Old #33 is thirteen this year. I really intended to cull her after last season, but… I didn’t.  For various reasons of procrastination, guilt, a summer schedule turned on its head by drought and hay feeding, and because I wanted to retain enough mature ewes to have an increasing crop size. She had single lambs the last two years, which was ideal for her, not too big of a load. Wouldn’t you know it, she conceived twins this time, and it nearly killed her.

I’d had her in the barn most of the winter, because she was prone to falling whenever I’d move the herd with the dogs, and I felt bad for her. So, she was getting fed pretty well, inside with the remainder of the butcher lambs; but I think she still had a hard time competing with them. And, she’s just old.

Several weeks before her due date, she started to have a lot of trouble, I could see her feet and/or legs were sore, and she’d shift her weight a lot. Some days, I’d let her loose outside to graze and get some sunshine and vitamin D. One day, she insisted on following me on a short hike back into the woods. And that really did her in, she could barely make the walk back to the barn. After that, she needed help getting up from recumbency; so I made sure she rose at least three times per day to eat, drink and pee.

She is very thin. I gave her a ton of supplements, just hoping I could get her through to delivery ok. Her appetite has been great, including slurping down a bowl of molasses and vitamin/mineral water I’d make for her each day. I checked on her every four hours round the clock near her due date, worrying she wouldn’t have the strength to push out lambs. The night of her due date, she lambed about about 2am. When I did my middle-of-the-night check, she had one lamb up and reasonably cleaned off, the other one was stuck, head out, with both legs backwards. I figured, “oh great, that one’s probably dead…” But it wasn’t, I was able to push it back in, get a front leg forward, and deliver it pretty easily. Both lambs were quite vigorous, and good-sized; a ram and a ewe. I’m particularly pleased with the ewe, as I’ll likely keep her. She is sired by a ram out of one of my high-EBV Missouri imports, so it’s a great thread of #33’s genes to retain.

I knew they would have difficulty finding her huge and low-slung teats, and it was 2am, so I was in no mood to hang out and watch them try. So, figured I’d milk her and bottle feed them colostrum to get things started. Only to find one side of her udder is completely blind and the other only had a few ounces of milk. She had adequate milk last  year and no signs of mastitis then, so I think those lambs just took all her reserves and there was nothing left to make milk. So, fine, enough colostrum to get maternal antibodies in them, but certainly not enough to nourish them. I pulled some banked colostrum out of the freezer, ironically from her in a prior year, to give them one more boost of antibodies; then just started feeding them my own homemade milk replacer.

They were born Friday early am, and all day I bottle fed them warm milk. Saturday morning, I sold them cold milk; and midday, I showed them the teat bucket a few times. They seemed to have it down, so I didn’t get up during the night. Sunday morning, they had nice, full bellies; so they definitely have bucket mastery in just 48 hours. Just in time for me to go back to work on Monday!

I feel a little bad for #33, though, as she’s missing out on the most rewarding part of motherhood, the nursing of tiny babies and the associated oxytocin hit it gives. She keeps inviting them to nurse, and they blow past her and latch onto the bucket! So, she’s a little sad about that, but at least they get to hang out together, and she can teach them to eat grass and hay. And in a week or two, she’ll be lucky to not have rocket launcher lambs butting her udder and lifting her off the ground! Instead, I’ll just let her dry up and try to gain some weight back and take a vacation from work all summer.

This set makes thirty lambs #33 has delivered in her lifetime, giving her a conception average of 231%. She is one productive lady! Charles Parker, one of the Katahdin breed’s original proponents, liked to call them “The Madams”. She seems well-deserving of the tile.