Ashe is the last of Kid the Younger’s flock, and as such is special. She is also a nice ewe, has a lovely white fleece and an even better disposition. Unfortunately, she has been down (as in unable to stand) since mid-November. This is a big deal for an animal that is firmly of the opinion that it is on everyone’s dinner menu. Fortunately, she has maintained a very good attitude in the almost 3 months that she has been sequestered in the barn. She has not been alone, since most sheep regard being alone as a signal that they should die. I have rotated several other ewes through “Ashe duty”; currently it is one of the yearlings, Maeve.
Imagine my surprise to discover when moving her early last month that she was starting to bag up (develop an udder)! This poor girl is pregnant! I was not sure that she could survive long-term, let alone deliver a healthy lamb (something she has not managed when healthy, by the way). Not only could she, she did! Last night I skipped my late evening tour of the pen and barn, since everyone else was doing good when I fed and she was not showing any signs of being that far along. Since the ram was in with the ewes for 2 months, there was a big window of possible delivery dates. She ate like a horse yesterday afternoon, drank well, and was settling down to chew cud when I left her.
When I checked on her at 11:30, there was afterbirth behind her. Searching the barn, I found a lump of lamb, chilled to the bone and not moving at all. It had been cleaned off a bit, but was still wet, which wasn’t helping things at all. I grabbed a towel that was in the barn and started rubbing vigorously. My reward, after several minutes, was a very weak little cry. Into the house we rushed. A quick feel led me to believe I was carrying a little girl. Warmed up enough to tube feed an hour later, I discovered that I was wrong. That’s how cold he had been!
Luckily, I had some colostrum frozen from a few years ago. It is very important that the lamb receive this within 12 hours of birth, to help boost their immune system. You can get generic colostrum from the feed store, but it’s better if you can use the real thing. I wish I’d saved some from the ewes as they lambed this year, but most of what I got was going into little Nellie to keep her going until she figured out nursing.
So, about 1 pm, we went out to the barn and had a bottle there. He isn’t drinking much yet, which means I will be checking on him every couple of hours and offering him the bottle again. He ate well after I fed everyone else, and when I checked on him about a half hour ago, he was just waking up from another nap and ate again. Like most newborns, this will be his main focus for the next couple of days: eat, sleep and poop. So far, he’s a champ at all three. Kid the Younger has named him Navid, which he says is Persian for “Good News”. I think Ashe did a great job delivering her Good News.
I will be raising him as a bottle baby, since Ashe is in no condition to nurse a lamb. Hopefully, her condition will improve and she will get up soon, and Navid will do well enough to get to stay out in the barn. I know that some folks will disagree with my decision to put him outside. It is cold out there, but in my experience well fed lambs do better learning as soon as possible that they are sheep. If he gets chilled, I can always bring him back in to warm up. But at some point, he needs to learn how to get along in the flock, just as the other lambs do. Once he is more mobile, I hope that he will learn to steal a little milk from the ewes (as Norma Jean is currently doing, not that she needs it at all). They will show him how to eat hay and grain, and playing with the other lambs will make him stronger. While it is a special feeling to have a bottle baby come running to you, I prefer it when they would rather hang with their buddies once their belly is full. Most of this year’s lambs are very cuddly already (more so than last year’s lambs), and I enjoy spending time out there, sitting on the ground scratching ears and necks. That, to me, is more special than just being able to bond with one that needs a bottle.