Triplet lambsRight on time, a set of triplets was born Thursday night. I had worked a little late, but the ewe conveniently waited to present her first water bag for right when I went out to do chores at 7pm. I was able to intermingle my regular chores with checking on each lamb as it arrived.

The second one presented with one upside-down foot jutting out, which catches my eye and makes me immediately check where the rest of the lamb’s parts are. He was backwards with one hock bent, so I was glad I was there to quickly correct it. The lambs were small enough, all in the seven-pound range, that he might have delivered that way anyway. But, better safe than sorry, I don’t wait around for those backwards guys. I don’t want to risk them aspirating placental fluids when the cord breaks and they are only halfway out.

That ewe is a good milker, so I have little concern, her crew should do fine. They are happily mixing spunky-monkey, jumping about with frequent, contented yawning and napping.

TwinsThe second ewe is a less reliable case this year. She is a nice ewe who was a good milker, but last year had disastrous matistis which I didn’t catch until her udder was stone cold. This of course means tissue has died, so then a hideous case of gangrene will ensue. And, it did, but she recovered. I kept her, figuring she was such a good milker before, she can probably still raise twins ok, and she throws good lambs.

I was pretty sure she was party to this ten-minutes-with-a-certain-red-ram incident in October, so I knew precisely when she was due: Friday. And indeed her udder was filling, much more so than the ewes due a month from now. But it wasn’t looking or feeling really full. I figured maybe she was just going to lamb several days late. I took a peek at the sheep Friday morning at 7am, all was quiet and lazy. Checked again at noon, and boom. She had twins, all up and about, dried, clean, done, placenta expelled, today’s task crossed-off-the-list. Sheep so often make giving birth look as mild as taking a poop, literally. Like something one might do while casually reading a magazine, and, you know, waiting for things to just work their way out while passing the time. I suspect they must feel sorry for humans, and all the trouble we go through to generate offspring with bowling balls for heads.

The whole crewI was relieved she didn’t have triplets, as I assumed for sure I’d have to bottle feed one if she did. The lambs spent the day really fishing around for teats, often finding them, but then breaking away. I finally checked, and sure enough, the bad side of her udder appears to be completely dry. The good side seems reasonable; but I think this is a higher learning curve for the lambs, to realize that only one side works. There is risk they will struggle to figure it out, waste energy trying, and finally crash.

Twins nursing the same sideThere is a large thug of ram lamb that seems to have things worked out, his belly is consistently full. But the ewe twin was having more difficulty getting filled-up, and getting in there to compete with the thug. I worry most about colostrum, so milked a bit out of the ewe and bottle fed to make sure she got some in the eight-hour window. The ewe was really hard to milk, though, she’s big and stubborn and tries not to let-down her milk. (She also, understandably, does not like me even looking at her udder, let alone touching it, due to her strong memory of all the mean stuff I did to her last year when working to heal it.) So, I thawed a package of “banked” colostrum from a prior year, and fed that; and followed up later with cow’s milk. The ewelamb is appreciating the boost, and happily taking the bottle. Which is good and bad.

Getting a little help

Lambs getting plenty from the mother always buck a bottle. So this definitely confirms she’s hungry. She’s also still working hard to nurse on her mother, and I want to encourage that. So I’m trying to walk the fine line of giving her some extra to keep her thriving, but leaving her a bit hungry so she’ll continue to try to use her mother. Hopefully the ewe’s milk supply will rise to the challenge and the lamb will learn how to work the one-sided udder and compete with her bro. Or, at least, I hope I’ll only have to supplement a little bit, versus taking a full-on orphan-rear. I hate to have a bottle lamb now, because just when this one is finally ready to wean, I’ll likely get more bottle lambs in April. This would make the time span of feeding bottle babies just a wee bit longer than I’d prefer to tolerate! Annoyed

So, that marks the end of the accidents, now hopefully everything will be quiet until the, er, scheduled lambing starts!