Tag Archives: lambing

Lambing tidal wave

Esther's white ram lamb
Esther’s white ram lamb

What a weekend!  We went from waiting patiently on Saturday to having everyone have their lambs in a 36 hour period.

Saturday night I checked on everyone around 8 PM and there was absolutely no action.  Esther kept giving me that bored teenage look while nonchalantly lying there comfortably chewing cud.  When I got out there at 10:15 it was another story: there was Esther with two ram lambs out in the paddock.  One black and one white.  Nice size, too.  She had them all cleaned off, they were both fed, and both were on their feet.  We got them situated in their greenhouse pen and I went to bed wondering about the other two ewes.  In the morning,  still not a thing happening.

Our friend Chris with one of Esther's boys
Our friend Chris with one of Esther’s boys

I got up early on Sunday and did chores.  I was looking forward to getting to Hatchtown Farm‘s shearing day, which is always a social day for seeing old friends and meeting lots of new fiber folk. We had a lovely day, and an even lovelier afternoon potluck.  One of our friends from Bridge Farm, Kathy, came home with us.  As we drove down the driveway, we saw that our first-timer, Etti, had two lambs standing with her in the paddock.  The black ram had just been born, but the white one was up, clean and moving.  We got them inside the greenhouse and spent a lot of time helping them get their first meals as Etti’s teats are very large and they had some coordination issues.  But those boys had quality bellyfulls by the time Kathy left.  We tried penning Fern, the last holdout, before dark, but she remained elusive.

Etti's boys
Etti’s boys

Yesterday morning I powered through chores even though I wasn’t feeling very well.  I managed to get Fern penned just in case (although she knocked me down twice before I got her into the greenhouse!).  I made it a few miles up the road toward work when I had to turn around because of a gastro emergency.  Don’t know if it was a Noro virus, but all was not well.  Sheesh.  And of course Fern decided it was her turn.   John was ready anyway as he knew I was on my way to work, and just as luckily it was an easy birthing.  We thought just one very huge, gorgeous black ewe (!).  But an hour and a half later, a white ram made his entrance.  Wow.  And the lambs were up and fed in record time.  Both 13 pounders.

Fern's black ewe and white ram
Fern’s black ewe and white ram

So Lambing 2013 is finished.  We had 8.   7 rams, 1 ewe.  Having 7 babies on the ground is a very nice complement of lambs, considering we only had 4 ewes bred.  Definitely time for a celebration (which I am hoping will be uninterrupted sleep!).  The wind was an issue most of last week and the weekend, but maybe it was better than fighting the rain that we appear to have scheduled for all of this one!

HoneyBea has a night

HoneyBea and boy number 2
HoneyBea and boy number 2

A Crazy Night.  Something we have never run into before: a lamb with it’s head turned all the way back, front feet coming out, but not straight up.  So not only was this ram sideways, but his head was preventing him from being born.  Not realizing any of this around 11:30 when I saw her waterbag, my husband and I got our equipment together and went out to put HoneyBea in a larger pen inside the greenhouse so she could do her thing in peace without interference from all the curious onlookers.  It’s so difficult to know when to intervene and we usually take as much of a wait-and-see-what-she-can-do-herself approach, but after an hour and a half, we realized that her labor was not progressing.  That’s when I found the feet but no head. Couldn’t reach the head, but I felt a head way down low underneath these feet.  Was the lamb folded in half somehow?  Couldn’t imagine that, but nothing I did seemed to help inform my mental image of this puzzle. At that point my husband took over, and he couldn’t put all the various bodyparts together in a coherent way either, and poor HoneyBea was just not even having any contractions at that point.  We began to think it was a breach, but we couldn’t find a tail.  Oh boy, not good.

So at 2:20 a.m. we were realizing that we might lose this wonderful ewe as well as her baby or babies.  No vet contacts for nighttime emergencies that we know of, either.  We ended up calling our friend Pam of Hatchtown Farm (yes, at 2:20 in the morning!) and she got over here really quickly (she said she was already awake.  She must have heard the frantic cosmic screams).  She has magic hands, and can visualize things much better than we can, doesn’t panic, but even so, this baby’s head did not want to come around and stay around long enough for her to get him out.  I don’t remember all that happened, but eventually out he came, not breathing.  Big boy, 11.25 lbs, but I was ever so grateful that he was out, and not permanently stuck.  Pam then located his twin, another beautiful black ram, 12 lbs 2 oz.  He fared better and must have been out of the way of all the poking and prodding.  He landed making noise, and is loving his new world so far.

P1000746I can’t even imagine that HoneyBea would bounce back from this kind of messing around with her insides, being a 7 year old ewe.  But she is looking really quite well, considering her ordeal. She got vitamin B and a hefty dose of antibiotics, her placenta came out beautifully, and her baby is taking advantage of being an ‘only’ and bellying up to both sides of the milk bar.  Here’s to hoping that she will continue to have the resources to mother this beautiful boy, and that she will be around with us for another couple of years (although we definitely have already inscribed her name in permanent marker on the Not To Be Bred Again list, for sure.)

Needless to say, my husband and I are both hoping that this is the only assisted birthing we need to have this year!

Idling on the starting line

Ewes are looking ready
Ewes are looking ready

Nope.  HoneyBea has not popped her babies yet.  All the ewes are ravenous and their udders and bellies are growing.  It’s looking like a beautiful day today, so anytime is good, HoneyBea!

SnowPea's morning greeting
SnowPea’s morning greeting

On the goat side of things, Melazane is doing better and not standing in the middle of the paddock crying anymore. Smiling SnowPea and Pippi the milking does greet me each morning and always look like they are wondering what all the hubbub is about… people coming and going every few hours, 24/7.

Smiling SnowPea (she tore her lip when she was 3 weeks old and now has a permanent smile!)
Smiling SnowPea (she tore her lip when she was 3 weeks old and now has a permanent smile!)

And as always, the humans are totally sleep-deprived before anything has really happened yet!

Happy Spring 2013

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Quite a beautiful day out there once we got past how much snow needed to be shoveled.  Snow day yesterday, 2-hour delay today. The roads were not fun on the way to work but by this afternoon things were much improved.  I was out this morning shoveling the feeder out when the official Spring sprang, but chores this afternoon were delightful with the sun on the snow, and the wind had died down.  And so we march on toward “real” spring, and hopefully some lambs will be arriving at the end of next week!  You can see how large HoneyBea is in the photos (the silver shorn ewe with no coat on… she got it half off and all tangled in it yesterday).

Just hoping that this is the snow’s swan song!

Chickadees claim spring, snow says not yet thank you

Newly-naked girls wait for breakfast
Newly-naked girls wait for breakfast

Another big, fast moving storm.  Eek.  Looking at the weather forecast, I can’t imagine the snow hanging around too long with temperatures in the upper thirties for most of the week.  And I really am not looking forward to much more shoveling.  Hopefully our lambs will hold off for the next week or so!  (Although when I looked at my due dates calendar, I realized that one of our first time moms has a date for this Friday.  I don’t think she will go, though, because she got re-bred in her next cycle.  It was the first afternoon that the ram joined the group… !)

Zelda and Elf
Zelda and Elf

When I went out to do chores this morning,  all I could hear were chickadees singing the two-note song that I never hear during the winter, only in the spring and into the summer.  Apparently they are ready for the big equinox tomorrow.  Too bad no one told the wintersmith (thanks to Terry Pratchett for that name. Love that book, really that whole Tiffany Aching series).  I am ready as well.  Tramping through a foot of snow loses its appeal very quickly in March :*)


Messy snow scene
Messy snow scene

We have had the luxury of not having to scurry around over vacation to get ready for shearing and lambing.  Most years we have bred our ewes so that they are due mid-March, with some of them lambing early in March, after shearing during the first part of the February break.  Considering the kind of weather we are having this winter, I am really glad for the chance to welcome some warmer weather in before doing either of these things (we hope!).  March can be a very unstable month, weather-wise, but I am seriously hoping that the overnight temperatures in the single digits and below zeros will be behind us now.  I don’t mind going out in the middle of the night when it is in the mid and upper twenties at all, and thirties are even better :*)

Shearing is coming up in two weeks, and since we don’t have a barn, I have to hope for the best in terms of weather, because even though we have shelter in the greenhouses, we shear in one, and then have to run the fleeces down into the milking area in another greenhouse.  So if it’s rainy, it’s a bit of trouble.  Don’t want those fleeces wet, before or after they come off the sheep!

But for now, we are just preparing for the next winter storm.  Rain, and then possible 6-12 inches of snow.  Hmmm.

Warming trend after the snow, looking forward

Etti having a Zen moment
Etti having a Zen moment

I hate it when this happens!  It’s nice that some of the gigundas snowbanks are shrinking a little bit, but what an icy mess chores were this morning.  And our lights keep going out in the greenhouses.  Some connection must be wet.  I had to have John drive me up to the street this morning as I was really afraid of the ice and the soft snowbanks lining the windy, steep driveway.  Even our street was ice.

But tonight there is a little more driveway showing, and most of the roads I travelled home are much cleaner.  3 more days of school and then February break next week.  My goals for vacation are to first and foremost, relax.  But after that, I really need to get upstairs and get some fleeces organized and cleaned up, and get my head wrapped around preparations for lambing.  Our first lambs are tentatively due the first of April.  Shearing and vaccinating is coming up mid-March, and I am beginning to get excited!

And Esther winds up the 2012 lambing season

Esther finally got around to going into labor.  Not that it was obvious to me at all on the 11 PM check!  All was peaceful and everyone was lying down and cudding about then and by 2 AM we had a problem.  John came in from a middle of the night check and let me know that Esther had a head and ears hanging out and no front legs to be seen. A big white head with bulgy eyes and the tongue sticking out.  It’s a shocking sight and always gives me a fright.

We got our gear together and of course I couldn’t push the head back in to get both legs out, but I was able to get one of the front legs extended and we pulled the large, white ram.  Poor guy, he had had hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and he really took a long time to get up and active.  (All of his mucous membranes are bloodred because of that).  In the meantime his sister was all ready to go, but her elbows were locked around Esther’s pelvis, and none of the ewe’s pushing was getting anywhere, so we needed to help her out a little bit.  She is a beautiful black ewe with wonderful white lightning markings on her face.

Needless to say that we are totally exhausted and ready for many nights of uninterrupted sleep!  The fun doesn’t end there, however, as we were not sure that the ram lamb was actually getting much milk.  His temperature was a little down, and Esther kept pushing him off her teat, so I finally remembered to check his teeth, and two of them were very sharp.  I filed them down with a nail file and I think that it actually helped.  They seem to be coming along, but every time I go in there Esther gives me the wild-eyed look and although she doesn’t stamp at me, I get the message.  Esther just doesn’t want to let me in on what she has for those babes!  She is a chip off the old Norma block in that way and I think I am just going to have to trust that she has enough milk to feed those lambies.  We will weigh them tomorrow and keep our fingers crossed.  The wind is really blowing today and the temperature has dropped so we want the lambs to get enough milk to stay warm.

I can’t believe it’s finally done :*)

Esther the Enigma

Is still an Enigma, but we are beginning to see what is really going on.

I have been trying to figure out how Esther could still be pregnant if she got bred down in the field by the ram Reece (which she did).  I am a little slow, but I finally realized that even if she had been bred the last day that Reece was in with the girls, she would have had to have had her lambs at least two weeks ago.  So I began doing a little detective work in my records and calendars.

As it turns out, when we brought the ewes back from the field (they had all been marked by the ram so we knew they should be bred), we put them into the winter paddock where we had the group of sheep waiting to go to the butcher.  We had a few older animals, but we also had ram lamb #107, one of Mae’s triplets, in the mix.  He was the only ram in there, so I am guessing that his last few days with us were pretty happy ones!

The butcher group went off early on December 6th, so calculating that as the last date possible for Esther to have been re-bred, her new and improved possible due date is April 30th.  A few days after that even, as that is the 145 day average.  Of course, she may have been bred sometime between the November 22nd date when we ferried them home, and the last possible date.  If this has you confused, I can’t explain how cross-eyed and crazy it has made us!

It will all turn out fine in the end.  As a matter of fact I am very pleased that she will actually have lambs because our numbers are down to the minimum and it’s always nice to have a few to choose from should we want to keep any replacements.  In addition to that, ram lamb #107 was a beautiful guy, son of Mae the almost 100% Coopworth and Lucky the Coopworth/Border Leicester cross.  Both wonderful and productive animals that led long lives and parented many little ones.  So this is really a happy accident.  John and I will forget this 6 or 7 weeks of late and middle of the night checks after we get a night or two of totally awesome sleep, I am sure!

And Fern is next, finally!

Fern attends to her ewe lamb, first up

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.

Fern with her ram and her ewe

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!