So here are my final numbers for this year. It was a bit of a crummy year, not completely awful, but not stellar. I got hit with losses in multiple categories that added up. And boy, it was just a lot of work this year, I think the lack of much good weather at all just took a lot of the fun out of lambing.

Good Eggs

My original goal was to winter-over thirty ewes and have a lamb crop of around sixty- double what I did last year. But I lost two ewes last summer, and ended up with 29 to work with. So a lamb crop in the high fifties was an aggressive goal, since fourteen of these ewes were maiden yearlings. They don’t have as good of a twinning percentage as mature ewes. But I had several ewes that I expected to triplet, so I knew that would compensate for some singletons.

And it did, I was pleasantly surprised by six sets of triplets, and I had only five singles. I actually had 58 observed fetuses or live births, so my conception rate was right up there over 200%, considering one ewe didn’t lamb (at least not yet, I think she is a re-breed). So, my flushing program and ewe nutrition during conception was spot-on.

Abortions and Dystocia

I mentioned already that I had four abortions, so that was a 7% hit there. I lost four during or immediately after birth- all were triplets. One I observed, and she died post-birth after a difficult breach delivery. The other ones I missed the birth, but presume it was dystocia, without having any other clues.

Later Deaths

And then, just when I thought things were going fine, I found a small one dead in the field in the morning. No sign of what was wrong. But his mother was a yearling with twins, she was favoring the other and acting like a ding bat, and this lamb was passive: a bad combo. So I chalked that one up to mis-mothering. But I’m not sure about that one.

Two days later, I lost another one. Judging by the big pool of drool coming out of her mouth, I’m guessing this was watery mouth. When the books say this kills them quick, they are not kidding. That lamb looked a bit off one morning, and a few hours later, she was in the throes of death. I tried to save her, but wasn’t successful. She was a big, vigorous triplet, definitely not one I would have categorized as vulnerable.

The next morning, a third one dead, a twin guy who was much bigger than his tiny sister. Dang! So when I found a fourth lamb curled up and unresponsive at the end of the pasture-lo and behold, Miss Bummer Lamb, I jumped on it quick. Naturally, I found her when I was rushing around at 5am trying to be on time to catch the bus to work. I hustled her up to the house, got her on a heating pad, and managed to tube feed her some warm water with sugar, baking soda and salt. Injected antibiotics, and trundled her off to my mom’s house, along with two other bottle lambs she was sitting during the day. And I even caught the bus!

It didn’t look good, she was slobbery-mouthed, chilled, bloated and limp. My mom said she lay very still on the heating pad for a few hours, her breathing getting slower and slower. But then a while later, she was up on her feet begging for milk. She recovered fine and is back in the pasture, now enjoying drinking out of the bucket and bumming. And, so, one triumphant save! Yeah!

This is the first time I’ve seen watery mouth. It’s described more as a barn lambing problem caused by unmanaged manure, dirt, and high stocking rates. I was rotating the sheep every few days onto clean grass and they had lots of room. Maybe with the mud from all the rain, the ewes’ udders were dirty, and the cold was maybe just more challenging to the lambs’ immune systems, so that a few succumbed. I also don’t feel like my ewes are in as good of condition this year, they are lean, and didn’t have the advantage of earlier spring grass. After those few lamb losses, I was watching like a hawk, and any lamb that wasn’t quick enough to avoid  being caught got a dose of Pepto Bismol to prevent any e. coli-related bloating! I think I’m past that now.

End Game

And so, I ended up with 47 lambs that all look like they’re on their way. 168% crop, if I assume there is still one pregnant who may have aborted and re-bred. Better than the national average of 130%, but not as good as it could be for Katahdins. I think I am starting to cross the threshold of large enough numbers to where I can’t micromanage everything, so I have to accept that I’ll miss things, and lose some. And this was just a dreary spring for lambing, about as worst-case as it could get for rain and mud and poor spring grass.

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