Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jewel with Oscar

Othello and Oscar: mentally challenged?

It too quite a while, and some canny shepherding, to get the new lambs feeding regularly. Oscar, the smaller of the two, seemed about half blind, stumbling around weakly trying to find his mother's nipples for what seemed like forever. Othello, who found the source early, seemed to lose it again. In the end we gave Oscar a bottle twice, and held Jewel down twice and forced the lamb to the nipple, squirting milk into his mouth, before he finally began to suckle vigorously at about the ten hour point. (Jewel wasn't very pleased with these procedures, and complained greatly, but then she should have smarter offspring.) After that we saw Oscar find the udder on his own, and feed properly, and so could relax. Which was a good job, because we were expected at another couple's house for dinner an hour or so later. We made our dinner date still smelling faintly of manure, and with iodine stains on Aimee's hands.

So much for natural intelligence. Neither of these guys is going to make it into the breeding stock, so we won't worry. They'll both be whethered in a few weeks, and both slaughtered this fall.

On a colder day, that delay might have been all she wrote for little O-boy. In Britain, when night time temperatures are often 40 or 50 degrees F in lambing season, no-one worries too much about lambs. They're born unattended in the field, and the shepherd just checks on them a few times a day. Here, where it was 15 F again last night, with a nasty cold wind, well, they have to feed to live or they will become quickly hypothermic, and we check constantly in the first few hours and have to make sure they're getting fed, or feed them ourselves.

This morning, they're still wobbly, but alive. I only felt the need to check on them once in the middle of the night, and they seemed ok.

Oscar? Othello? Aimee's picks. Oscar could be Oscar Meyer, unfortunate for any livestock baby. Othello? I guess he was black, Shakespeare's Moor, and both of these lambs are coal black.

Go figure...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jewel's Easter twins, better late than never

Jewel took forever to pop out her lambs, possibly because she was "lookin' out for better weather" as the old north country sea shanty goes. Stumbling over her own udder much of the end of the week, she was. Anyway, right on time, that wicked storm abated last night (not without forcing me to dismantle the hoop house) and when I rose to check on her at 4am, there they were, two black-as-jet baby Jewels.

Watching baby lambs try to find the nipple for the first time is excruciating. It's like rooting for the Steelers when they're 20 points down in the last quarter, and they have possession, only worse, because the lamb will die if it is not fed.

One of these little buggers has latched right on, tail wagging vigorously (we love to see that tail wag), the other is still very tentative, and we have not seen him or her feed yet, for sure. For all we know, she (or he) is only two hours old, and she (or he) is still trying fairly vigorously to locate the precious tap, so we won't intervene right away. But if in a couple hours the lamb starts to fail, we'll have to hold Jewel down and put the lamb on the nipple. If that fails, we'll feed the lamb ourselves from a bottle, to give her (or him) some strength to tide her over. If all else fails, we're a dab hand at intubating lambs. Get 4 ounces of colostrum replacer in the weak ones, pop them under the wood stove for forty minutes until they wake up and bleat for their mothers, then back to mother's nipple, hold her down and put the lamb right on there.

The heat lamp is part of the scheme for having a good crop of lambs here in Maine. It was 20 F last night, too cold for a wet lamb to do well by herself, if left out too long. Later today we'll sex the lambs and sterilize the umbilical cord stub. Right now it's too cold for germs to thrive, and we want Jewel and her lambs to figure out the feeding thing before they are disturbed.

Because of the need for all this shepherding, lambing is a busy time for us, and we don't like to be gone from home too long.

It's an "O" year. lambs born this year have to have the alphabetical naming scheme: names beginning with O. Last year was "N", so we had Nellie, Nugget, and Neeps. Suggestions for good O-names, male or female, can be posted at the comment line below.

Lambs are such a delight. Like a nice bunch of flowers, or a sight of a moose in the woods.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Aimees photo archive

To see what we did on our recent business/science trip to Scotland, England and Wales, go to

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lambs are coming!

Well, we're back from our field trip to Scotland and just about over the jet-lag. And right on time, Jewel, who Aimee says always likes to be first, is going into labor.

She first started showing signs a few days ago. One side of her udder "bagged out," then the other, last night she was lying down, refusing to get up, and groaning softly to herself. Her vulva is now swollen and she is taking herself apart from the other sheep. Any time today, she will drop a lamb or two, hopefully without complications. We're staying home and hanging out in our farm clothes, checking on her every couple hours.

Watch this space for pictures of the newborns soon.