Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lambing 2011

OK, I think its safe to do the blog post for the lambing of 2011. We still have 1 ewe to go, Goldie is apparently holding out for the longest gestation record since her daughter currently holds the record for having the largest lamb at DCSFF. Goldie may blow both records away…

Aliza with her lambs

I guess lambing officially started on March 22nd. I was taking March 23rd -27th off work as my first shift at lamb watch. I got home from work on Tuesday the 22nd and there were 2 lambs! I thought my timing was amazingly perfect! Aliza had 2 beautiful lambs, a black ewe lamb we named Liz and a white ram lamb we named Logan.

I stocked the barn with straw and hay, washed buckets for water, got the molasses out of the cupboard and sat it next to the sink. I was READY, bring it on!

I spent the next 5 days and evenings sitting in the lambing shed or running out to check on them. Nothing. There were several times I thought they were gearing up. Goldie and Maggie, then Rosie. They’d roll on their side, kick out that back leg and curl that lip. Nothing. Grass gas is my guess. In the meantime, Liz and Logan were the bells of the ball, racing around, growing like weeds. They needed playmates.

Liz & Logan

Bridget came out on Sunday to begin her week long “vacation”. Really, who wouldn’t rather be on the farm lambing than go to work? Nobody I know! I hoped that she would be the lucky charm that got lambing started. And it appeared to work. Monday before I went to work, I went out to do a barn check and sure enough, Daylight had lambed, 2 white ram lambs! They needed a little help getting going so I hollered in to Bridget that Daylight had lambed and lambs were needing some help. This was it, I knew it. Bridget was going to have a busy week! Bridget was a champ, she got up, administered some vitamin B injections to the lambs, milked the colostrum out of Daylight and then fed the lambs. I got home to find them all nice and warm in cute red lamb coats. Wasn’t long before they were up hopping around and nursing on their own.

Daylight & lambs, Anya trying to figure out what these red coats are all about

Sleepy boys!
Then the days turned into a week…and no more lambs. What is this?? This has never happened before, they always start and then they all lamb. That’s the plan dangit, why aren’t they following the bloody plan??

Bridget and I decided to take advantage of the down time and get the raised beds started in the garden. We had stockpiled some sheep compost from last year when we cleaned out the lambing shed and it had been composting since last summer. So I built the raised beds and we got a couple of loads of dirt from the local lumberyard and began filling them with the dirt and sheep compost and top dressed them with some peat moss and bagged topsoil. We’d better have some wicked veggies this year! Still a bit early for most stuff but I did get some cabbages, spinach, lettuce and some herbs seeds planted just before a nice rain. We’re hoping to create an attractive garden this year interspersing perennial flowers in the raised beds and along the fences. Sort of like a “potager” or French kitchen garden. We’ve certainly got plenty of cedar trees in the back to build some obelisks for the vining things to grow up and use to support others. I’ve also started a garden fence out of cedar posts from the back pasture. 

So a busy weekend ended with no more lambs. Bridget went back to work and I had the following 3 days off, days in which I had intended to be tidying up and for sure be done with lambing. Never dreamt we’d barely have begun.

Tuesday morning I go out to find Claire wandering around the lambing shed while everyone else was already out grazing in the pasture. I saw that she was ready for lambing. FINALLY I thought. Claire had no issues and gave birth to a beautiful black ewe lamb I named Beatrice.

Claire and Beatrice
Time rolled around again and I had to go back to work. Figures I come home to find Amy had lambed. I see her in the pasture with 1 lamb. I looked at her and said “there is NO way you only had 1 lamb…where is the other one???” No answer. I rushed around looking for a second lamb and when I got into the lambing shed, there it was. The second lamb flat on its side. Crap, its dead, I thought. But as I got closer, I could see it was moving and trying to get up. She had just dropped it and walked away. So I cleaned him up and got him on his feet. He was very ready to get on his feet and wobbled towards Amy when she called. She wasn’t, however, calling HIM. Amy apparently decided that he was not hers and kept knocking him away. So I put her in a jug with both lambs and watched. I found some of the afterbirth (hold your cookies here) and stretched it over the lambs back. This helped. She stopped knocking him away but still didn’t appear to want him. I tied her up and forced her to let him nurse. I put both lambs on her and let them get their fill while I held her still. She was not happy. I tried hog tying her back legs together so she couldn’t kick him away but after several hours of trying different things, it was obviously not working. I grudgingly (and I do mean grudgingly) gathered him up in my arms and went to the house.

Sophie was over the moon, she absolutely loves lambs. Fynn is equally excited because a “poop machine” has entered the building! Does it get any better than that?? Nora on the other hand, not so pleased. Sheep do NOT belong in the house! What is wrong with this woman??? She disappeared behind the sofa not to show her face as long as that…that thing was here. I pulled out the dog crate, shoved several towels into it and popped little boy in. Got busy mixing up bottles for the night and next morning and then went to bed.

Fynn helping with clean up...yuck

Since newborn lambs need to be fed fairly frequently for the first 3-4 days, little boy was going to have to go to work with me. I’d done this before with Evie 2 yrs ago so I knew it would be ok. It was still cool enough outside so he could stay in the crate in the back of my CRV and I could go out on breaks to feed him. He was quite the hit with my co-workers! Thankfully it was now Friday so I only had to do that once. Eventually we decided to name this ram lamb Nigel and his sister will be Nell.

Saturday arrived and it was a beautiful morning. I went to let everyone out into the pasture and shortly afterwards, saw Anya, our little Shetland/BFL cross, begin the labor ritual of getting up and down and straining. I went to call Bridget but figured she wouldn’t make it out in time so I took as many pictures of the event as possible because Anya is one of her favorites. She had a little trouble getting the lamb all the way out because this is her first and he was on the large side for her. He’s a pretty white ram lamb with one black leg and some black speckles scattered on his ears and other legs. Bridget decided to name him Abel.

Anya & Abel

Next comes Melanie. Monday morning after I’d finished chores, I went to scatter some more straw in the lambing shed. I walked in on Melanie who was beginning labor. I was able to sit and watch while giving Bridget a blow by blow (or push by push) of the events over the phone. Melanie gave birth to a black ewe lamb and a white ram lamb that Bridget named May and Martin.

Melanie, Marty & May
OK, six down, four to go! We initially thought we had 13 bred ewes but it became obvious that neither Lucy nor Eve were bred (heartbreaking). Lemara I wasn’t sure about but I’m pretty sure she’s not bred either but that’s ok as she’s getting older and needs to retire.

The next birth will remain in my memory for some time. I went out to give Nigel his morning milk and walked in to find Olivia with a lamb hanging out of her. There was just the head and one leg and it was cold so she’d obviously been at it a while. I put her in a jug and gloved up to go in to see if I could get it the rest of the way out. Once in, I felt the shoulder that was hung up on the pelvic bone and the other leg was tucked underneath its belly. It was not easy and poor Liv was moaning in pain the whole time. I didn’t think I was going to be able to find the leg to get a hold on it but finally I did and pulled it forward. Once the leg was forward, I was able to get the shoulder around the pelvis and pull him the rest of the way out. I thought he was dead because his tongue was swollen 2-3 times normal size but when he hit the ground, he jerked and sputtered. This boy was still alive! I got him cleaned off, put him up by Olivia’s head (who was completely uninterested at this point) and put out hay and water for her. I had to get to work!

I expected to find the lamb dead when I got back because I knew he wouldn’t be able to nurse with that swollen tongue. Also, I’d not actually seen Olivia accept him so for all I knew, she had not. But when I walked into the lambing shed and peaked over to the jug where I’d left them, I was astonished to find both mom and baby up! The lamb was actually trying to hop and obviously had a full belly of milk. Olivia was munching on hay and had finished the bucket of molasses water I’d left for her. I gave her a shot of some anti-inflammatory/pain killer and penicillin. I also had to weigh this boy as he was the biggest lamb I’d ever seen. Yup, 19.4 lbs! Our average, if you include the Shetland crosses, is usually around 6-12 lbs and to think this was out of a first time lamber! “Tanker” has done very well and Olivia is probably one of the most worried momma’s out there lol. Hey man, you put that much blood sweat and tears into something, you wanna make sure it doesn’t get eaten by coyotes!!

Olivia & Tanker

Unfortunately the next morning on my trip to feed Nigel, I found Maggie, our Cheviot/BFL cross, wandering around calling for a lamb. I went in search of a lamb and found one, a dead black ram lamb. No idea why, it was a decent size, no apparent trauma (Willie, the LGD, was laying nearby). Nothing to do but remove it and get to work.

When I got home, I knew I’d need to milk out Maggie’s colostrum. So I tied her up and started milking. Nigel was crying in his pen behind me, wanting his afternoon milk. Then it dawned on me, why am I milking this into a cup when Nigel could put it straight into his belly? I had milked enough colostrum to put in the freezer for any future needs so I grabbed Nigel and showed him the udder. I was amazed that Maggie didn’t make a fuss, didn’t try to kick him away, just stood there probably enjoying the much needed relief. It took Nigel a minute or 2 to get the hang of actually nursing from a real nipple vs. a rubber one but he soon figured it out. This has worked out well as I just catch Maggie when they’re eating grain and then call Nigel and he comes running over and latches on. I wish she would let him nurse without my intervention but as of yet, has not. Its been good for Nigel to have some real milk however, he’s starting to turn is nose up at the fake stuff! Funny thing is that now every time I even pet a ewe he thinks that’s his cue to latch on. Let me tell ya, Sammie (a yearling ram needing grain thats in with the moms) does not appreciate this one bit lol.

So we’re down to 2 ewes, Rosie a 3 yr old Shetland/BFL and Goldie a 7 yr old BFL/BL. Friday afternoon (April 15th) I was out doing chores and noticed that Rosie was spending sometime in the barn. Not a common sight as the Shetland crosses much prefer to be outside. Next thing I know, she has put herself in an open jug. No question about it then, she was going into labor. I’m way past the grab a stool and watch stage by now, just want them to get on with it without my help! And Rosie did just that. I went in for quick check and poof, there was a lamb, went back in for a second check and poof, there was a second lamb. That girl is fast! Granted they were pretty small lambs, probably no more than 6 lbs each so it was a fairly easy birth for her. Both boys, one white one black and they were up asking for milk practically as soon as they hit the straw. I do love that about Shetlands!

Rosie and playful lambs!

So its now April 19th and Goldie has still not lambed. I’m growing more and more concerned because this ewe is HUGE. She has been huge since February and bagged up since March. I’m starting to wonder if they are even still alive in there and if not, will she deliver them?? I don’t know. I guess for the time being, I just have to sit back and wait. She’s not in distress and has a voracious appetite so I guess all is well for now. I’ll certainly update ya’ll if & when she has anything! Thanks for checking in!

Update!  Got home from work today and Goldie has finally lambed!  A white girl and a black boy, both healthy and already up nursing.  We are DONE!!

Goldie with "Bonnie and Clyde"


  1. Love the blog. You have such a great writing style; educational, entertaining and humorous. Being a sheep ignorant soul, I have a couple of questions. I was wondering what "the jug' is and why you give them "molasses water". Thanks again for sharing stories of your life on Dream Catcher Sheep Farm.

  2. A jug is basically just a small pen that you put new moms and lambs in so they have a chance to bond w/o interference from other sheep. Some shepherds just let the sheep lamb in the pasture and they'll find their own quiet area to lamb in. Others, like us, want to be a bit more hands on and if there are any issues (like Olivia this year) its easier for us to assist them if they're in a jug/pen. It also keeps them safe from predators of which we have plenty. We usually only leave them in a jug for 24 hrs, longer if there are any issues with the lambs or ewe.

    The molasses water encourages the sheep to drink and helps bring their milk down if it hasn't already dropped. It also gives them a boost of energy after hard labor. Some sheep ignore it but others will actually suck the entire bucket down all at once, its pretty amazing!

    Thank you for your comments and questions, I appreciate the feedback!


  3. It seems as though every lambing is different. This one was scary as we had 7 new Ewes who because of timing had to do much of it on their own. We did have one loss and one near tragedy but they all look wonderful. Nigel is a hoot.