BottleLambsTowards the end of lambing, I had one really nice ewe looking pretty big, and ready to lamb in the evening. I waffle on my sleeping-through-the-night policy. I need my sleep. I really need a good nine hours to function best the next day, though I rarely get it, especially during lambing. If a ewe is lambing when I check on them before bed, I’ll stay and watch her finish, verifying the lambs are up and about before I go.

And a couple of times when a big one looked due, I set my alarm and checked once in the middle of the night, just in case there were multiple birth complications. On the other hand, we have a breed that is carefully selected for easy lambing and self-care traits, and the goal is to reduce the overhead of lambing and let the sheep do more of the work themselves in the pasture. And, I really do need my sleep. Smile with tongue out

Nevertheless, with this one, I set my alarm for 1am with conviction that I’d check on her, just in case. But 1am came, I was exhausted, and I blew it off and went back to sleep. Figuring for sure this big-bodied and experienced ewe would do fine delivering on her own, as did all but one of the other ewes. But oh, how wrong I was. In the morning when I went to feed, she had three lambs flat on the ground, troubling over all of them. Crap!! Why didn’t I check on her? I rushed to help, and found two were still barely alive.

I apologized to the sheep for leaving their feed temptingly sitting on the other side of the hotwire, and sped off with the triplets on the ATV plus the Jacob orphan under my arm. I hustled the two good ones into the bathtub with warm water, holding their heads up while they warmed. Kirk brought me towels, I bundled them up for the heating pad, and he rinsed the muddy and bloody tub so he could shower. Winking smileThey were almost gone, and I figured I needed to get calories into them to jump start them while they warmed. Tube fed the first, then the second. The second one expired right there, I may well have gotten fluid in her lungs. That is the risk of tub feeding, especially an unresponsive lamb that can’t “tell” you the tube went down the wrong passageway. But there is risk either way when they are fading that fast, all you can do is move, move, move and hope for the best. But the ram lamb did rally, so I salvaged something at least.

ColstrumI went back down and fed the sheep belatedly. I milked the ewe three times to gather her colostrum for the lamb. In the afternoon, he was up on his feet and seeking milk a little bit, so I thought I’d try to re-introduce him to his mother. I penned them together.

She was lukewarm about it, she seemed to recognize his smell and didn’t outright reject him. But I think neither of them had gotten to know each other’s voices, an important component to their bonding and recognition. She was still wanting to worry over the place she’d last seen her lambs. The little guy was not very assertive in seeking to nurse.

OrphansI helped him out with the bottle a few times, not wanting him to grow weaker. But of course this de-motivated him from trying to nurse. By the next day, I could tell, it wasn’t happening. She was not standing still for him, and he wasn’t trying very hard. One time while I was feeding the rest of the sheep, she actually blasted through the ex-pen and knocked it over flat, leaving the little guy sandwiched in the middle of the wire. Aw, I felt so bad for him. Luckily he was only stuck for a minute ‘til I got to him, and was unharmed. But still, he looked so pathetic, left there helpless by his own mama. So, he’s back in the kitchen, and her huge udder is going to waste and risking mastitis. :-{ On the bright side, the two bottle lambs are enjoying each other’s company, and maybe will actually learn to self-identify as sheep instead of dogs or people. Smile

I’m not sure what went wrong with her birth, maybe it was just a difficult and long one, and the lambs were too exhausted to get up and nurse. She had two of them cleaned off, so she obviously tried to get them up. Oh well, that’s nature. It’s hard to accept, but it’s also hard to be there for every single birth to make sure they go well, and still live a normal life. That darn mortality rate is always there, never letting you forget it.