At last we are on the other side of lambing with a few days of recovery under our belts. We are grateful for the 22 lambs (11 ewes and 11 rams), but once again, we faced some challenges. Lessons we learned in the past helped out and new situations dealt us some blows.
Lambing lasted twenty days (with almost a full week in the middle with no lambings whatsoever) with way too many going into labor between 2 am and 4 am. I’ve learned that Todd handles sleep deprivation much better than I do. The toughest night was Jewel having twins at 2:30 am and Rita having triplets at 4 am. Early on we knew double wide Rita (she really looked like she swallowed a garbage can lid) was likely to have triplets. Unfortunately, one of her teats is blocked beyond repair, so we are supplementing with bottles for all three, and they appear to be thriving.
We were less fortunate with an earlier set of triplets by Cedar. Despite all kinds of effort, we were only able to save one of the triplets. Cedar knew from the start that only one was worth mothering, an instinct I find fascinating.
One day we had twins in the morning and another set at the end of the day. Each had a lamb with hypothermia which meant tubing warm milk replacer into the stomach and bringing the lamb into the house to be warmed up with hot towels from the dryer and a heating pad. It takes us about ninety minutes to bring the body temperature to 102 degrees and once they’re able to walk on our floor alone, we take them back to mom. One made it. One did not.
Twice I woke Todd at 4 am pointing to the lamb cam monitor in the bedroom and saying, “I think that’s a lamb.” Once up in the barn, I could see I was wrong, it was just shadows and those hours of lost sleep weren’t coming back!
I did my fair share of pulling lambs out – none more challenging than Jasmine, a first time mom who is extremely skittish. Our friend Suzanne was visiting and she noticed the telltale sack hanging out. The books say that if the lamb doesn’t follow within 45 minutes to an hour, one should pull the lamb out. But first you have to get your hands on the Mom! We tried to pin her in with panels to no avail. Todd got home to help and eventually we got our hands on mom. I was able to determine that while yes, there was a lamb there, the cervix had not dilated enough. Suzanne held the protruding legs as I worked my hand between the head and cervix trying to stretch and coax the baby out. Eventually, with a bit of tearing, the lamb came through and her twin was pulled out relatively easily a short while later.
Our final pregnant ewe – Hannah – went into labor around 4:30am Sunday, April 30. Last year we lost both of Hannah’s twins and this year we only did a little better. Her first lamb was small but fine and Hannah did a decent job of mothering from the start. I did an internal check for a twin, found nothing, and we left mother and baby to bond in their own space. An hour later, I helped pull out the dangling afterbirth and tried to put the lamb on the teat without success. To celebrate the end of lambing we planned to head out for breakfast, but first I wanted to try one more time to get the lamb on the teat. When we got to the barn, Hannah lay on the ground with a breech lamb by her rump, head and neck still in the vagina. The baby was warm, but dead. If she had not been breech I know she’d have been all right. It’s a sight that will haunt me for some time.
We have a new ram – Hanson – and he seems to be quite up to the job. Almost unbelievably, ten moms threw off twins, and two moms had triplets. While this is only our fifth lambing season, it is the first without a single lamb. Most of the lambs are very dark brown. We have one moorit (medium brown) ram lamb, and one of Hillary’s twins, while mostly dark, has interesting white coloration on her face and large patches that can be best described as dark gray. Five are white – two of them ewes and all the triplets rams. While we started this adventure thinking we would focus on breeding for color, we’ve come to appreciate the value of white fleeces to lighten the yarn through blending. These two white ewes bring our white total to six.
The current flock size? 49 – the same count after lambing last year. Onward.