Here is this year’s Miniver Cheevy (born too  late). (And thanks to my junior high English teacher, TMJ, for forever sticking that poetic reference in my head…) I had one yearling ewe that had bred/marked during the normal time, but she must have lost that conception and re-bred late December. I could tell she was pregnant, as she was developing an udder; but I could also tell she was behind schedule, as her udder was pretty small during lambing in April.

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Our subsidized-lifestyle sheep, Jimmy Niblets, Esq.; aka Larry the Proposal Lamb, was a cover boy this month on the spring issue of New American Homesteader magazine. Back in December, a local writer-photographer team, Maureen Finn and Kimberly Taylor, were looking for sites to photograph to support an article they were writing on sheep rearing basics. 

It’s tough to find non-muddy locations that time of year. We had some decent sections of the sacrifice area that were at least dead grass, though still far from summer pastoral. Fortunately, photographers can do amazing things with limited opportunity. Also on the magazine cover is a small cameo of me showing how to hold a sheep by the head; demonstrating on JN, who was somewhat taking offense to being treated like a sheep.

In the article, there is another photo of my hands holding a butcher lamb, and a placid photo of some of my ewes just hanging out in the boring wintertime. I think the other sheep in the article photos are Maureen’s cute Shetlands.

I emailed Jimmy’s benefactors to let them know, and they rushed out to find the magazine, which it turned out, is on Fred Meyer shelves. I picked up a couple copies as well, one to frame and hang in the barn. Some of my Katahdin Facebook friends noted it, as you can see the ear tag well enough to spot our farm name. It’s funny to think, of all the quality breeding Katahdins in the world, that this dork made the cover; but he’s not a bad lookin’ wether, he stays tidy year-round. He’s always getting in the business of any farm visitor, and photobombs most portraits, so this is no surprise. Gentlemen of a certain standing in society just can’t escape the paparazzi, so might as well strike a pose.

I have a crew of complications housed in the barn, where it’s easier for me to keep an eye on them. These resting ewes may look like they have whole litters of lambs, and in a way, they do.

 

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Nursing her twins, with a cheat coming in the backHere’s the sad part of raising livestock, the losses. I lost a ewe last week, a good yearling that I had purchased. She came in a group of four half-sisters (same sire). The other three have thrived here, maintaining good weight, and generally doing well. Two have had good lambs, the third is due any day. This one was concerningly thin all through winter. I gave her an extra round of de-worming and a course of antibiotics, hoping to address whatever was dragging her down. She was in the barn for boost-feeding prior to breeding, and then again heading into late pregnancy.

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The second ewe who had prolapsed way early lambed late last week, and it was successful. This ewe had prolapsed last year as a yearling, and that lamb had apparently died, or had been born dead, or something. So I don’t think she’d had any mothering experience.

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One of my highly productive ewes lambed on Thursday. She was big, her udder was big, she handily raised triplets last year. So I was certain she’d at least have twins. Nope. A nice, big, strapping single ewelamb. Gah. At the same time, a purchased ewe who is kinda skinny was also giving birth, right near the same spot. I was there to witness, so I knew who was who; but they were getting confused. Skinny Girl was glomming onto the Singler’s baby before her own emerged from the womb. Singler was sniffing around the scent pool of the other lady’s recently-broken water, licking her lips, and nickering from the scent trigger. I double-checked the Singler to confirm no more were coming. I pulled the first one out of Skinny Girl so she’d focus on her own business and ignore the other lamb that didn’t belong to her. She did. A second one delivered. I checked, and a third one was on the way. I saw an opportunity.

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Two stanchioned ewesLuckily, most days during lambing just involve walking down to the field and checking on things every few hours. Maybe some lambs have been born that I need to weigh and tag. Maybe a ewe is giving birth and needs a little assistance. Before bedtime, I try to make sure each lamb is bedded down near its ewe, so they have access to the milk bar and protection during the dark hours. Plus, I am moving the sheep fencing daily onto fresh grass. Moving the fence is easy, but moving the sheep gets harder and harder, the more ewes and lambs there are. Ewes with newborns refuse to move, so then I have to lure them, one set at a time, by putting the lambs in slings and walking them into the new square, with the mother following in objection. This overhead effort consumes a good part of the day. But it’s “good” work, rewarding in that everything is going as planned.

But then I have days like last Sunday, where it’s just one. thing. after. another. And I get so tired! Then I forget to eat, and by the end of the day, I am crabby and a part of me thinks “I hate lambs!” By the time I’m doing the last chores of the day, like feeding dogs, I literally just hurt from tiredness, and have to push to get it all done.

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