Monday, April 15, 2013

Lamb challenges

Yesterday afternoon, Sarah came inside to tell me that the ewe lambs that had been born a couple hours earlier still had not nursed and that the mama's teats were huge. We had something similar happen six or seven years ago, and we had to milk the ewe for a couple of days to keep her teats small enough for the lambs to be able to latch on. So, Sarah, her boyfriend, and Mike went out to the pasture and brought Godiva and her two lambs to the barn.

That sounds so simple, but it really is not. Godiva is a little crazy. While most ewes are "sheepish," Godiva is doing her best to be the absolute opposite! If she feels cornered, she'll ram you, which is very un-ewe-like. I was happily surprised when we put her on the milk stand, and she stood there like an angel while I milked her. I'm sure she realized that it felt good to relieve the pressure on her udder, which was as big as one of my milk goats -- and that is highly unusual for a Shetland sheep. Usually we can barely see their udder because it's so small and they have so much wool. Her teats were stretched out so long that I could easily wrap all four fingers around them to milk her. I easily milked out a pint of colostrum and filled up a bottle, which Sarah fed to the babies while I put the bucket back under Godiva and milked out another four ounces!

Thankfully her babies took to the bottle like pros. Each one quickly sucked down six ounces each, which is more than the five percent of their body weight that they need to consume within the first six hours. A few hours later, Sarah offered them another bottle; one took three ounces and the other took six. This morning they were crying like they were starving when we went out to the barn, so Sarah milked Godiva and gave the babies another bottle. After getting the ewe milked out, she and Mike held the lambs up to her teats, and both babies nursed well. This afternoon, however, one side was quite huge again. The babies didn't seem terribly interested in the bottle, only taking about an ounce each, and their tummies don't feel empty, so I think they were getting a decent amount of milk from the one side that they had been nursing on. We milked down the full side, so maybe the lambs will be able to keep up with both sides now. Since Godiva's udder isn't so uncomfortably full now, she wasn't as cooperative at this afternoon's milking and laid down on the milk stand.

Of course, there is a tiny, silly little part of my brain that would be totally okay with the idea of them not being able to nurse because I love sheep yogurt, and if we had to milk the ewe every day, I'd probably be able to sneak a little of her milk to make yogurt a few times over the next few months. But it's not like I have hours of spare time every day and need something to do -- like milk a ewe and bottle feed two lambs. So the logical side of my brain says it will be a good thing when these little ewes are able to nurse full time.


Tree Hugger - Suzan said...

Beautiful lamb! Hope everyone gets with the program and does what they are suppose to do!!

Kat @ Balance & Spice said...

Wow, what an intense time!! The lambs are adorable, and talk about lemons out of lemonade (the whole idea of sheep yoghurt is inspired!)

SanFay said...

I grew up on a farm in OH. My dad retired 25 years ago. My brother and his family are starting the farm up again. I hope to move back out to farm country within the next couple of years. There's a new challenge every day. Sounds like you have your hands full,even for an experienced farmer. Good luck. Love your pic.


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