Sunday, 11 September 2011

Poor little lamb

The first lamb of the year came today - a week early and stillborn. A little ewe lamb.

This is not an auspicious start.

Mike has gone to see a neighboring farmer who's lambing out of season, like us, to see if he has any orphans I can foster on the mother. It's a grisly process that involves skinning the dead lamb and wrapping the orphan in the skin. The mother recognises the scent of her own lamb, and adopts the imposter. Like so many things, it sounds simple when you read about it in a book. But when Nature (with a capital 'N') and maternal hormones are involved, it's never so straightforward.

Worse, I'm not sure what's caused it. There are all sorts of bacterias that can cause late-term abortion in sheep. Or it could have just been a weak lamb, one of those things. I hope it's the latter as that's not contagious, and likely to affect an otherwise healthy flock.

I hope I have better news to report in the next post. I'll start my night checks from now on, in case I'm in for more troubled deliveries.



  1. Sorry to hear that, Jennifer. I hope things start looking up.

  2. Hoper you managed to get an orphan lamb< it is a bugger when that happens, especially when it looks to all intent and purpose a healthy lamb. Good luck with the rest (you can foster with out having to skin the lamb, this involves penning ewe and restraining her till her milk starts to pass through the new lamb, few days and would mean you'd need to have them close) just another option xx

  3. Sorry to hear than Jen - I too hope it's a one-off rather than something contagious. fingers crossed for you.

  4. Sorry to hear of your loss, hope you get an orphan and the rest of the lambing goes smoothly.

  5. ....And yet, it looks so normal. Shame sometimes things like this happen. I hate losing a puppy. I cry every time. And never know why it died. Sometimes our best efforts are just not enough.

  6. Sorry to hear about this. Poor lamby! I hope it's just one of those things and not something more serious.

  7. Jen from M&T:

    Just to show you all how steep my learning curve is - the lamb was born alive, and now I've been instructed what to check for in order to discern stillborn from premature death. The shepherd says the ewe likely laid on it, or it suffocated in its sack. He said it's all part of sheep keeping.

    On the upside, mismothering isn't a contagious disease. However, now I'm compulsively checking ewes every 2 hours.

  8. I'm so sorry about your lamb. It actually looks pretty large and healthy to me, and not really premature based on the wool (we've had smaller, weaker premies - some have survived, some not). We've also grafted lambs onto mothers not by skinning the dead lamb but by one of us holding down the ewe while the other held the lamb up to nurse (basically forcing the ewe to let it nurse). It takes a few days and it's back-breaking, around the clock work, but we've been successful with this method. Good luck to you with your other lambs!

  9. One thing I forgot to mention. Even if you don't get an orphan lamb, you should milk the mother for the first couple days and freeze the colostrum. It's good to have on hand in case a ewe rejects a lamb. There is a lot to learn. We've learned everything by trial and error and a lot of advice from other sheep people. Good luck! And the best days are soon to come - there's nothing cuter than little lambs!

  10. Death, death, and more death. Argh.

    Very sorry about the lamb, but I'm glad to know there was a valuable lesson that came out of it. The thing about doing so many different kinds of food and livestock is that, no matter how much you read, it's hard to really learn things until they happen to you. It's now happened to you, and you know all about what to do next time.

    I hope you get an orphan lamb. Failing that, I hope you experiment with sheep's milk cheese.

  11. Damn is right- so sorry Jennifer. Hope this is the only loss this season.

  12. Poor thing. And l mean both you and the lamb! Awwwwww.....

  13. That's a shame, Jen, I'm sorry. Hope the other deliveries go smoothly. And I'm with Tamar on the sheep's milk cheese (in between 2 hourly ewe checking)!

  14. From Jen @M&T-

    Mimi & Anna - I'm grateful for your experienced advice. You're right about it being full term. I should have known that sheep, like people, can deliver before their due date. Its feet weren't quite formed however.

    I DID remember to strip off the colostrum and freeze it. Like all these things, if I have it, I'm less likely to need it!

    Tamar - The best part about learning as I go is that I can publicly share all my embarassing mistakes with you guys. Yet everyone's comments are always kind and diplomatic, even when I really screw up.

    Weirdly, the cuteness factor of a baby lamb makes me sadder when it dies than,say, a meat chicken. God help me if we ever have a litter of puppies! I will try the sheep's milk cheese at weaning time.

    Paula - I would be foolish to think that it will be my only loss. I'm girding my emotional loins for more lambing disappointments.

    Janice - Thanks for the sympathy!

    Hazel - cheese is imminent, I promise!

  15. From lambs to rabbits is a pretty large leap, but my father used to raise rabbits. When an inexperienced doe rejected her bunnies, or he wanted another doe to foster them, he used to put baby powder on the doe and babies and after a short while reintroduce them. As they smelled like her, she usually took them.