Tuesday, January 26, 2016

First babies of 2016!

Our new intern Stefanie took a walk this afternoon and came back to tell me that there were two lambs in the sheep pasture. What?! The sheep I just bought last month? They weren't supposed to be due until the end of February at the earliest. I had even said to the seller that one looked very pregnant, and she said, "Oh, she always looks like that."

We just happened to have three guests visiting at the moment, and they were totally excited about heading out to see the new lambs. I took a towel in case they still needed to be dried off a little. After arriving in the pasture, it took quite some time for Stefanie and I to get close enough to the lambs to be able to pick them up and figure out if they were rams or ewes. Since these are meat sheep, and I'm just starting my flock, either one is a win, as rams will be meat, and ewes will grow my flock of breeders. As it turned out, they are both ewes, so our little flock has already grown to five ewes in only one month!

Unfortunately, temperatures were in the 30s, and rain was in the forecast. Mama Star had given birth in the middle of the pasture with no wind blocks. The darker lamb was really shivering and not great at nursing. It appeared to be the younger of the two, as it was also still pretty wet. I was glad I'd brought the towel! I picked it up and towel dried it as much as I could. It was very happy to snuggle into my arms, so it was hard to put it down again, but I knew it really needed to nurse.

After a few more minutes, it finally nursed, and I was feeling pretty good about the situation. I know some people would have put mama and lambs into a barn or "jug," but it was a long way to the barn, and we had no halter with us, so it would have been just about impossible to take them. I told everyone that we'd go back to the house, and I'd check the barn to see if there was a place we could get ready for Star and her babies. I'd also think about strategy. I wasn't in a huge hurry because I wanted Star to have time to bond with her babies. I didn't want her to get freaked out about moving and reject the lambs.

As I was sitting in the house chatting and enjoying a cup of hot tea, Stefanie asked, "Is that rain?" I looked at the forecast on my phone, which said there was only a 40% chance of rain that hour, but who can argue with water falling from the sky? So, I called our other intern to help us, and the six of us headed back out to the pasture. We quickly caught the two lambs, but mama was not very happy about the situation. It took us quite a bit longer to catch her. Being new to our farm and us, she didn't entirely trust us yet.

We eventually got a halter on her. I knew she was not halter trained, but I figured it would be easier to hang on to the halter than simply her body as we tried to get her to follow us with her babies across the pasture and the front yard to the barn. It took about 30 minutes to cover a distance that normally takes only five, but we did it. Stefanie and I were each carrying a lamb, and the other intern and two of our guests were leading and pushing mama to follow us, while the third guest was closing gates behind us as we were crossing through multiple pastures. It was quite the team effort!

Once we got them all into a nice warm stall, we were a little worried about the black lamb as she just wanted to lay down and sleep. I'm very happy to report that she finally decided to get up and start nursing again as everyone was doing afternoon chores. So, I'm very optimistic that they'll do great.

Although our Shetlands always lambed on pasture with no help from us, we never lambed in January! Going forward, we certainly don't plan to have any January lambing in future years either. We got incredibly lucky that the weather is actually quite mild right now, although had they stayed out in the freezing rain, we still could have lost both lambs, so I'm very grateful that we found them when we did -- and that we had the help here to get them moved into the barn. I'm definitely sleeping better tonight knowing that they're inside.


Jessica said...

Yes, thank goodness you had all that help! The lambs are adorable. I hope they all make it.

Patty said...

They're beautiful! I wish I could run my fingers through those brand new silky coats. It sounds like it was a big adventure. 😊


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