Archive for the ‘lambing’ Category

A Quick Update

I just wanted to post a very quick, short update on Ailee and her lambs.

For those new to this year’s lambing, Ailee (one of our ewes and fleece producer par excellence), could not deliver her lambs normally and was rushed into the vet’s office a week ago for an emergency c-section delivery of two beautiful ewe lambs.
Due to the drugs and stress she had undergone, Ailee was taking care and nursing only one of the lambs. I had taken over and was bottle feeding the other girl as Ailee kept pushing her away. I named her “Sugar”, for the sweet little girl she is.
I had been feeding Sugar until about three days ago. It seemed when I showed up with the bottle, Sugar was more intent on just wanting to be with me as well as sucking on the seams of my jeans. I had a sneaking suspicion as to why but it wasn’t confirmed until today.
Ailee has indeed taken over mothering Sugar as well as continuing on with her other daughter’s care! It seems all she needed was some time and space as well as a round of pain meds and care. Today we saw Ailee actually nursing both girls at the same time, one on each side.
I feel relieved. Sugar is getting the care she needs from her own mother. I don’t mind being a substitute, but this wee lassie needs to grow up with sheep and learn all things “sheepy”. While part of me would have loved to bring her in the house (diapers, please) and have a “house lamb”, I know, deep in my heart, that our house is not where she’s meant to be. That said, she still stays very close to me when she’s out in the pasture. Or she’ll run with her sister and the other lambs…but as soon as she’s tired she’s right at my side…still my shadow.
Thank you all for your kind words, suggestions, and encouragement as we have dealt with this situation. It has not only helped me, but also Ailee. I see her getting stronger each day and more of the mother ewe I know she can be.
The only sad thing is that Ailee will have to find a spinner’s flock to live in instead of a breeder’s flock. And these two beautiful ewe lambs will be her last babies.

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Last Wednesday, lambing began here at Sheep Thrills Farm. While not totally a surprise, from the size of all the ewes we had suspected they might “pop” well before last Wednesday. It became apparent the girls were having twins at the very least with all of them being very “wide loads” as they ambled around the pasture.
Lacey lambed first on Wednesday morning. She always seems to be the first ewe to lamb – which makes me wonder about her outward composed behavior. I think I know who our “Flock Floozy” is. 😉 Out first was a beautiful little spotted girl, then a handsome young lad made his appearance right on her heels. Beautiful twin lambs. The little girl is a spotted gray and her brother has some color (browns) to his legs.
Amanda, being know for the huge boys she normally has, kept wanting scratches and brisket rubs as her time approached. I would whisper in her ear, “No boys this time, Amanda. No two big boys…I want three little girls, please.” Amanda must have been listening to me.
My friend, Melanie, being a nurse and interested in all things medical (and a godsend with all the help she gave), came to witness the births and assist me by handing me necessary items I needed to help the moms and clean up the babies. While we watched Amanda having more intense, but unproductive, contractions, Mel asked what that was hanging out Amanda’s bum. It was a tail! I gloved up and went in – and found a lamb’s rear-end where a head should be! I tried working my way down to find legs to correct the lamb’s position, but there was no room at all in there. After trying to find the other back leg without success I decided to get a good purchase on the hipbones of the lamb and pull along wit Amanda’s contractions. Out popped a beautiful brown and white spotted lamb. And it was a girl!
No sooner did the one lamb get out and breathing when another lamb was sliding out of Amanda right next to her sister — another girl!! While Amanda was frantically trying to clean up the twins, I heard a groan and looked to see another lamb hanging out of Amanda’s backside. I thought “My gosh! What’s she got in there, a litter?” As a matter of fact, she had three girls in there! Yes, Amanda have me three beautiful little girls…just like I asked her. 🙂 Good girl, Amanda!

Amanda's Triplets

Lacey's Little Girl

Lacey's Little Boy

After Amanda’s triple-play I thought I was done for that day. Mel went home late in the afternoon leaving me word that if either of the two remaining ewes lambed to please call her. OK. I’ll keep an eye on them in the monitor in the office.
I checked about 9 p.m. to find Loretta digging furiously trying to make a nest for herself. “Don’t tell me she’s going to have her lambs now!” I thought, promising myself to check on her later. So, I stayed up checking Loretta at 10, then watched TV for a bit, heading back to the monitor at a little after 11 p.m. But wait a minute…what’s that with Loretta??? OMG! She’s got two lambs and they’re both white! Loretta is a iset (forsted looking) black Shetland ewe so having white lambs was astounding to me. (They are actually very, very light gray). Twins again and one of each, a ram and a ewe lamb.
Things settled down quite a bit but I did notice that our last ewe to lamb, Ailee, was starting to act as if she was going into labor. Oh, great! Geez-Louise! But Ailee never progressed along as she should have. The next day I had Rob, Sheep-Vet-Par-Excel-lance, come out to check poor Ailee. Yes, she was in labor. No, she isn’t progressing. Let’s try some calcium gluconate and oxytocin to speed things up a bit. Nothing. She went on all day in fits of activity as if she was going to lamb any minute, then nothing for hours.
Melanie had come back later Friday to see how Ailee was doing and if I needed any help. By now it was past midnight and into Saturday morning. I gloved up and :went in” finding that Ailee’s cervix not dilated at all but a lamb’s head behind the membranes just wanting out. I called Rob from the barn. After telling apprising him of the situation, he decided she should come in to the clinic. He’d meet us there. If we let it go longer we’d lose her and the lambs as well. She needed a c-section.
So, my DH, Ralph, got the truck ready and we hefted Ailee the Rotund into the back of the truck. At Rob’s office, he too did an exam showing how tight the cervix was. He tried to open the cervix. Nothing. Before we knew it Ailee was shaved and prepped for surgery.
Ralph passed the gas as Rob had shown him…Rob opened Ailee’s side…and then Rob dropped a huge lamb in the towel I had waiting in my arms. “I think this one’s dead.”, he said to me. I took the lamb, toweled it off and suctioned the fluids out of the mouth and nose. And it was alive! A beautiful spotted lamb! And it was a girl!!!
Rob called me back saying to bring a towel…that he’d found a second lamb. Soon I had another lamb to care for – and it was another ewe lamb as well. As he was closing her incision, Rob said he thought this should be it for Ailee – and that she never would have been able to deliver those huge lambs in any normal way. The next pregnancy could kill her.

I don’t have pictures yet of Loretta’s lambs or Ailee’s two girls. As Ailee was out of it for most of the bonding time she really needed to have, we fed the lambs colostrum and dried them off. So far, she’s bonded with the second ewe lamb, a lamb born brown but with a definite gray underneath that coat of brown. But she hasn’t bonded well with the first.
As of this writing, Ailee continues to push the spotted lamb away from her and refuses to let her nurse. So, I step in. Ailee still sleeps with the lambs and does some other motherly actions, but it’s clear – “I like this one, not that one!” I bottle feed the spotted lamb I have taken to calling “Sugar”. The jury is out, though, on whether or not Ailee will take on her full duties. In any case, it’s become clear that Ailee should be going to a new home as soon as she weans these girls. And isn’t it the way that she’s got some of the best fleece in the flock? But Rob and I agreed. No more lambs for Ailee, ever. She needs to be in a flock without any chance of becoming bred. She’s had two pregnancies with problems both times. Sorry, Ailee…it’s a spinner’s flock for you.

So…for the ending totals we have the following: 7 ewe lambs, 2 ram lambs! Not bad, Loki. Not bad at all. Ya done good, kid!

*Note: Today is the birthday of Miss Sinda, the Cat, who shares her life with my friend, Tina. She turned 20 today! Not bad, Sinda…not bad at all. 🙂 Please stop by her home at Marietta Shetlands and wish her a Happy Birthday.

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Today should be the start of lambing season for Sheep Thrills Farm. The girls are uber-pregnant right now, with two showing signs that labor may be beginning soon. The first photo below is one I took about a month ago, right after shearing. It was obvious then the girls were all “with lamb”.  Loki did manage to figure out what breeding season was all about.

Udderly Pregnant

I am really looking forward to seeing what we get with this breeding from Loki. When I was researching his pedigree I noticed all his sire’s first generation (called F1 generation when using artificial breeding) were white, but when I looked farther into the F2 generations offspring, all sorts of colors and spotting showed up. I know Loki carries spotting as he does have a mottled nose of black and pink as well as some sports, although small, on his face and ears. I am really hoping for a multitude of colors this year. That said I also realize Mother Nature has the final word no matter how I plot and plan.

Ewes live to be moms. They excel at mothering above any other creature I’ve known, humans too. They’re OK with skipping a year, but give them the choice and they’d have litters of babies if they could. (Not unlike the Finn-sheep who do have litters) I can see in the girls’ eyes that while they are at the very uncomfortable stage, each one is hoping for lambs to mother. I have to be on my toes that one ewe won’t steal another’s lambs, which has been known to happen. They just love those babies!

As soon as we get some lambs I will post a few “baby” pictures. The lambs haven’t even hit the ground and I ready for lambing to be over with. As I wasn’t sure if Loki could handle the job (I’ve always used full-grown rams before), and with the stress of the dog mauling attack in February, I wasn’t sure we’d have any lambs here at all. But where there’s a will, there’s a way – and Loki most definitely found “the way”.

Rascal, the Gardener's Helper

Rascal, on the other hand…could care less about lambs and more about sunshine.

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I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Usually, this time of year anyway, is kind of slow time for shepherds. We’re waiting for our “Christmas”. We’re waiting for the lambs to be born.

Most of us plan our breedings carefully. I do have friends who have experienced a few “oops” this year – mainly when a ram with other ideas than cooling his heals jumps a fence and parties with the ladies he finds in the next field. Most of us know who was in with whom and in approximately 147 days or so, the results will make an entrance to the World.

This is the first year I have used a ram lamb – ever. I like older rams. They know their job, the main reason for them to be around anyway, and take their work very seriously. Skittles was that way…just show him the girls, turn him in with them, and be prepared to remove him a couple of weeks later. “Nuf said. The older guys show confidence and smoothness which the ladies seem to like. You can almost hear the Barry White music in the background.

Loki, on the other hand, is a young punk. I say that lovingly as I do enjoy watching him bounce around the pasture for the pure joy of life, nothing more. He was too young at fall breeding season to have an agenda. The world is/was his oyster, so to speak. Then he gets put in with a bunch of girls. Most are old enough to be his mother, too. What the heck is that shepherdess thinking? Why am I in here?

Then it hit him. Hmm. Maybe there is something to like about girls after all. Clumsy and not assured enough of himself to make things go smoothly, he courted the girls one-by-one. I remember the looks on the girls’ faces back then, looking at me as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding, right? This punk?”

So, now we wait. Approximately 145 days ago, Loki was seen to, ahem, cover one of the girls. Almost two weeks now, it was obvious after shearing that apparently Loki did both figure out which end was which and huge fleeces (even back last fall) not-withstanding, did figure out what this Ewe Dance business was all about.

Right now the Waiting Game is going on with the shepherdess. The girls are playing their cards very close to the vest even though they look like water balloons on toothpicks. When they lie down, bellies spread out on the ground around them. Ripples can be seen if you watch long enough – babies trying to move around or find room in cramped spaces. And as the girls move about, you’ll see one suddenly stop, mid-stride, lower her head and wag her tail furiously. Those darned kids are kicking me again. Quiet down in there!

But just let me get the barn ready for the new arrivals and we get a day of horrific winds as well as the chance of snow again. The high temperature for tomorrow is supposed to be in the 30s F. I was just getting used to the 60+ F weather, too, darn it.

But spring is the shepherd’s Christmas. We hope everyone does fine through the lambing and moms and babies all are healthy…

…this is when we get to see what colors, patterns, and “flavor” our best laid plans have made. We only hope Mother Nature will give her approval. C’mon, Amanda…I’ll take three little girls this year instead of the two bruiser boys you usually have. Please? I’d really like to show my granddaughter what a lamb is.

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I went out to feed this morning a bit on the late side. It was a little after 8 a.m. with a definite chill in the air. I fed the wethers, Skit and the older ewes with their brood, turning them out into the pasture for some exercise as well. I was just taking Loretta a bit of hay to shut her up as she was hollering at me all the while I was feeding the other sheep. I dropped it off in her pen then turned to check Ailee and Blessa.
It was then I noticed a dark brown pile in the pen where Ailee and Blessa were for the night. Blessa was standing there just looking at it with eyes as big as saucers. Then, it moved! It sunk in – Ailee had lambed sometime during the wee hours of the early morning!
What shocked me was not that she had lambed, but that she had shown no outward signs of even being in labor yesterday or last evening when I checked on them. Nothing. Her lamb hadn’t even dropped much, no super-swelling of her udder, no pacing or not eating, no digging to China to make a nest – nothing. If I had seen any sign at all, even an inkling, I would have jugged her straight away. Maybe I should change her name to Sneaky Pete.

Here is Ailee with her baby BOY. Yes, you saw correctly – a ram lamb. This season we have had a 100% ram lamb year!

At first I was very disappointed in the ram lambs…but then I started thinking…each one of them shows promise of being herd-sires. They all have good conformation, have rich coloring, two have spots with the others carrying spotting genetics. Can a shepherd really be bummed about having quality rams? After all, the ram is 50% of the genetic material of a flock. So what’s wrong with breeding quality rams for other flocks? Not a darned thing! 🙂

“Hey, Ma! Lay down so I can stand on you and see over this thing to look at my brother/cousin! Come on, Ma! I need help!” Poor Loretta…

At the end of this lambing season, even will 100% ram lambs, I am proud. Any shepherd would be to breed quality rams who should go on to be flock sires themselves. I think all the ewes and Skittles deserve a “Well done”! And maybe next season will be a ewe season…
One can only hope… 🙂

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When I got up Saturday morning, I immediately went to: 1. Turn the coffee pot “on”…and b. Checked the monitor in the office running “Sheep-O-Vision”. Loretta had been acting suspicious on Friday and I had wondered if she had progressed along. Well, at first I thought it was something wrong with the camera in that part of the barn, but I saw what appeared to be the beginning of something working its way out of Loretta’s posterior. To the tune of “There’s mucous! (Only another shepherd or person living with one would understand the excitement those words bring to a shepherd’s heart) She’s in labor!” I ran back to the bedroom to get dressed. I barely had time to tell my DH I was headed to the barn when I heard, “Don’t forget your phone.” from my beloved spouse.
Loretta’s labor progressed very fast, even for a first-timer. I checked on her then went about my business feeding the other sheep and making sure the others weren’t around to bother the expectant mom. After feeding, I went back in and spied two big feet where feet aren’t usually found on a sheep…but no membrane! No fluids! Oi!
Loretta was up and down. She was in the throes of deep, painful contractions without making any headway in getting this “pod-being” out of her body. By that time I noticed a nose and mouth with a big tongue hanging out of it. The tongue was pink, but if things didn’t progress along it wouldn’t be pink for long.
By that time my Dh had arrived to help anyway he could. I donned gloves. Enough time had passed and Loretta was getting weaker with each contraction. The nose was even starting to move back inside! I had forgotten how slippery these little guys can be, so I asked Hishonor to hand me a towel so I could get a good purchase on the front legs. With the next contraction, I pulled while Loretta pushed and out he came! Yes, damn it! Another HE!!!!

Above is a picture of the unnamed ram lamb Loretta presented to us. (I repeat…”Damn it!”) He had a bit of a problem finding the right spigots on Mama, the problem being that he had such tall legs. Soon he had his first meal and Loeretta continued cleaning him up.

He has the Skittles Stamp, a krunet marking, on the top of his head. And Loretta is a fierce protector of him. Her sister came close to inspect this new wind-up toy that her big sister had and Loretta tried to bash away all relations in protection of her new son.
We are almost finished lambing here for this year. But I may have to start thinking of another ram. Since we’ve had my friend, Skittles, out of ten lambs so far, only one was a ewe lamb. The rest have been carbon copies of their sire. It’s like Skittles has created his own army of Mini-Me’s running around. My talks with him have fallen on deaf ears. He’s out to create an army of rams under his control. So far, it seems to be working.

Darn it, Skit! I hope you remembered where you put your suitcase as you may be leaving…or at the very least you may have a roommate – with horns as impressive as yours! Got the word now?

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At about 1430 hrs. this afternoon, Lacey finally began her delivery in earnest, delivering two lambs. This morning she was very restless and wouldn’t eat much. I spent most of the day near the monitor in the office. Lacey usually lambs quickly but this time she kept dragging her feet. It appears that both are ram lambs. Yes…it is VERY apparent that the talk I had with Skittles went in one ear and out the other. I will double check myself later just to make sure I did get the sexing correct. I was trying to dip navels, check sex, and was getting licked by Mum all the while. It was clear I was interfering. I stepped back and let this wonderful mother take over and do her job. She’s in heaven. She has two babies again.

Above is mother Lacey cleaning off one of the lambs. I usually hesitate to interfere with the bonding activities of a ewe and her lambs, but today the wind was picking up, coming into the barn and trying to chill the damp lambs. I managed to find a few clean towels in amongst the lambing supplies so helped Lacey dry off her offspring. Below you can see that the older sibling has a spotted face! WoHoo! Spots! Markings! Anything but solid black or brown!

And here’s the culprit himself…er, sire, I mean. He looks rather pleased with himself, doesn’t he? (Shaking head) Must be a guy-thing.

Well, Skit! We’re halfway though lambing. You’d better darned well have a ewe lamb up your sleeve somewhere, Bubba! So there! Remember…we are all replaceable! (Shh…don’t tell him I really don’t mean that. I just want him to think about it for a while)

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As you will see from the following two pictures, Amanda really does look like a tick about to pop! I was out at the barn changing bedding in the pre-delivery waiting area as well as making sure the jugs were ready for use at any time. When I got to the barn, both girls came outside to greet me. You can tell they were both reposing by the straw stuck to them.

Amanda is HUGE and her udder is big and tight. If this keeps up, she’s going to have “horizontal spigots” instead of teats! They are almost to that position already. Poor girl. As I was removing old bedding she kept coming to see if I was done or not. Then she’d wander out into the pasture to catch up to Lacey. When I was through I called them in. Lacey managed a little trot, but Amanda just waddled quickly towards me. One thing I did notice was that she was wagging her tail quite a bit – a sign that lambs are jockeying for their starting positions, no doubt.

Above, you can see that Lacey is no slouch herself in the width department. I really thing Lacey will have twins. Amanda is either going to have triplets or a couple of really big bruisers like last year. She does seem bigger on one side…way bigger than what just one lamb would take up. We’ll just have to wait and see won’t we?

And while I was outside I saw we had a neighbor stop in to see what’s going on. This is a Blue Heron who lives in our neighborhood. When he starts coming around I know it’s time to re-new my fishing license and throw the crayfish trap in the stream. Yummmm….etouffee!
Looks like I will be home for a while – back and forth waiting for lambs to start. I notice that when the younger expectant ewes are in the pasture, Loretta will lie down when her babies start moving. Whatever she’s doing she stops, and with a puzzled look on her face lies down, then eats the grass around her. Strange. But I guess no stranger than pickles and ice cream.

And so it begins…
Hmm…Maybe I better call the vet just to make sure he hasn’t made out-of-town plans!

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The Waiting Game

While I’ve got the older ewes together for lambing to begin this weekend, I’ve separated out both Ailee and Loretta, along with the notorious Blessa, by themselves. Ailee and Loretta will be lambing in a couple of weeks – depending on when they settled.

You can see by Loretta’s udder development that she IS indeed with lamb(s). You can also tell that Loretta is not the dark brown/black lamb she was when she had to have her horn scurs removed. She’s becoming much more steely blue-grey. I think she’s becoming much prettier. I can hardly wait to see the lambs both she and Ailee will have, being one-step away from their mothers I’m hoping for some color this year other than black and brown. 🙂

This picture below is of Pearl, my favorite bantam Ameraucana hen. Nosey Josey just thinks she runs the place, but it’s really Pearl who does. She is the hen I’ve seen keeping all others in line and chastising other chickens if they don’t follow appropriate protocols around here. When chasing chickens into the barn at night, usually the dawdler is Bluey, another Ameraucana hen. Well, Pearl will jump on whoever is last in the door for being late. They all mind her. And she watches me, when I’m out there, just to keep tabs on what I’m doing in HER pasture.

Even Slick, the rooster, minds his peas and cues around Pearl. He’s a handsome devil and he knows it.

And below you see a picture of the reason why the songbirds are in hiding and the chickens are in the barn today. This little guy is one of the raptors we have in their area, but he wouldn’t let me get close enough to get a great picture. He was bigger than a Kestrel…he could even be a dark phase of one of the falcons we have here. The wind was bothering him and when I came out onto the deck to get a better picture, he took off, showing me his tail and backsides as well. He might have been a Cooper’s Hawk. I hope to see him again. So far, the birds have not started singing again so I know he’s still in the area.

Watch out, Chickens! Keep your eyes to the skies today. He sure looked hungry to me and Bran took all the mice this morning.

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My two older Shetland ewes should be lambing in about 10 days. That is, if they don’t explode first. I don’t worry about Lacey, but Amanda is the one who always looks like a tick about to pop. She had two very large ram lambs last year – and the way she’s looking this year, it’ll be the same or triplets.

Amanda is the darker of these two ewes. I also took a photo of her from the back as it illustrates just how big, wide, and explosive she really looks but it was a bit too graphic and I wanted to keep my PG-13 rating here. Trust me…she’s b-i-g and it ain’t all fat!

I’ve had to separate the two ladies from the younger girls as I noticed Lacey’s ewe lamb from last year, Blessa, was trying to nurse Lacey. Blessa had a total look of surprise after her mom’s fleece came off. It was almost as if she said, “Oh, look! There IT is!” It was a look as if Linus had found his blanket after Lucy hid it for a long time. And seeing her mother’s developing udder, she dove in again, looking at her mother then complaining “Got milk?”. The answer was no, but that didn’t keep Blessa from trying.
So, Blessa and the younger bred ewes are keeping each other company while Amanda and Lacey get a bit of a rest – and a more restricted diet as they both tend to pack on the pounds while pregnant.

At least they haven’t asked me for pickles and ice cream…yet.

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