeps?  I felt like I was in the scene where Molly Ringwald announces, “I’m pregnant.  Can you pass the turnips?” when I went out to feed the sheep last Tuesday morning.

Coco was laying in the middle of the field next to a lamb.  I wondered why she was mothering a lamb when she didn’t have any.  As I got closer I realized it was her lamb!  I went right over to Fiona and felt for an udder … it was full!  I immediately brought Coco and her lamb into a lambing jug and put Fiona in the jug next to her.

Coco’s little ram lamb weighed 7 lbs and has turned out to be just as loud as his mama.

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The next morning I thought I saw a lamb on the baby monitor so we checked the barn before leaving for school.  Fiona had 2 lambs next to her and I checked Coco’s stall to make sure her lamb didn’t squeeze through into her jug!  Nope … she had twins!  After bringing Noah to school I went back to the barn and checked on the lambs.  The ram lamb (darker color) weighed 7.25 lbs and the ewe lamb weighed 5.25 lbs.  She’s the smallest (live) lamb we’ve had born here!

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When we crotched the ewes in early February we didn’t think our lambs were pregnant, but we were wrong!  Wondering how we missed it? With 2 months to go in their 1st pregnancies, they weren’t very big yet.  Also, first-timers’ udders don’t get swell too much prior to lambing.

Our shearer came out the day after Fiona had her lambs (Thursday) so everyone was able to be shorn.  {If you shear before lambing, most shearers recommend shearing 3-4 weeks before the due date so there is no chance for injury to the unborn lamb(s).}  The day after shearing, we moved all the ewes and lambs to our big stall to get used to being in a large group again.  The weather turned colder over the weekend, so we kept the flock in the barn until Sunday so the smallest lambs didn’t get too cold.

Here’s a short video I took of the ewes and lambs on Sunday.  They were so happy to be outside!

Our lambing season is now finished.  Really.  We don’t have any ewes that don’t already have lambs.  Now to watch the lambs grow!

Last but not Least

Our lambing season this year has come to an end!  Camille gave birth late last Wednesday night to twin ewe lambs.

She probably had them while I was laying in bed, reading and listening to the monitor.  I didn’t hear any birthing noises … or lamb noises, for that matter.  I did hear Coco baa-ing every now and then, but I thought it might be because of the dog next door barking.

I soon turned off the light and as I was drifting to sleep Coco’s baa-ing became more frequent and had an urgent tone, as if she was yelling, “Moooooommm!  Moooommmmyyyyy!  Moooooooommm!”  I got up and went out to the barn with my lambing box – just in case – and found Camille with 2 ewe lambs by her side.  One was almost dry and weighed 10.25 lbs.  Camille was still cleaning the 2nd twin (she weighed 9 lbs).

Camille & Twins

I got the lambs and Camille into a lambing jug, made sure they got some colostrum and headed back to bed.

Our 2013 lamb crop totals 10 lambs.  4 rams, 6 ewes.  3 sets of twins and 4 singles.  The 2 ewe lambs sired by Ezra will be registered.  The other 4 ewe lambs will be available for sale as unregistered ewes.