Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lambing 2009

Well the city woman got her education on real farm life this lambing season. Last year we bemoaned the fact that we missed the birth of all the lambs. Not so this year. Oh no definitely not so this year.

It started so nicely. One of the Cheviots had twins and Jen was there to describe it to me over the phone. Daisy knew what to do and nicely went into her pen to drink her molasses water and the lambs began to nurse and all was well.

Another Cheviot, Pam, went into labor while I was there. We were a bit nervous about Pam as she was a rotten mother last year. But those little muzzles and front feet nicely came out as they were supposed to and it was a wonder to watch. Another set of twins a boy and girl. And this year an excellent mother (lucky for her).

Goldie, one of the BFLxBL's, was next and produced the longest lamb I have ever seen (so far...). He just kept coming. Jen gave her a little help and then his twin ewe followed, both solid black. Had to have some help getting those two to breath and they were much slower to stand and begin nursing. But again it was good and I love rubbing them with straw to help Mom dry them off.

Then the slide started. Julia who will be known as "Mutton" from this point on. Mind you I am the great animal lover. The butt of all the jokes. But Julia is the ewe from hell. First she prolapsed which required some very disgusting maneuvering with a contraption called a "spoon" (trust me, doesn't look anything like a spoon!) and harnesses. I think there were 3 harnesses all told. And the dreaded vet visit was required with the dreaded vet bill and she was finally sewn up (last resort). I kept vigil during the day while Jen was at work remembering if she went into labor I was supposed to cut the stitches (yuck). I do have to say she nicely waited to go into labor until Jen was there.

Of course all of Julia's triplets (yes triplets and of course all 3 rams) had to be delivered by Jen (with cell phone instructions from the BFL mentor Kathy, bless her!). The last, who we named Peter Pan was much smaller. Yeah I know you're not supposed to name them, especially the boys. Well it seems Julia didn't count on triplets so after ignoring him she attempted to stomp him to death since we hadn't got her less than subtle attempts to tell us that twins were going to be all she would care for. This is when my sense of time, reality and all those things we anchor ourselves with, began to disappear. For you see you have to feed those little guys every four hours. So every four hours one of us would drag out to the lambing shed with a bottle. Little Peter was very appreciative and showed it with pathetic meows rather than baaas.

Then Mutton...I mean Julia, decided to prolapse again (4th time) which I discovered while feeding Peter at 3:30 in the morning. I had to wake Jen as I only function in "assistant" status for these heavy duty things. I'd never heard Jen use some of the words she used that morning. With the strength only a sleep deprived and adrenalin hyped woman who had to go to work in a couple of hours, she heaved that huge ewe up and replaced all the hardware. Once again, she looked like a trussed up Thanksgiving turkey ready for the oven.

Relative peace was established until ewe number 3, BFL Amy, decided it was time to have her babies. You know those stories woman tell of their 100 hours labors? Well Amy could one-up everyone. ON and on it went. She got up, she went down, she got up she went down. We watched her by the light of a kerosene lantern huddled in jackets marveling less and less in the miracle of birth. Then finally the bubble came. Halleluiah! But nothing else happened. She got up she laid down, she got up she laid down. Jen muttered to herself "don't make me come in there!". Then reluctantly she rose from her chair and put on the long gloves. You know...the long gloves. They mean you are going up through a mass of very icky slime in a very icky place and going to have to help dilate the exit path. Finally around 3 am, a black ram and ewe emerged after much pulling and grunting and manuvering.

And Peter needed to be feed.

The next to come was I thought was Lemara, another BFL. Jen was at work so I called her as I saw a new lamb in the lambing pen. I thought it was amazing that this little lamb was already on it's feet and it looked as though another twin would come. Jen raced home and on seeing the Lemara in the pasture said that's not Lemara, it's Dot! Well Dot is a Cheviot who did not lamb last year and had no bag this year so we thought she was not breed. Silly us. Tried to graft Peter but Dot was not to be fooled. Even with yucky slime all over him she knew this was not her baby and one baby was enough thank you very much.

The next to lamb was one of my Shetland's. As most people who read this might know Shetlands are a primitive breed and thank god they know what to do. Lily plopped her first lamb out in the pasture and then her second (a ewe and a ram). She nicely followed us carrying the lambs into her pen with no fuss. Things were looking up! I left to go home humbled and appreciative of the experience with Peter in tow since someone had to feed him.

We still had four ewes to go. We looked forward to Cybil's giving birth as she had been an ideal mother the previous year and again we had hopes of grafting Peter. Jen called me when Cybil was in labor yeah. Well Cybil had twins, 2 ewes. Cybil is a very tame ewe, we call her the "souther belle" of sheep. She would "faint" if the Border collies tried to herd her so she was excused from that indignity. She loved to have her head scratched and would even turn to have her butt scratched and wag it like a dog. Only problem with Cybil is she has ENORMOUS teats. I am talking cow size teats.

Second problem we discovered is she prefers single lambs. Cybil, the consummate mother rejected her second lamb. Actually we believe that little Eve crawled thru the cattle panel during the night and by the time Jen found her and tossed her back in, Cybil had made up her mind that 1 lamb was plenty. So our hopes of grafting Peter were dashed and a second bottle lamb Evie was created.

This is where I will hassle my good friend Jennifer for oh the next 50 years or so. I, the "city girl", respected all the rules, feed the lamb by his mother. Don't bring the lamb inside. Don't let the lamb be around the Border collies etc. Jennifer the "farm girl" has put a diaper on Evie, has her in a dog kennel inside and her dog Sophie is playing with Evie and she has become a house sheep!!

Oh yes I will hassle her for at least 50 years! (She is damn cute though clopping around the kitchen in her little diaper.) She looks like an easter card! (Umm...Jen here. In my defense, little Eve is a EWE lamb, not a ram lamb. As I have explained, we don't attach to the boys, only the girls. So there! See, there is a benefit to maintaining the website, I get to edit what goes in it ;)

Well, I will end my entry here. There are still three Ewes (that we know of) that haven't lambed. I am hopeful they will repeat the story of last year. And yes I have learned a lot. Mostly, I have learned that lambing is one great big deal. Wonderful, awful, exhausting and exhilarating. And thank God it is only once a year!

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