Archive for March, 2012

Spring? Ha!

March 22, 2012

Winter hasn’t put in much of an appearance this year, which has been fine with me. Yesterday was cloudy and cool. I woke this morning to this:

 Five inches of snow on the ground. I fell going down the steps to check on things and banged up my right hand. The ewes were not impressed.

The lambs are doing good, but I have a bottle lamb. This is the first time that Amber has had twins, and she was too confused when they both tried nursing at the same time. Malcolm had an advantage being several hours older and poor Merlin was losing out. Monday afternoon I tube fed him to make sure he had some calories, and he seemed to perk up a bit. Monday night when I was checking the ewes he was cold. I brought him in the house, which I only do in extreme situations. He spent the night warming up, and I spent it cat napping between checking on him. It was 5 am before he was interested in any food.

 I had an appointment to have lunch with my mom, so I tried feeding him again before I went to that but he wasn’t terribly interested. I left him in, and went off to lunch. We got all the way through it ( new restaurant for both of us, and it was great!), and were on our way home when I got a frantic call from DIL saying that he was hollering for lunch.

After he ate it was time for a trip back out to the barn. I know a lot of folks enjoy having house lambs, but I want them to learn to be sheep. I put him back in the jug with his mom and brother and he settled right down to nap (a full tummy will do that). I kept checking every few hours, and while she wouldn’t let him nurse Amber was otherwise ok. The next morning I banded Malcolm and Mark’s tails and let them and their moms out of the barn. Merlin is a doll. He’s learning to suck on the bottle without assistance, and when he is full he curls up for a nap. He prefers doing so in my lap, and it’s hard to be strict about not letting him. I have set up a creep where the lambs can get away from the ewes in a dry warm corner of the barn. I will start putting a little grain in there in a few days. I’ve seen Merlin following Amber around, and he has shown interest in the other ewes udders, so he may work his way up to stealing milk from them too. 

And this evening, Marge presented me with a gorgeous brown ewe lamb. So we’re up to 5 ewes done, 6 lambs, 4 boys and 2 girls. At least 3 ewes to go.

It’s fun watching the ewes and lambs adjust to being out of the barn. Some of the lambs catch on real quick to sticking with mom, and others seem to get lost more often and spend time yelling for mom to come find them. I kept Kay in an extra day because she seemed a bit confused by this little thing that kept diving into her crotch, but she is now standing still for him to nurse, even in the snow.

 That’s her and Mark on the right and Amber and Malcolm on the left

 And here’s Manny watching me feed Merlin. Definitely a well fed little boy!

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And Then There Were Five

March 18, 2012

Five lambs, that is. Four of the ewes have lambed in quick succession, none of them ones that I expected to. I have been there for 2 of the births, and helped pull the last lamb (mom was very tired, and it was a big lamb). So far the results are:

 Manny, born March 14 at about 11 pm to Ida Lynn. Black ram lamb.

Mary, born March 16 at 1 am to Midge. Black ewe lamb.

 Mark, born March 16 at about 1 pm to Kay. Black ram lamb. This is Kay’s first time lambing, and while she is attentive, she is not convinced that nursing is an activity that she enjoys. Mark, luckily, is persistent, to the point of diving in if she won’t stand for him. They are spending extra time in the barn until I’m sure she won’t desert him when I let them loose in the pen.

And then there are the twins, Malcolm and Merlin. I normally go out and check the ewes at about 11 pm, but something made me go out at 9:30 last night. Good thing. Malcolm was already standing, but his mom, Amber, had gotten herself stuck in a divot and couldn’t get up. When I first got there she was flat on her side and not moving at all, but when I rolled her up on her belly she stood up and started talking to the lamb. I picked him up and headed to the barn, and she followed right along. She started cleaning him off, and I made sure that he nursed before I went back up to the house. At 10 pm, she appeared to be passing afterbirth. I checked on them at about 11 and he was sleeping, so I decided to let them be for a while. At 1 am when I checked again, Amber is once more flat on her side, not moving, but with another lamb presenting toes and nose. I pulled this lamb and got her back up on her belly when he was half out. Enough drama for me! This is Amber’s first time having twins, and with the age difference she is very confused. Malcolm was searching for the udder and interfering with her cleaning off the second lamb, so I picked him up and cuddled him for a while to give little brother a chance. I will probably keep them in the barn a little longer to make sure she accepts them equally, and I’m spending extra time in the pen making sure they both are nursing. She’s ok when it’s just one of them, but when they both try nursing at the same time she gets fidgety. Finally, not black lambs. They are both dark brown (if they were horses I would call them bay, since they have black legs and faces, but their bodies are definitely brown).

 Malcolm and Merlin 

Yep, that’s 4 boys and 1 girl! Need at least 1 more girl for showing, but there’s plenty of ewes left to lamb so fingers crossed. And thankfully, they all have different facial markings so I can tell them apart quickly.

Finally!

March 15, 2012

Well, it wasn’t the ewe that I expected to lamb first, but I finally have a lamb on the ground. When I went out to check last night at about 11:30pm, Ida Lynn was hiding in the little shed, with a lamb on the ground, already clean, up and obviously fed. Hard to get pictures of a black lamb in the dark, but here he is this morning. Meet Manny:

I name alphabetically, so all of this year’s lambs will have names that start with “M”. For the last few years I have let my niece name the first lamb of the year. When I talked to her on her birthday a couple of weeks ago, I reminded her that I would be needing a name for the first lamb. Her immediate response was “Mary”, but I asked for a boy name too. Luckily, she came up with Manny, so there you go. This is Ida Lynn’s first ram lamb, and her first colored lamb (both times before she has had white girls). She is a very attentive momma, and will be very happy when the weather settles a bit so I will let them out of the barn (it is pretty stormy right now, so he’s staying in the barn). The other ewes have all come in to check him out, so hopefully they will get down to business soon so Manny will have someone to play with. Can’t wait for lamb races!

Tags

March 8, 2012

This time of year I spend more time than usual with the sheep, mostly checking to see if anyone is thinking about going into labor. It’s the last thing I do before I go to bed. Last night was magical, so cold that the air was crisp, the moon so bright that I didn’t need my flashlight. There was dew on the grass, and it had frozen. In the moonlight it sparkled like diamonds, and made me think of fairies. It was a scene from a children’s book that I may have to try to write. I wish I could have taken pictures so that I could share them with you.

This afternoon when I checked on the girls I got to thinking about ear tags, and I took some pictures to illustrate my points. Ear tags are a necessary evil in many cases. If you want to show your sheep, they must have ear tags. If you want to sell your animals, they must have ear tags. Some farmers use tags to identify animals at a quick glance, tagging specifically to tell the males from the females, or multiple birth lambs, or what year they were born. If you’ve got hundreds of sheep that all look the same I can see where that would be useful. Knowing that the sheep you’re holding is a twin ewe born three years ago simply because of the tag color could be very handy. I used to tag my lambs as soon as possible, but over the years I’ve become more resistant to the idea. I have a small flock, and I know all of my animals by name. Even when I had more than 50 in the flock that was true. Plus, I have had animals that are very adept at removing tags (I had one ewe that could do it in less than 5 minutes). Some do it very easily, like Faith. This is a close up of her ear. If you look carefully, you will see a small hole in the middle of her ear. There used to be a tag in that hole (actually, on both sides of her ear through that hole). No idea where the tag went, or how she got it out. The tags are big enough that they don’t fit through that hole.

Other sheep aren’t as graceful about removing their tags. They get them caught on something, freak out and pull back, ripping themselves free. Bridget (left picture) and Midge (right picture) both sport split ears as a result of such behavior. Midge’s healed decently, closing back up for the most part. Bridget was not so lucky, and now has an ear that is split along most of its length.

  

Getting tagged is one of the many minor indignities that lambs are put through, usually in quick succession. For a lot of farmers it is all in one day. Shots are given, tails (and possibly testicles) are banded, ears are tagged. Some lambs don’t even seem to notice all the indignities, but some thrash about, complaining loudly. In my experience, it is usually the boys that complain the loudest about the banding (even if they aren’t being wethered). Most of the ewe lambs run straight to mama for a quick suck, and within 5 minutes are behaving normally. The boys throw themselves down, roll around, complaining the whole time, and it can go on for an hour or more. Anyone who doesn’t know sheep might ask why we subject the lambs to something that apparently hurts so much. It’s simple – in the long run it is in their best interest. Most breeds of sheep are born with long tails. Long tails trap manure. Manure attracts flies. Fly strike is a horrible, nasty, painful way to die. Banding is a minor twinge compared to that. Enough said.

If I had lambs, my mind wouldn’t wander so. I’m just saying…

Drawing Attention

March 6, 2012

Over at the Punkin’s Patch, thecrazysheeplady is hosting a Draw A Sheep Challenge. Not having nearly enough things on my to-do list, of course I jumped in with both feet. She got Lori Skoog (a retired art teacher) to post our first “lesson”, and we were encouraged to start with a blind contour drawing (no peeking at what you’re doing, no lifting the pencil off the paper). I sat down with a fresh pencil and paper this morning before coffee, and I came up with this: (warning – this ain’t pretty!)

 Scary, isn’t it!

So, I moved on to the modified contour. This time we can look, but still can’t lift the pencil off the paper. Still pretty scary looking, but a little more recognizable:

Screw it all, I want to make something I’m not afraid of in the dark! So I did this, which isn’t totally embarrassing:

The inspiration for this little attempt? One of last year’s lambs, a few hours after birth (since no one has gotten down to business yet this year). This was Ida Lynn’s little girl Lydia. I name alphabetically, so this year’s lambs will all have names starting with the letter M, and the honor of naming the first lamb of the year goes to my niece, who just celebrated her 7th birthday. When it shows up, the first lamb this year will either be Mary or Manny

Not much else to share today. The weather is being very fickle. It’s 60 one day, snowing the next. Sometimes both in the same day. It’s the time of year when I want to start gardening, but I know better. We’re months from semi-reliable weather. If the wind would pause for more than 10 minutes I might get something done outside, but maybe not. I’m hurting, and it’s hard to stay motivated when everything hurts. But I’m starting to put fibers aside for the Tour de Fleece, and I finished another pair of socks, so that’s something. Lamb news soon I hope!