Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Post Lambing Round Up

Eleven lambs still survive. In fact, they're positively thriving. That's just a hair short of 140% lambing return. That kicks the arse out of last year's dismal 85%. Of course, there are plenty of diseases, predators, and impending bad weather to redress that balance. I learned about a new disease just this morning: entropion.

By chance I was reading Sheepish by Catherine Friend, the second book chronicling her life as a somewhat unwilling sheep farmer (her wife Melissa is the farmer, Catherine calls herself the 'backup farmer'). Melissa noticed a newborn lamb with a weepy eye and diagnosed entropion, a condition where the lower eyelid turns inwards and the lashes scrape against the surface of the eye causing pain and infection.

Last night, I noticed that Mary, one of my triplet ewes, had a squint. Could it be entropion? The book says it's not uncommon. On daylight, I picked her up out of the maternity pen and investigated. Yup. So I did what every good shepherdess does and googled it. 'Treatment for entropion' sends you to a helpful, if graphic, instructional video on YouTube. This morning, even before my first cup of coffee, I was watching a vet inject 1 ml of antibiotic into the lower eyelid of the lamb.

Into. The. Lower. Eyelid.

All I could think of was that scene in Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou. If you've seen it you know which one I mean. 

I bottled out and made an appointment with the vet, assuring myself that if he showed me the exact technique, and I didn't subsequently faint or throw up, I would attempt it myself next time. I mean, I did manage to ring Knit Romney's testicles all by myself. I feel OK about saving eyeball injections for next year.

Here's Mary, post-treatment, riding home from the vets. Like all good shepherdesses, I let my baby animals ride in the front of the truck. We rolled the windows down going through town and she bleated at all the early Christmas shoppers.

Knit Romney, the last foster lamb, is managing to keep up, size-wise, with his sister Baarack O'lamb, but only because I give him extra bottle feeds. I smile to think that Mitt's namesake is the only member of the flock who relies on handouts. I'm up at 5a.m. every morning whizzing up a sheep's milk frappuccino for Knit. 

And because, like all pregnancies, I'm already forgetting the emotional pain and sleepless nights of childbirth, I just sent two ewes to the ram this afternoon: L845 who didn't get pregnant last cycle, and Grumpy ewe who lost her lamb. With help from friends stronger than me, we wrestled them both into the back of the Land Rover and drove the truck, now swaying with 180kg of contained and angry ewe, to our neighbour's farm and dropped them in the field with their ram. 

It's not like I need spring lambs but both these ewes are well-covered (that's polite talk for 'fat') and they may be difficult to get in lamb again if I wait until next May. This is also Grumpy ewe's last chance. She slipped her lamb the first year, and lost her lamb to disease this year. She's only producing singles, and if she can't keep one of them alive then I will be packing her off to Ice Camp.

So, there may be sheep babies to accompany all the pheasant babies this April. That's twice a year lambing, like a proper shepherdess, or "flock mistress" as one local shepherd has christened me. I'm hoping to get good enough at this sheep farming thing to graduate to the revered status, coined by Catherine Friend, of "Pasture Goddess".

I wonder if that comes with a tiara?

Thursday, 8 November 2012


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. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Our six, week-old lambs spent their first night outside of the maternity unit, no electric fences just their mothers to look after them. Well, mothers and a nervous shepherdess who checked on them every couple of hours under the guise of staying awake simply to watch the election results.

The lambs did great, and by 4a.m. I got the news that Obama won. Phew.

At 9a.m., Eudora produced a single ewe lamb-

It was an easy birth, though I found Ewe L817 helping Eudora clean the little lamb. I penned the baby with her mother, but L817 is still calling to the lamb, and circling the pen -

She's waiting on her triplets, which will give her more than enough lambs to satisfy her maternal instinct.

In honour of our incumbent returning to the White House, I have named the new lamb... Baa Rack O'Lamb.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

We're still lambing in this weather

It's not ideal. 

I started taking hay to horses and sheep at 7am, and warmed the dogs' kibble with hot broth. Yesterday was a shoot day and most of the dogs came out to work, so they're getting a snow day today.

The lamb with pneumonia appears to be on the mend, breathing normally and bouncing about with the rest of the flock. That was a success story: I caught it early, knew how to treat it, and the lamb was strong enough to fight the infection.

We're still left with two ewes to lamb: Eudora, who's expecting a single any minute, and a ewe expecting triplets. 

Lambs in the snow just doesn't look right somehow.