NewbornsTuesday morning, another set of triplet lambs were born. This was ewe #107, she is an experienced mother, and she looked like she had triplets in her, she was big! It was a textbook delivery, I happened to encounter her just when she was getting started, so I actually got a chance to take some pictures of the process. They don’t often do me this favor!

This ewe actually did things like the books say, which, I think, is unusual! 🙂 She pawed the ground, circled, and got up and down as she was preparing to deliver. My ewes often paw the ground to make themselves a nice “bed” before they lay down to snooze, so I’m often fooled by this “sign.” But this girl really was getting ready to deliver.

Next, the water bag emerged, and then broke. You can see her straining in the picture, making a funny face (but that face is also made while they’re chewing their cud, another thing that can fool me for a moment!) Not all my ewes have big contractions like this, some of them seem to barely make any effort at all, and the baby rather flops out while the ewe is strolling around! This girl definitely wanted to lay down and push. And look at her big dairy udder! Nice.

FirstWater

Next, the head emerged, and one front foot. At this point, I stopped taking pictures for a moment to get in there and check, because of the malpresentation. The ideal presentation is both front feet right in line with the nose- this way, the baby is kind of positioned in a “diving” maneuver, which facilitates getting up over the pelvic bones and coming downward to exit. Sometimes, if both front feet aren’t forward, the lamb’s shoulder blade can get hung up. But, I gave it a little tug, and it slid right out, so the one-leg-back position wasn’t a problem in this case.

HeadEmergesHere is the baby, fresh out of the oven! 🙂 It was a ewelamb, all white. The mother immediately turned around and started attending to her, getting her clean and stimulating her to try to stand and nurse. I did a quick check to make sure her mouth and nose were clear of fluids and that she was breathing, then stepped out of the way to let them bond.

newwhitelambI noted the time, and sat down to wait. The lamb was up on her feet pretty quickly, but of course, clumsily at first! The ewe had chosen to lamb on the dirt instead of the grass, so both were a bit grubby. I eventually convinced the ewe to move a bit to cleaner-looking grass. Which makes for nicer pictures! 🙂

StandingUp Within minutes, the lamb was up, mostly dry, and looking for a teat. I find it interesting that the lambs are very hard-wired with the instinct to hunt for the teat. They really know to look upwards, and to hunt around in the pocket-like-areas of both the elbow and the flank. They keep wedging their noses up in those areas and nibbling and tasting, until they are rewarded with what they’re looking for.

The only trouble is, we’ve bred these ewes with huge bags and low-hanging teats that are good for feeding multiple babies, growing them rapidly into meat animals, and for convenient hand-milking. But, the lamb’s inborn instinct hasn’t seemed to have changed with this genetic phenomenon. As you can see in the following picture, this mother’s teat is not where nature puts them on say, a deer, up inside the flank where the lamb is looking.  They are hanging way down low, and they are almost too big to fit into this little lamb’s mouth! (Fortunately, they are squishy, so it still works.)

And every ewe’s teat configuration is a little different. So, this part, I think, ends up being a learned behavior. The lamb instinctively knows to look for the teat persistently, and fortunately the persistence pays off, in that she will eventually find it even though it’s not where she thinks she should look! After a day or so, the lambs memorize the position and can go straight there with no hunting.

But, this, I find, is a critical time, because is the lamb is at all weak or passive, she’ll run out of time, energy or interest before she finds the oddly-positioned teat, and colostrum. So, if I’m around, I try to really watch to make sure I see the teat in the lamb’s mouth, so I know the lamb isn’t just making fake-nursing sounds up there sucking on a chunk of hair or skin. I might stick my hands up there and make a simulated flank area around the teat, to try to guide the lamb’s nose in the right direction.

And, tickling their tail works well to encourage nursing, if the ewe isn’t already doing that by licking. Sometimes out of impatience, I’ve tried to shove the lamb onto the teat, but of course, this doesn’t work at all. 😛 If they sense any pushing or pulling, they immediately resist and back outta there! So, you have to keep your hands off of them, and just try to make a physical channel that only leads in one direction: the right one.

LookingForTeat

This lamb finally figured it out, but it probably took her ten or twenty minutes of dogged hunting. Just in time before the ewe laid down, started having contractions, and the second water bag appeared and burst. Here is a little brown nose, but again, only one foot:

2ndLambNoseI did a quick check, and the other front leg was forward, but turned sideways at the wrist. So that was easy to flip forward and out he came, a dilute brown ram lamb with a couple of white spots.

RamLambHalfwayOut Lots ‘o goop! 😛 But that’s what makes them slide out so nicely, they are well lubed!

RamLamb2I cleared his mouth, and his mama started to clean him, while the ewelamb looks in her elbow for a teat! 😉 She doesn’t quite have it down yet!

ramLamb3 Everyone gets a little bloody in the process (me included) but it’s ok, it all cleans up! The ewelamb looks on at her newborn bro. She looks like she’s thinking, hey, I think I’ve seen you somewhere before.

Bloodbath

Another twenty or so minutes passed, and here came the third brown nose, and this time, both sets of toes! This picture is a little more grotesque, as the placenta is also on its way (that’s the lump of stuff below the lamb’s toes). At this point, the ewe has a lot on her plate, trying to clean, encourage and bond with two lambs, and going back into contractions!

ThirdOne

But she handles it with ease, lays down and cranks out the third one with a few more pushes. Another ewelamb, also dilute brown in color.

LambThreeThis little lamb was funny, she took a few breaths, and then had herself a nice, big, full-body stretch. Finally, a little room to move around, she must have been thinking!

The messiness isn’t quite over, as the afterbirth sometimes takes a while to pass, and sometimes likes to hang there for several hours in an unflattering set of globs. 😛 But, you’re not supposed to mess with it, because pulling on it can cause the ewe internal damage. It has to detach in its own good time. Sometimes the ewes eat it (instinct is supposed to tell them to clean up the smells of newborns so predators aren’t attracted). But, Bronte the guardian dog is happy to offer this service otherwise. On Wednesday, she had an overwhelming supply of afterbirths to eat and must have been full, because I saw her carefully burying one for later enjoyment. 😀 Well, there is just no accounting for a dog’s taste…

afterbirth

Bronte fell sound asleep after all the action was over, maybe from being full of delicious afterbirths! She is generally itching to get inside that hotwire and get involved with those lambs, especially when they are all playing! So, I’ve been religious about turning the hotwire on each time I leave, even though it’s a pain since I’m down there so much.

BronteSnoozing The llama came over to check out the newest additions and hum at them.

llamaI find that the ewes like to lamb away from the rest of the flock and hang out in one spot for a day or so while they bond with their lambs. And that prevents them from getting to the water trough. So I bring them a bucket, and they appreciate that, and suck down a gallon immediately. They usually start porking down on grass too, seeming none the worse for wear. If only it were this easy for humans. 😉

DoneAnd here’s the whole family later in the day, when things were a little cleaner and dryer!

Family

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