Saturday, April 9, 2011

All are well

Well, it's two days since Poppy the balky shearling momma gave birth to her male twin lambs, and things have only slowly improved for the two near-orphans.

You may remember that Poppy dropped her first lamb on the cold hard ground Thursday morning, initiating a series of minor lamb emergencies. She failed to lick and otherwise stimulate the newborn, which then failed to get to his feet and quickly became hypothermic, while shepherd-boy here was looking the other way. The little wain was saved only by twenty minutes under a heat lamp.

After which Poppy refused to feed him, or his little brother. Each time they tried ever so pathetically to find the teat, she'd shy away. The little brother was born in the lambing pen onto warm bedding, and so was at least warm and didn't require the heat lamp. But lambs require a feed within the first hour or two or they lose energy and die. The first feed also contains a lot of the mother's colostrum, vital for lamb health.

So Thursday morning we (the Royal we -- herself was off at work, clean and dry) spent quite a lot of time on our knees in the lambing pen holding Poppy down with one or the other lamb on the teat.

Then "we" had to go to work for so-called essential meetings beginning at 11am. Racing home at around 3.30 pm, we arrived to find both lambs alive but a little cold and losing energy.

So it was back to force-feeding for Poppy, our flock's official Worst Mother of the Year.

They survived the night, and it was during the night that Poppy began to relent, allowing small, short feedings if one of us was in the pen with her.

I think she must have realized that this was preferable to being held down. Even so, she was held down for the penultimate time at the 3.30 am night check.

Friday morning dawned to find two somewhat cold lambs still, so Poppy was held down again. This turned out to be the last time this was needed. I hurried off for a long day at a high school energy event with two of our graduating seniors, who were presenting. I made it home by 3.30 pm and since both lambs were standing and it was warm and sunny, I let them out, and instead of holding Poppy down, I gave them each a bottle. They drank a half a cup of milk replacer each, which is a pretty big feed for such tiny babies, so they must have been hungry.

Later that evening I saw them both jump around a little and test out their legs for the first time, a very good sign. Momma Poppy was still not minding them properly, and they were still the hungriest kids on the block.

Finally, during the 3.30 pm night checks I saw both lambs feed together, one teat each as nature intended, for a good long time.

Home free?

We'll have to see. But it was a very hopeful sign.

So far this year we've not lost a single lamb. We've been lucky. Last year we lost three lambs and two ewes (one and two), mostly because we were even busier at work and so not there when lambs were born, but also because we had a warmer spring and so the standard sheep diseases, tetanus, listeriosis, and fly-strike got going before we were quite ready for them.

So, although the cooler, snowier late winter weather has been a downer, it's been good for the ewes and lambs, and good for the Womerlippi bottom line.

(Meaning we lose less money on the sheep herd than we usually do.)

Time to call the shearer, though, and we'll get those fleeces off before the really warm weather comes.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
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