Thursday, 8 November 2012

Aaaannnd...Done!

Autumn lambing is officially over. L817 gave birth unassisted to triplets this morning while I was having my first cup of coffee -

Two more ewe lambs, and a ram lamb that we've named Knit Romney. Knit has been fostered onto Eudora who had a single yesterday. The local shepherd came over and showed me a technique to fool Eudora into thinking she gave birth again. Fostering this way can be a bit of a crapshoot but it beats putting her in stocks, which I don't think I could be hard-hearted enough to do. 

So to recap: this has not been the worst lambing year ever, and it went much better than last year. From 7 pregnant ewes we had 12 live births, lost one lamb but no ewes, and finished with 8 ewe lambs and 3 ram lambs. All have mothers, none rely on bottle feeding, and we've even survived some trying weather conditions.

I've managed the night checks better than last year too. Of course last year's lambing went on for 56 days, this year all were delivered in 22 days. I'm going to write that ram a thank you note.

The best part about the end of lambing is that I can have a glass of wine in the evening. Lambing tests my sobriety. It's no good being a bit tipsy, just to wander out on a night check and find a ewe in distress. I can't be drunk in charge of a uterus, they depend on me. Tonight, when all are settled into their pens, I am going to toast all our health and give thanks for unbroken sleep.

This weekend, I will move the biggest twins and their mothers to Milkweed and good grass. Lambs will get ear tags and ewes will get foot treatments now that I can flip them over on their backs again. And readers will get a break from sheep news. New posts will be about game, shooting and stalking. After I catch up on my sleep of course. 

18 comments:

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Ta daa!

Congratulations on what must be accounted a successful season. And, for the record, there is a segment of your readership that never, ever gets tired of sheep news. I am segment president.

When you have a moment, could you explain just how one goes about convincing a sheep that she has, again, given birth? Inquiring minds ...

Now go hit the sauce.

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - Inquiring minds need to know that one starts with lubricating gel and a fist...are you sure you still want the entire explanation? Now you see why shepherds drink.

janice bendixen said...

Sleep is a gift that is wasted on the young. Just as youth is. Congratulations on a very successful lambing season. Now on to the wine and uninterrupted nights! I envy you as we're back on the wood heat out here in southcentral Alaska so Roasty Toasty (wood boiler) beckons me every four hours or so. Shall I start researching recipes for Knit?

Virginia said...

Actually, I kind of do want the explanation! :-)

How's old Grumpy doing?

fae said...

Yep, some of us want the explanation anyway.

Jennifer Montero said...

OK full graphic disclosure of foster process follows: If the ewe has recently given birth (within 24 hrs), catch her and lay her down. Move her own lamb out of sight so not to distract her. Lube up hand really well and insert into ewe's vagina. Make a fist, move it around and stretch the opening. Do this for a good few minutes. (I let the trained farmer do this).

Is anyone still reading?

Ewe will grunt and make discomfort noises (source is obvious). Try not to make tasteless jokes at farmer's expense while his hand is up your ewe.

Once prodded and stretched, you've hopefully recreated the sensation of a lamb coming out. Take the freshly born foster lamb - do not let birth mother clean it! - and place in front of foster mother. Keep her laid down until she attempts to lick lamb clean and calls to the lamb. Pen them together and reintroduce her own lamb. Keep your fingers crossed that hormones will out.

Jennifer Montero said...

Grumpy is lame, and resisting capture for treatment. I am trying to lure her with barley but even on three legs she's damned evasive. So, her usual self.

Maria said...

Jen - congratulations to you, the ewes, and your ram on a successful lambing season!

Oh, and I wanted the full explanation of how you trick a ewe into thinking she's just given labour as well - I'm sort of simultaneously surprised, not surprised, and giggling at the thought of not making crass jokes at farmer's expense...

I second Tamar - some of us are always happy to hear about sheep :)

Hazel said...

Wow. Hope it works- let us know how successful it is.

Kris said...

Jen - I've been following your lambing progress and am so happy that things went pretty smoothly for you (and the sheep).

Now, I'm going to ask a (perhaps naive) non-farm gal question. I always thought that lambs are born in Spring when the weather warms up. Yours are being born in front of Winter. Could you clue me in? Thanks.

Jennifer Montero said...

Kris - You're right, most people lamb in spring, but this breed - Dorsets - can lamb out of season. It means we have lambs to sell in spring when prices are at their highest. Our main reason, though, is autumn is our quiet time of year - in spring we're hatching tens of thousands of pheasant chicks. It would be baby overload.

I have two ewes - one who didn't get pregnant this cycle, and Grumpy who lost hers - that I'll put in with a friend's ram in a week or so, so we will have a couple of spring lambs. Dorsets can run to fat and if I don't get them in lamb now, it could be difficult if I wait until next autumn after they've gorged themselves on grass all next summer. Dorsets can be lambed on a '3 times in two years' cycle in a commercial system. It requires grain feeding though.

janice bendixen said...

Uck... The things we do for love.

janice bendixen said...

"Lame" takes on an entirely new meaning for me now. Update?

janice bendixen said...

But I'm still confused about that yellow covering. Enlighten us?

Jennifer Montero said...

Janice, prepare for more grossness...it's afterbirth. The mums lick them clean.

Kris said...

Thanks, Jen. I understand the economics and your work scheduling now. Do the lambs do well them being so little in winter? Of course you probably don't have the kind of winters we have here in Ohio - below zero and (usually) frequent (sometimes deep) snow.

Looking forward to future lamb posts. I enjoy your entries. :-D

janice bendixen said...

Eeeeeuwwww...

Jennifer Montero said...

Kris - Our winter temperatures are mild, relatively speaking, between 30-50 degrees at the moment. Cold is OK, but wet can be a problem. This year's lambs are past the danger point (not trying to tempt fate!) if the weather stays seasonal.