The Hole That Ate the Chicken

Subtitle: Or why I don’t get much done during lambing season.

I am so behind on blogging. I really do like my blogs to be in order. I have lots of photos and blog ideas that I want to post but at this point they will be all out of order. There are more cute grandkid photos, photos of my weekend trip to Ft. Bragg, photos of sheep, but the last two weeks was hectic. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my daughter and grandkids but I also needed to work on my new website and get it mostly underway before lambing began.

So there is nothing very exciting about this morning but I was in the barn from about 6:30 until 11 when I could get in for breakfast and there was one incident, very minor as things go, that gave me the idea for this blog post.

At 6:30 I saw that Hallie had lambed with twins and they were clean and fed. I had put her in the night before thinking she might be ready. The other ewe I had guessed might lamb had not and was supremely annoyed. I let her out.


I caught these two sheep. First I brought in the older ewe, Sophia, who I had been watching in the back. She didn’t go in with the others when I fed but got up as I approached. She has shown some lameness on a back foot and I haven’t had time to look at it. That could account for her not getting up but she just didn’t look right.


The younger ewe, Alice, needed her eye treated. I had been putting ointment in it but stopped before I should have (or there is another problem I don’t know about–I never did find anything in it).


As I looked in the back again I saw Jean (the sheep not at the feeder). This is an excellent photo of the sunken sides of a ewe ready to lamb. She appears gaunt after the lambs have moved into position. So I brought her into the lambing area.


I took video of Jean during lambing which I will edit and post eventually. Here are the two healthy lambs.

I continued to watch Sophia because she didn’t look right. I spend a lot of time just watching sheep during lambing. To make that effective you have to spend time watching sheep that are not lambing as well. You need to know the difference to know when one of your sheep isn’t quite right. I left her in the lambing area while I worked on other things…like when the phone battery died just as I was doing more video. I went to the house for the cord and then spent some time rerouting the extension cord that is going to the scale so that I don’t trip over it. Why not spend time fixing the plug that doesn’t work which is why an extension cord is necessary? I can do extension cords. I can’t do electricity.


Before I move lambs and ewes out of the lambing pens I tag each one, give BOSE (selenium and Vitamin E supplement), and place a tail band. I started with #1 and then realized that I made my first mistake. The real #1 died (triplets born while I was in Ft. Bragg but that’s another story) and this should have been #2 or #3. So I already messed up. But I messed up prior to this by buying tags a size larger than I usually buy for the lambs. I haven’t quite decided if I want to keep using these or get the right ones. They seem awfully big for little Jacob ears.


My routine is to move 3 ewes with their lambs into a group pen for a few days. I can keep a better eye on them and the lambs learn to stick with their mamas and not annoy the other ewes, who are quite convincing to any lamb that gets near. In this case, Clover is with her two, Rosie is behind the bale with her single and Jillian is out of the photo behind a feeder with her twins. I have been trying to get all the ewes’ feet trimmed BEFORE they lamb because it’s much harder to do when they are worried about where their lambs are. Mistake #2 today. I forgot to trim Rosie’s feet. I’ll have to remember before she goes out.

I was still watching Sophia. She is a week from her due date but she is big and round…and fat. She stands like she is uncomfortable and her leg is bothering her. My feeling is that it is the hip, not the foot, that is the problem. We used to have cows that would be gimpy in late pregnancy because of the calf positioned on a nerve. She ate a little grain, but not a lot. As I watched I felt like she was a little quivery. That can be a sign of pregnancy toxemia or hypocalcemia. I got out the jug of propylene glycol that I hardly ever use. That meant a trip to the house to look up the dosage. It won’t hurt is she does not need it, but it will be interesting to know if it makes a difference.


Back to work. I was cleaning pens as I went, moving water buckets, etc. Mistake #3 and what inspired the title of this post. This is looking down on a half wall that separates the lambing area from the main part of the barn. There is plywood on both sides of the 2×4’s. A chicken fell in there once and it required rescue. This is the story as Maggie told it. The end of those two 2×4’s on the right makes a convenient place to put things like hoof trimmer or gloves…one of which fell into the hole. That’s when I thought about all the little things that add up that are the reason you spend the whole day in the barn and you don’t really accomplish much.img_7719

This is the view that I use when I make a first check on the sheep. I can look out this window and they don’t all get up like they do if I go into where they are. Now that the weather has changed and the pasture has started to dry out I want to get them out but there is a break in the electric fence and I need to fix it before I can let anyone in the pasture.


This is a closer shot of another ewe that looks suspiciously ready to lamb, but really a lot of them do.


Here is where we are so far.


Onyx isn’t even on the list for two weeks.


According to the list Esmerelda still has a week to go.

The glove is still in the wall.


First 2016 Farm Day

Farm Club met yesterday with the main task of replacing all the missing ear tags so that the ewes are easily identifiable at Shearing Day coming up in two weeks. There were plenty of other tasks too, but I don’t have photos of much since I was too busy to get the camera out.

First there was the surprise lamb! See the link for that story.

DSC_9222Dona took this photo of all of us as we stopped for a group photo in the barn.DSC_4901This is Jade sporting her new eartag. The ewe lambs’ small tags were replaced with their grown-up tags. I decided to start color coding again. All the 2015 lambs have orange. There were also a lot of adult sheep whose ear tags were missing, so we replaced those.Farm Club 2016We got son, Chris to the barn to take a group shot so Dona could be in it too.IMG_8365We finished up at the ram pen. I took fleece samples to send in for micron testing.IMG_8360Time to relax in the shop…IMG_8367…and enjoy donuts that Mary brought to celebrate Dona’s birthday last week.


…wouldn’t life be peaceful without them?

The rams were giving me so much trouble with the fence in the pen I’d used for years that we switched them to a new space about six weeks ago. It’s been working OK but now breeding season is upon us and they are getting harder to deal with. Welded wire panels alone are not enough.DSC_9911 Here is what happens when ewes flaunt themselves just across the fence. IMG_6152 Not only are the rams ruining the panels, but the electric fence on the ewe side is immediately grounded out and that means that all the electric fence on that system is out. IMG_6181Dan had an idea that would hopefully solve the problem for the short-term in the areas where the rams were pushing on their fence and bending the t-posts.IMG_6182He put in extra posts that we happened to have around and welded rebar between the posts on the two sets of fences to help make things sturdier. We hoped that it would make the whole thing more secure.

IMG_6176Here is what Ginny thought when she noticed the welder in the corral.

IMG_6177  There was a shirt hanging off of it so maybe she thought it was a short person.

IMG_6184Lots of reinforcement should keep them from pushing those t-posts over, right?IMG_6269Fence posts look good. IMG_6273The wire, not so much. He was completely stuck in the welded wire and the high tensile wire. This is Alex, by the way, whose horn I just trimmed in the last post.

IMG_6270 The only way to get Alex out of this was to cut the welded wire panel in two places. Now I have the ewes completely separated, but that isn’t a long-term solution. Unfortunately I don’t have a big enough place to have the rams in a pen that is isolated from everyone else so we’ll be moving to Plan C when we have time (that would be when Dan has time).

Reviving a Lamb

I went to the barn a little after 6 a.m. this morning and found what looked like a dead lamb along with two lambs who were up and nursing. The lamb that was flat out on the ground had membranes over his face and was cold and still. I pulled the membranes off of the nose and surprise! That lamb wasn’t quite dead yet. It made a little sound and started to breath raspilly. (Spellcheck says that’s not a word, but it works for me.)

First, get lamb warm. The heat lamp wasn’t fast enough…IMG_2744 (1) …so I brought it to the house.IMG_2747 (1) After it started to revive I substituted a heating pad for the hot water.IMG_2751 Tube feeding with colostrum was next. Fortunately I had a couple of ounces in the freezer. IMG_2759 (1) I switched the heating pad from under the lamb to over the lamb while Rusty made sure he didn’t go anywhere.IMG_2760 I carried the whole bundle back to the barn so I could get on with chores. That’s when I set up the heat lamp. I also milked some colostrum out of the mom and tube fed the lamb  another few ounces.IMG_2775 (1)It got up before long and now sports the most glamorous in lamb-wear. If a ewe lambs with a single lamb in the next few days I will try to graft this one on. That will be another post.IMG_2769 These are the other two sets of triplets and their moms.