One of my highly productive ewes lambed on Thursday. She was big, her udder was big, she handily raised triplets last year. So I was certain she’d at least have twins. Nope. A nice, big, strapping single ewelamb. Gah. At the same time, a purchased ewe who is kinda skinny was also giving birth, right near the same spot. I was there to witness, so I knew who was who; but they were getting confused. Skinny Girl was glomming onto the Singler’s baby before her own emerged from the womb. Singler was sniffing around the scent pool of the other lady’s recently-broken water, licking her lips, and nickering from the scent trigger. I double-checked the Singler to confirm no more were coming. I pulled the first one out of Skinny Girl so she’d focus on her own business and ignore the other lamb that didn’t belong to her. She did. A second one delivered. I checked, and a third one was on the way. I saw an opportunity.

I grabbed two dog ex-pens, and set them up next door to each other. When the triplet lamb emerged, I pulled it the rest of the way, and slipped it right next door into the Singler’s pen, before her mama could really notice one was missing. She was still focused on cleaning the other two. I slipped a lubed and gloved hand back into Singler’s cervix, to simulate another birth, and said, oh look, you’ve had another lamb! I commingled it with the existing lamb to blend the scents. She bought it hook, line and sinker,  and started cleaning it off and talking to it. I left a towel I’d used to dry off both sets of lambs hanging on the pen wall, to further blend the placental fluid scents in that spot.

I let them hang out in this adjacent, mixed scent pool the rest of the afternoon; giving them hay and water so they’d relax and chill in their little blended family environment. The separation of the pens constrained them from trying to steal each other’s assigned lambs; but also kept them from wandering from the scent pool. (Note: using flimsy dog ex-pens only works with calm ewes. Psycho ewes will freak out, bust out, and potentially sandwich their lambs in the flattened pen. So, best to put psycho ewes in stronger pens. But these work well with experienced, tame and mellow ewes; they gracefully accept their temporary jail.) It worked like a charm. At dusk, when I turned them loose, I stood between them, to encourage each mother to take her “twins” in opposite directions. Then they bedded down for the night with their new babes, fully playing along with the ruse.

The next day, I saw the Singler properly greet both lambs when they rose from sleep, but when the grafted lamb went to nurse, she butted her; hard, knocking her down. The grafted lamb was discouraged, and wandered off looking for milk elsewhere. Given that the mama had greeted the lamb, that made me think she wasn’t rejecting it, but rather was angry about the way the lamb was nursing. Mamas that reject lambs will sniff them face-to-face, then give them a shove, or a butt, right then and there. But she let the lamb come in to nurse, and only gave it a correction after that. I checked for a sharp tooth, and sure enough, the lamb had one. A quick file with an emery board fixed the problem. I jugged them together in the barn for a day, just in case, but all is well now. They are loose in the barn pen, and I’ll kick them outside soon enough. They bed together, and the mama welcomes both of them nursing, and they pass the identity check when she sniffs their butts while they are nursing. Fooled!

The mother who carried triplets is none the wiser, quite happy with her twins. This will be easier on her bod, since she could use to gain some condition this year after having poor pasture before she came here late last summer. The Singler will get better use of her ample milk supply, probably helping her prevent mastitis from an underutilized, massively productive udder. And, the triplet lambs will grow better this way. A win for everybody! I make careful notes in my records so I don’t forget this is what happened, that I’ll have three born-triplets and a born-single all raised as twins. So it’s obvious when I glance at the list of identities, at the end of their number/name field, I use the acronym “RAT”- raised as twin, to help me remember. And the grafted lamb, I’ll also use the acronym “GR”",” so I know she was a switcheroo. When I submit their NSIP data, there is a way to encode all this, so everyone gets the proper credit or deduction for the change.

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