I was waiting for a dry spell of weather to tag the lambs. The thick surface of mud in the handling yard makes it messy, and less hygienic for putting holes in one's livestock. Dry or frozen mud would have been preferable, but it continued to rain. I resigned myself to the weather, put on my plastic pants and got the big bottle of iodine to dip ears and tags as a precaution.
As a side note, I'm wearing the cardigan I knit for this shooting season -
It's becoming a tradition to knit one in time for the cold winter nights and days out in the field. In the few days since it's been finished, my cardigan has been out picking up pheasants, killing meat chickens, splitting logs, and now tagging lambs. It's destined for a life of muck and work, and it's holding up so far.
Back to the tagging - All my lamb tools fit in a plastic box that I rested on a hay rack within reach. It was easy enough to catch a lamb, and hold it between my knees for tagging and a basic health check. I wrote down tag numbers as I put them in so I can keep track of mother-daughter family lines.
I tagged most of the lambs on my own, but Mike and Ian came up to the field and helped me catch the last few lambs, and take some photos. The process went so much quicker with an extra set of hands (and freed-up knees)
All lambs get ears, eyes, teeth, and feet checked. The ram lambs get an extra check, to make sure that the rings I put on their testicles did the job. I took a knife to anything still hanging on.
This made my helpers whimper and go a bit grey.
I did manage to mis-ring one ram - one of the horned ewe's boys. He had been limping, and I couldn't find the cause. I even had a shepherd stop by for a second opinion. We couldn't find anything in the leg or hip joints.
I expanded my examination and found that I'd only ringed one testicle. No wonder he was walking funny! I made what is know as a "rig". I had no choice but to cut off the rubber ring. Within 48 hours he was sound and a lot more comfortable. Only now I have a fertile ram in my flock. He will have to be separated out before he hits sexual maturity which, in a sheep, only takes a few months.
All my lambs get a quick hug before I set them down to run and find their mothers.
I'm not sure that my affection makes up for, say, knifing off their withered scrota, but finding mom and drinking a bellyful of warm milk makes it all better.
There is only one more lamb to tag: the ram lamb from Eudora's triplets. I mismanaged the situation, ignoring all the books that said a ewe can't feed three. She seemed to be managing, so I thought I could beat the system by simply supplemental feeding the smallest with a bottle.
The morning after our first frosty autumnal night, I found the smallest lamb looking hypothermic. And really tiny. It was like he was melting away. All of a sudden he was snack-size for a fox again. His ears were cold, and he'd lost his suckling reflex. He was hours from death.
I stuck him in the truck, in the front seat with the heater on full blast. A cold lamb can't feed until it's warm.
Tink had to give up her dog crate in the living room, and move into the kennels with Spud and Quincy. The crate became a lamb ICU and as it was so close to Halloween, we named the ram Pumpkin.
It took Pumpkin a week of intensive care and a trip to the vets for vitamin jabs before he started to show any signs of recovery. Even then, at a month old, he only weighed 4 kilos.
He's doing very well now, and has just started going outside in a pen to graze. He has to wear Podge's dog coat to conserve his body heat but he's eating grass now so his rumen is working. As are his vocal chords. He blares at anyone passing, demanding his bottle -
In another week, Pumpkin should graduate to a dog kennel outside for a few nights to harden off. When he's self-reliant and has some muscle tone, he'll be returned to the flock with an ear tag. Mike wants me to give him two tags - and a free pass - but I'm not budging. In a year's time, when he weighs 80 kilos and still screams at me for milk, he's off to camp.