Thursday, 25 October 2012

Ticking right along

Ewe 2836 lambed at 6 am this morning. The whole village knows this because she started calling for her lamb even before it was born. It's the hormones: the contractions start, the ewe lays down and pushes, then gets up to check where she laid to see if baby arrived with that last push. She calls and listens for a response (I guess in case it's disguised in long grass). Sometimes their hormone-addled brains get the order mixed up. It's not uncommon for a ewe to try and steal another's baby during her own labour.

2836 had a ewe lamb. It got a bit stuck when its head tried to come out before its front feet (it should look like someone diving into a pool). This birth was a double bonus as it gave me a chance to foster one of the triplet boys onto a mother with a spare teat. It's a simple technique: rub foster lamb in the afterbirth so it smells like its sibling (don't let ewe see this), then stand back, let ewe stand up and check out the delivery. So far the ewe has been happy to accept both her lamb and the interloper.

But nothing goes that smoothly. Just after the successful fostering, I checked the teats to clear any blockages. No milk. Nothing. I hoped milk production was just running a bit behind schedule. I had to give the new lamb replacement colostrum, then it was Grumpy's turn to provide. I put her in the stocks. She wrenched them out of the ground, finding strength in adrenaline and pure spite. So I banged them in deeper. Eventually I milked enough to sate both lambs now on Ewe 2836, and a few hours later her own milk started to flow.

While all this was going on, Eunice popped out two ewe lambs by herself, and she's a first timer -

Minutes old and still pretty gooey

So our fox-deterrent maternity unit is taking shape -

Mums and babies are recuperating -

Biiiig yawn

I've been cutting kale and turnips from Mike's pheasant cover crop, which the ewes love and helps them produce more milk. At the moment they're all safe and warm enough in these pens but the weather's turning colder this weekend. Cold and dry is do-able. Cold and wet is a disaster, a lamb-killer. We may have to move our maternity unit to the horse stables at Milkweed field, after our shoot day tomorrow. We'll see what the forecast says.

We're only one week into our lambing period, and already five out of seven ewes have lambed. Last year we lambed for 56 days. Our running total this year is five ewe lambs, two ram lambs. All I can say for sure is - so far - it's not been our worst lambing season. Yet.


Poppy Cottage said...

I might just have to venture over for a lamb fix x

Which ram did your use this year? He must have been shattered, all that work in the first few days!!

Captain Shagrat said...

Why does it feel good that you said thay Quincy was the easiest dog you ever trained?....

Janice Bendixen said...

Um, cute factor would been 10 on a 10-pt scale. Yawning newborn lambs? Really, Jen, you just push your readers over the top some days...

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Lambs lambs lambs lambs lambs lambs!


Seester said...

Maybe I am too citified, but that yawning lamb looks maniacal to me. Maybe it's the bloody teeth. Maybe it's the open eyes. Maybe it is that it's so close to Halloween, but when I look at that picture, I hear the lamb moaning "BRAAIINNNS !!!"

Jennifer Montero said...

Seester - may I suggest this for your halloween viewing (or Youtube for just the funny bits)

Also, I made the mistake of watching the opening two episodes of series 3 Walking Dead before my nightly checks on the the dark...with no streetlights. Realised if I got bitten I would have spent my zombie life dressed in pyjama bottoms, crocs, and a long cardigan with sequins all over it(!!)

Seester said...

Wow -- I never thought about how what I am wearing when I become a zombie will be what I wear for the rest of my dead life. I should pick my outfits more carefully. And you should throw your crocs away, just to be on the safe side.