JacobGosh, where has the time gone? I guess I was utterly consumed with lambing, barn building stuff, lack of sleep, catching up after being sick, and I don’t know what else. My 2.5 week vacation went by in a flash, and going back to work, it felt like I’d never been gone. But maybe that’s because I checked my email every day and still did some work from home during that time. I hate going back to a mountain of work after taking time off.

Lambing had a lull in the middle, and then a big rush at the end of high maintenance issues, emergencies, and a flood warning. Phew. Phase II of the labor overhead began with the lone Jacob ewe, who was crossed to a Katahdin ram. She had twins midmorning, nothing extraordinary in the birthing. But I noticed the littler one was slow to nurse and a little weak. So I tipped the mother over to help the little lamb out and get one serving of food into her. Only to find that the ewe has a half functioning udder. :-{

The bad half just felt like a solid brick; not hot, not cold, but with square, rigid edges. Literally like there was a foam cube inside there. Completely shot. So I think it is subclinical mastitis that destroyed the tissue sometime well before right now. Come to think of it, I had suspected she had some udder issues last year, and I treated her. Then things seemed to resolve, and I weaned her lambs before I could pinpoint a definite problem. Ah, yet another thing that does not endear me to this ewe. She was already on the don’t-keep list, and this confirms the fact that she’ll need to be culled. She will stay only long enough to wean.

JacobLambsI penned them, to keep the bummer lamb from spreading mastitis from this ewe to the others, since she was definitely lurking. This made it easier to catch the Jacob as well, so I could treat her with antibiotics. It didn’t seem like she was suffering from any kind of raging infection, but mastitis is dangerous, so I’d rather do what I can to make her comfortable and preserve the remaining good half of the udder. Times like this I’m grateful to not have the pressure of being organic. She got penicillin for three days, which has a nine day withdrawal time. Her lambs will be butchered in six months or more, and she’ll stay for another two or three months. So it would seem, plenty of time for drug residue to dissipate to negligible levels, at least in my mind. I’d rather have the ewe and her lambs thrive and not suffer unnecessarily than skip the drugs just so I could strive for a higher profit label.

JacobLamb2Though a good ewe can easily rear triplets on her two teats, I think even the best can’t do twins on one teat. And this ewe is unthrifty as well, so definitely two lambs was not going to work. I let both lambs stay long enough for them to each capture some colostrum, for immunity’s sake. It was a sacrifice for each of them, since neither got enough calories in their first 24 hours. I supplemented them both with a little milk replacer during that time too, and to acclimate them both to the bottle.  Then I pulled the ewelamb up to the house. My grand scheme was to try to foster her on to a good ewe who was near giving birth, whom I thought could handle a third lamb if she twinned.

But those plans were changed when I took the little baby down to the field with me to feed the sheep, and absent mindedly set her down for a moment on the outside of the hotwire while I went to dump grain. She toddled up to Moses while he was eating, he did one of those big dog grooowffff maneuvers at her to warn her away from his food. And though I’m sure it was just an open-mouthed threat, it must have hit her just so, and laid her flat and unresponsive in the mud. Ugh, ugh, ugh, I kicked myself for leaving her there, I know he’s guard-ey about food. And that he doesn’t see well in front of his face to render good judgment about the amount of force needed to ward off a six pound inquisitor. She thrashed about and moaned and I thought for sure she’d expire right there.

But she didn’t. I cuddled her close to comfort her while I finished feeding the sheep one-handed, then brought her back indoors. She rallied, but she was walking in tight, left-handed circles all night, so I imagine she suffered some kind of brain or spinal injury. Whenever I feel desperate and helpless at treating something untreatable, I always reach for homeopathy, so dosed her again and again with arnica, for soft tissue trauma. I had to tube feed her once because her sucking reflex had disappeared. But by late evening, I could get her to nurse small quantities. So I let her sleep with me :-{ to keep her from crying or thrashing around, and fed her multiple times during the night. Which made me really tired the next day.

JacobLambShe seems to have recovered, the healing ability of little babies is amazing. She is now dashing about the house making tap shoe sounds on the wood floors with another bottle lamb, who is another story. She doesn’t have a strong appetite, preferring to stay thin. But judging by her vigorous jumping and sprinting practice, she feels fine. Maybe the Jacobs just don’t possess the packing-on-the-pounds appetite that we have bred into the meat sheep.

Her sibling is thriving on the half udder, so that’s good, the persnickety Jacob is at least able to redeem herself a little bit. The other sheep and I will not miss her and her horns when she goes! You may notice in the picture she is not sheared yet, either. Grr. I had it on my calendar to do it at the beginning of March, weeks before she was due. But there was never a time window when she was dry during the entire month. I decided to let it go. There is some risk of lambs not being able to find teats when their mother is unsheared. But the Jacob has a naked udder, so I didn’t worry too much, and it hasn’t turned out to be a problem. I will shear her just before her appointment with the butcher. Smile

These lambs are the only ones on which I banded tails to dock them. Being able to enjoy the luxury of skipping that step on the Katahdins makes it seem more of a pain, and a risk, when it’s needed on the wooled sheep. Last year, I didn’t do it on the Jacob cross wethers I had, figuring in their short six months, they couldn’t get too dirty on the back end. But they did, and I regretted leaving their tails on, so I won’t make that mistake again.  Especially because this ewelamb may get to stay on here, or somewhere, for breeding. It’s interesting that this year, both lambs had their Jacob markings come through the cross-breeding; whereas last year, I got plain-looking black lambs with “krunet” markings on their heads. These are much cuter.