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.

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