Lambing is going very smoothly, with just a few being born each day, in orderly fashion. I haven’t needed to intervene much, just tag and weigh. Of the 42 ewes I think were bred, nineteen have lambed, rendering 34 live lambs. A few singles from yearling ewes, which is fine; but a few from mature ewes, which is annoying. But several sets of triplets in there as well.

Of the 23 remaining ewes, eight are yearlings, so I expect some more singles there. So maybe there will be lambs into the low seventies, which is about what I expected. I have a lot of immature ewes, so cannot yet get up to the 200% crop I’m shooting for in the long run.

Yesterday, I was excited to see this one come out: he looked like a black and white sheep. Though I always get sheep with little black spots on their noses and feet, I’ve not yet have one that’s predominantly black crop up. I actually won’t keep a black sheep, as I feel they aren’t suited for being out in the hot sun with no shelter during rotational grazing. But plenty of people will pay top dollar for one of these, so I wouldn’t be unhappy to get one, especially a ram! He really looked licorice-black at first.

But alas- this always happens- they look really dark when they are born, and all wet, but by the next day, it’s clear, they are just dark chocolate brown. And this eventually fades to plain ol’ brown, which is the shade of most of my sheep once they are mature. His mother, lying next to him, was actually a near-black baby as well, and look at her now! He still has kinda fun markings though, which may make someone want him really bad.

He has a wonky leg. This happens sometimes in the womb, they must be positioned funny and the leg stays bent after birth. But, I find, it goes away after a week or so, as the muscles and ligaments mature and pull the leg bones into proper alignment. In the short term, though, it looks like a terrible deformity!

Filming the Real Deal

Yesterday, some folks came from a local community college to do some filming and interviewing here for a project they’re working on. Usually when people visit, it’s absolutely boring: nothing goes on, the sheep just lay there chewing their cud, the lambs sleep, the sun shines, and there is just really nothing to see. It’s always a little disappointing for people who were hoping to see a birth.

But not yesterday! As soon as the camera started rolling, I spotted a ewe in labor. There was a head flopping around there with no feet, which is not good, and almost definitely means the lamb is stuck. It wasn’t too big of a deal to shove him back in, find his front feet, and get them pulled forward. But then his head flopped back, and he wasn’t completely upright, which is also a definite no-go. It took me a while to get a snare looped around it and get him all righted for proper exit. Then, he came right out. But, unresponsive. I tried the obvious things, but he likely had the umbilical cord break somewhere in the process, aspirated fluids, and went too long without oxygen.

My audience was a bit deflated. But fortunately there were two more behind him and they were fine, so everyone got to see a successful delivery. The extraction part was possibly slightly dramatic for an onlooker. I find it’s easiest to lay down flat on the ground with the ewe, so that I have maximum maneuverability of my arm, wrist and hand. It’s a lot like working under a car, and trying to get to a difficult bolt while writhing around on your back, struggling for leverage and strength.

Of course, there is no time to move the ewe to a clean spot, so if there is poop (which right now is diarrhea because the sheep are on fresh grass), or mud, then I’m going to be laying in it. Not to mention several gallons of placental fluid, plus plenty of blood, which will end up all over my shirt and pants;  and all of this likely in my hair as well. 

I had set the ewe down on her side, but she ended up rolling partly onto her back as we worked to get the lamb twisted into the right position. So here is the mess of stains on her wool after all that ordeal. Bodily fluids everywhere!

I didn’t take a selfie; but I did have to excuse myself to do a complete wardrobe change before we could continue with the interviewing, I was a bit of a mess! All of it was captured on film, along with later shots of Maggie working the sheep, the chickens, sheep in the barn, baby chicks under a lamp, and various scenes. It’ll be fun to see what they choose to include in their final product. But they definitely got what they were seeking: a snapshot into life on a farm!

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