For the past 7 or 8 months we have had a small roving band of chickens which included our lone guinea male. He tagged along with the Henny Penny and the two roosters for part of the day, but always ended up by himself calling inconsolably for his mate, who was dragged off early last summer. He calls for hours every day and was beginning to drive us crazy!
Last week our neighbor decided that he no longer wanted his guinea fowl as he is starting to plant his garden and doesn’t want them digging up the seed. My husband wasn’t sure that I would want more in the yard again, but I thought it might give our guinea boy some peers and maybe even some solace. So we brought them down and it’s been amazing! Our male took right to the little group and now we have 5 happy guineas wandering the property again. Every once in awhile they set up the alarm, but no longer do we have one screaming for company any more. Phew. I love it when a plan works!
It’s been that, but also a fun week of watching the lambs investigate their new surroundings. We got some nasty weather in the past few days, so we didn’t let the newest 4 out of their pens until midday today. I didn’t want to keep them in there any longer, so even though it was grey and misty we sent them out.
Fuzzy and Fern seemed to appreciate the freedom and the 4 new lambs went nuts with the three that were already out there. When I got home they were doing the lamb dance around the paddock while their mothers set to seriously eating their late afternoon meal. It’s something that I never get tired of watching! And we are still waiting for Esther to present her lambs :*)
We have been very sleep deprived for the last 3 weeks. But the homestretch is now in sight. Sunday morning’s activities with Fuzzy and her breech boys put a dent in my stamina and we really had no idea when Fern would go into labor, but she and her mother Fuzzy were initially bred the same day (the first day in with the ram) and were very probably bred again on the same day a cycle later. So when I caught her scoping out the joint about dinnertime last night, I figured things were coming along. I went out every hour or so and nothing was going on, and then when I went out at 10 pm to give our bottle baby her last bottle of the day, Fern was pawing the ground with little hooves and a nose showing themselves. It looked like a pretty big lamb, but she took her time and did her stuff. I was cheering her on when John joined me and we were very pleased to have witnessed our requisite “normal” births for the first time this year. Our other ewes have lambed in private so far this year, and then of course there was Fuzzy and her breech boys. So this was a delight, although the hour was decidedly not. Fern’s ewe and ram are white… what a surprise! They are both active and beautiful babies.
We got to bed around 1:30 this morning and it took me awhile to get my engine running today, but we survived. Our Esther doesn’t look like she is ready to lamb anytime soon, but you never know. And I am hoping she waits awhile as the beautifully warm weather has given way to blustery and cold conditions. We can definitely hang on a little longer!
Saturday we had a very relaxing day. Our friend Chris came over and we had some fun time with the lambs, and then just sat and chatted for awhile before going over to Hatchtown Farm‘s ram shearing late in the afternoon. That was a wonderful time, handling those gorgeous and incredibly large fleeces! Then we all went out to the Thai restaurant in town and relaxed and had a good laugh.
That night we kept our eye on Fuzzy Lumpkin as I had seen her checking out every corner of the paddock and greenhouse. She wasn’t pawing the ground, but it looked like she was setting the scene. Sunday morning I hopped out of bed at 6 or so, and headed straight up to the paddock. All the girls were milling around the feeders except for Fuzzy. She was in the greenhouse, way at the back, licking something off. I was trying to see what was going on without disturbing her, so I checked out the other pregnant ewes in the yard and then went in to see her. She was working very hard on a very small, dead ewe lamb. I doubt that she had much trouble giving birth, the lamb was only 5 pounds, and had been dead for at least a week if not more, in my opinion. Fuzzy was also pawing at the ground and had a nice waterbag out, so I started milking the goats and getting everyone else their feed. It became clear that Fuzzy was having difficulty by the time I got finished with chores and I realized there was no feet or nose presenting themselves. I couldn’t even feel a head or a butt or a tail. So I called our friend Pam and she came over and helped us get to the bottom of it. We really thought there were two front feet coming out, but then Pam saw the tail and she turned him pulled him. A beautiful, 14 lb 10 oz white ram. We spent a long time making sure he could get going and got a bellyfull of colostrum, and then Fuzzy decided it was time to have the next lamb. And that one wasn’t happening either. It was another breech boy and again! We have never seen that before. And we are very grateful that Pam isn’t lambing yet at her farm and that she had the time to come and help us out!
Both of the boys are doing well and are very sturdy rams. We couldn’t tell the difference between number 1 ram and number 2 ram so we marked one’s rear end with some iodine and then later I went out and put a dab of indelible blue magic marker on the bottom of his tail. Tomorrow we will dock and tag them and then hopefully no one will lose a tag. We are very pleased with Fuzzy’s boys. She is a great mother, just like her mother Sophie!
The week is over and waiting is still the name of the lamb game. Yesterday morning we let Beezus and her twins out into the paddock. It’s always a real pleasure to see the babies as they explore their new world. By yesterday afternoon they had engaged BabyBea and were doing the twilight romp around the paddock: up the hill, over the big rock, and back down again and around the hay feeders. It’s one of my most favorite things to watch. The only thing that makes it any more dramatic is if there are goat kids in the mix… then it’s a scream! Sharing the pure joy of being alive with them is such a precious gift.
The weather has turned a little cooler today and the wind has really come up. I hope that Fuzzy and Fern have their lambs this weekend. It’s really time!
But the weather is keeping us smiling even though it has been another week of waiting. We have 3 very pregnant ewes waddling around; HoneyBea and her gigundas lamb BabyBea are doing very well; and Beezus is doing much better than could have been expected. We still have her and the two lambs jugged. The ewe lamb is getting her bottle and the ram lamb is not getting as much as I would like, but he is gaining on his mama’s milk. I have not been too upset at the wait as I am down with a sinus infection and wish I felt better so I could really enjoy this unusual weather.
This week has also been full of the most amazing and unseasonably warm weather I have ever experienced in Maine in March. It’s been a little taste of summer as spring was officially ushered in yesterday. I know that the lack of snow over the winter is not boding well for the water table as we go into what is traditionally a messy mud season, but it sure has been a treat as well! Unless we get a lot of precipitation soon, I wonder if we have seen all of the mud season we are going to! Of course, all that means is that if the weather stays warm, the black flies will be here early. Yuck!
She did a great job and had her lambs last night while no one was watching! Typical. She likes her privacy and is not always thrilled to have people handling her and being around. It is totally awesome that she had the lambs herself. When I got out there at 10:30, both were up and the 11 pound black ram was already fed. He must have gotten what was available on the side of her udder where the teat actually sticks out near her leg. The 9 pound ewe lamb had not been fed and was dancing around, bleating for breakfast.
I ran back to the house and defrosted the colostrum I had taken from HoneyBea and shared that with our new little girl. It didn’t take her long to figure out the bottle, so she really must have been hungry. I could not get the ram lamb to take anything from it, but his little mouth was very warm and while his belly wasn’t totally full, it had something in there.
And so it goes. It’s a huge relief that Beezus was able to deliver those babies without help. She is making some colostrum, although I don’t know how long she will be producing anything. We are milking the teat that hangs straight toward the ground, as I don’t think the lambs have found it, or maybe cannot get at it and drink normally. I am hoping that the ram lamb will get with the bottle program soon. We have tube fed him because he so obstinately just wants his mother. It’ amazing how strong the survival instinct is and how quickly they bond. I hope Beezus has some time to mother her little brood!
We are still waiting for the rest of the girls to drop their lambs. They were obviously marked early on and then remarked, or everyone would have done their thing already. It doesn’t mean that we can stop doing our around-the-clock checks, however, because you never know!
In one of my recent posts I wrote about a situation that was developing that we already know is going to be dicey as it develops. One of our crossbred first-time ewes was growing well and looking healthy, her belly nice and round, and a very nice udder was already a good size. Last weekend I noticed that her belly was dropping, so I thought that she was getting ready to lamb. But by the end of the day on Sunday I realized that only one side of her belly had dropped. And it had dropped irregularly. All the way down to the right, and it is pulling on her udder as well, so that it is very lopsided. Her back right leg is stiff and clumsy as well. Not normal. We have seen this once before and it doesn’t bode well.
Poor Beezus is suffering from a ruptured pre-pubic tendon. There isn’t a lot written about it out there, although from what I understand it is quite common in horses. In my layman’s interpretation, I understand it to be a critical tendon that basically holds the belly in shape and helps keep the muscles where they should be. We had a ewe, Esme, quite a few years ago, who had this situation and we didn’t know what it was, thought it was some kind of hernia, and we couldn’t get her lambs out and ended up at a new vet, and lost one of the ram lambs. Esme died a month later, a victim of her out-of-whack organs and guts. I have to say that she was a first-time mom as well. I don’t think that that has anything to do with it, but it feels like some kind of a curse. Big sigh.
I fervently hope that Beezus can manage to deliver, or help deliver her lamb(s). And mother them. I already have milk replacer, colostrum replacer and some colostrum collected from HoneyBea, Pritchard teats and lots of bottles ready for the babies. I am so glad that our friend Chris Antonak bought Beezus’ hoggett fleece last fall and used it and enjoyed it. Her first adult fleece is a beauty as well. I am hoping that she will survive to mother her lambs and maybe make it through the summer. She would be able to at least make us some bonus sausage.
This has been a rough year. We downsized as far as we could to save money on feed and hay, and now we are going to lose the years of productivity that we would have gotten from Beezus. And the bad news doesn’t end there. But that, again, is a story for another day, I am sorry to say. Farming is not an easy choice to make at the best of times and with the numbers that we have, we get to know our animals very well. So each one is special and more than appreciated. And mourned deeply when they are hurt or lost.
More waiting again! HoneyBea and her ewe lamb BabyBea are doing really well. We docked and tagged the little one yesterday afternoon and found that she had gained over 2.25 lbs. since her birth. So she is doing well. All the other ewes are looking quite overloaded with lambs, but no one is showing any signs of being near to dropping them. And so it goes. We wait and check them every few hours and hope that things go well.
We got an easy one for the first birth of the year. HoneyBea surprised us with a beautfiul, large single ewe lamb last night (13.75 lbs). She must have been born in close to record time, as John was out there around 9 and nothing was brewing. I went out close to 11:30 and there they were. The ewe lamb was not dry, but she was all licked off and clean as a whistle; HoneyBea had passed her placenta; and best of all, the lambie had a full belly and milky mouth as added confirmation that she needed no help in that department.
After we got them jugged in a pen I made sure to open up the teat that our new girl had not found yet and I “borrowed” some colostrum from HoneyBea to put into the freezer for some lambs we have coming soon that are already facing something of a challenge. More on that later. For now I am just pleased as punch to have the first little one on the ground. I always feel that if the first lambing goes well, good karma is visiting with us, for a little while at least!
I will try and get some better pictures with our new baby after work today :*) And who knows, maybe Fuzzy Lumpkin will deem it a nice day for her big event!
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