Two stanchioned ewesLuckily, most days during lambing just involve walking down to the field and checking on things every few hours. Maybe some lambs have been born that I need to weigh and tag. Maybe a ewe is giving birth and needs a little assistance. Before bedtime, I try to make sure each lamb is bedded down near its ewe, so they have access to the milk bar and protection during the dark hours. Plus, I am moving the sheep fencing daily onto fresh grass. Moving the fence is easy, but moving the sheep gets harder and harder, the more ewes and lambs there are. Ewes with newborns refuse to move, so then I have to lure them, one set at a time, by putting the lambs in slings and walking them into the new square, with the mother following in objection. This overhead effort consumes a good part of the day. But it’s “good” work, rewarding in that everything is going as planned.

But then I have days like last Sunday, where it’s just one. thing. after. another. And I get so tired! Then I forget to eat, and by the end of the day, I am crabby and a part of me thinks “I hate lambs!” By the time I’m doing the last chores of the day, like feeding dogs, I literally just hurt from tiredness, and have to push to get it all done.

My Circus, My Monkeys

The circus of the day started out when I walked in the barn. I’d had a second ewe prolapse the week before lambing, so she was wearing a prolapse harness. She wasn’t due for several days, but here she was, in labor. So, fine, prolapse harness off just in time, and I went outside to check on the others, and let her do her thing.

Good Twins

Found a set of boring twins that need nothing from me. Good. Tagged, weighed.

Good set of twins born, unassistedStalled Labor

I noticed a ewe in what I consider lazy labor. These concern me, where it looks like she’s just sitting there, and things aren’t progressing, nothing is happening. Upon checking, I found a lamb with the head-back presentation. This position makes me suspicious that the lamb is already dead, because I don’t think live lambs are so lazy to let their heads flop during the delivery process. Good, healthy, live lambs should be working hard in the diving position to get outta there. I repositioned it and pulled it, but it was indeed dead. Its eyes were cloudy. A vet once told me this indicates the fetus has been dead for a while- at least a day; so is at least a relief to know it wasn’t a matter of minutes or hours to save it. A second lamb came out good. A third tiny one delivered; it was weak and just started shivering right away, and fading. I could tell she wasn’t going to have the strength to rise and nurse. I laid her on a towel and headed up to the barn to get stuff to jump start her with some milk.

Prolapse Girl Doesn’t Know What the Hell She’s Doing

I went in the barn and saw two slimy lambs on either end of the pen. Prolapse girl was standing casually with the small group of sheep in there, as if she has no relationship whatsoever to the newborns. #33, my notorious granny who’s not due for a few weeks, had already claimed one, and was dutifully cleaning it off and chatting away to it. I cornered the real mama in a jug with her two babies, briefly toweled them, and left her to try to figure out what she’s supposed to do. #33 was miffed that I had taken away her adoptee.

Jump Start Nearly Dead Lamb

I grabbed my EZ-Milker, bottle, and intubation supplies. Went back down to the field, and the tiny lamb was on the brink, cold and unresponsive. No way she was gonna nurse from a bottle nipple. I lassoed the ewe, milked a couple ounces off her, and tubed it into the lamb. But, her mouth was stone cold, and her jaw stiff; so I knew I’d need to warm her to bring her back. Trundled her up to the barn, stuck her in the jug with confused prolapse ewe and twins; and set a heat lamp for them. Retrieved a heating pad to put underneath her as well. Cold lambs just need time, and with colostrum in her belly and heat coming from top and bottom, I figured she’d rally in an hour. 

Stanchioned mamaZombie Mama

Reverted back to helping the twins from the prolapse ewe get up and about. They were chilled and shivering, but still functioning. Their mother was out of it. I think she was sub-clinically hypocalcemic, as I could tell she didn’t feel well and just didn’t give a crap about the world. She was a skinny purchased ewe that I’d struggled to put weight on all winter. She kinda just stood there while her lambs worked on figuring out how to nurse. Absolutely no maternal response whatsoever; not even much bother shooing the lambs away from her.

Re-acquaint Twin Mama

I went back down to the field, put the remaining triplet lamb in a sling and led his mama up to the barn to join her freezing ewelamb. I jugged them together. The cold lamb rallied and started looking to nurse. Mama butted her. It’s amazing how quickly a taken-away lamb collects wrong scents, which convinces the mama this isn’t mine. So, I stanchioned the ewe, so the weak lamb would have a chance to nurse.

Zombia Mama Rejects Twins

Zombie mama ate and drank some, became more alert, and started pushing both lambs away. I didn’t have a second stanchion, so I tied up her head for a few hours. This worked, the lambs could nurse. I took apart the fence panel and built a second stanchion for her on the spot, and stuck her in it. Stanchions are safer, no rope to get tangled and strangle somebody; and the ewe can more comfortably eat, drink, and choose between standing up and lying down. Plus, they restrict the ewe’s head more, so she can’t turn around and see or sniff what is nursing on her.

Good Twins

Another set of problem-free twins was born in the pasture. Yay! Tagged, weighed.

Zombie mama tolerates babies, but no love there...Check, Re-Check, Repeat

This pretty much consumed the day, going back an forth between all these scenes; getting the pasture fencing re-set, and doing other chores. With newborns, I want to make sure they’ve been able to eat every few hours; so I check on them often. I feel their bellies to assess how much they’ve been getting, and watch them, looking for whininess, fruitless attempts to nurse, and other behaviors indicating they are too hungry. Since I was concerned about this set, I got up in the middle of the night to confirm they were ok. They were. But this is the start of the sleep deprivation cycle, when I have to get up during the night, then nap during the day to catch up. I find myself getting rummy, I can tell my mentation is affected, I do things like put ear tags in the wrong ears, type the wrong year for lamb birth dates, or forget what I was going to buy at the grocery store.

Rough Start, Then Smooth Sailing

Since this was last Sunday, officially only day two of lambing, I worried the whole thing was going to be like this. But thankfully it hasn’t been, things got back to normal the next day; with more minor incidents spread out so I had time to deal with them. So, for now, everything is under control again, and I am caught back up on sleep and able to sleep through the night. One more busy week to go, then the workload will tail off!

Nearly dead lamb is back in biz