People at the Farm and Tiny Lambs

Every year  I offer a Sheep Handling and Management class that occurs sometime during lambing season. This year the timing was lucky! We had twins born in the morning before the class started and a ewe started lambing during class.IMG_5679               During the discussion about other aspects of raising sheep we kept an eye on Zinnia, the ewe who was lambing. When she got more serious we watched.Zinnia lambing-14                 One thing of note was the presence of two bags, each a different color. A lot of time I just see membranes that have broken so I wouldn’t know if it were one or two, but it seemed unusual to see two distinct bags. I saw a bit of a small foot emerging but the whole thing seemed to be taking awhile so I thought I’d check.  There was one foot and a head. Not very far back was another head. Both lambs were coming at the same time, and it was obvious from the two sacs that one had meconium staining, a sign of fetal distress. I pushed the second lamb back and was able to pull the first lamb with just the head and one foot. I could tell that it was very small.  Usually it takes a little while for the second to come, but it was right there too. Weighing these later, they were 4.8 and 4.2 pounds.

Zinnia lambing-16

Both lambs were alive. The second lamb acted unusual. Most lambs start trying to get up within minutes of birth but there is a normal sequence that I have a hard time describing. It’s just something that I’ve seen many times. (If you go to my YouTube channel and look at lambing videos you’ll see this.) The second lamb was noisy, baaing constantly and sort of scrabbling with it’s feet. It seemed frantic as opposed to a more methodical attempt to stand.

IMG_5688                    You can’t rush a lamb to be ready to nurse. I didn’t know if something was wrong with this one, but I knew that, even if it was normal, it needed a little more time. We went outside and looked at the fences and the pasture. When we came back in the first lamb was doing fine. The second still wasn’t able to stand but I could hold it up and get it to nurse.

Zinnia lambing-19              We kept checking back and eventually the second lamb was on it’s feet. This photo was taken later in the day.IMG_5694                 Later that afternoon a friend of mine came with another friend to take photos of the lambs. That’s Raquel with triplet ram lambs.


The three of us spent time in the pasture photographing lambs before we came in to go out to dinner.

IMG_5708           Here is the tiny lamb from the morning.


IMG_5706              This was getting close to the end of lambing.18075-18074             Here are those two tiny lambs 12 days later and here is their listing on the website.



Lambs #56 and #57

Lambing seems like it was a long time ago now, but this was only 2-1/2 weeks ago.

Jade and lambs                    Jade is the biggest pet sheep here. 18056-18057                      She had a ewe and a ram lamb.

Jade and lambs-2                   At that point I had overflow pens set up in the alley of the barn.

Lambing gets exhausting and you have to get your sleep when you can.IMG_5517                      I think I slept some here and then was woken up.IMG_5518

IMG_5520                  It looks as though Sunny is getting sleepy here. But I’m awake.

While we’re thinking about getting cozy on the couch…IMG_5530              My son works as an EMT and he is often gone at night. The “puppies”, who live next door, get invited in our house if they are barking too much. They have no qualms about cuddling on the couch, something our dogs don’t get to do.Jade-18056            Back to Jade. Here she is with one of her lambs at 2-1/2 weeks old.


Ears Lambing

Ears is a BFL-Jacob cross–the only crossbred ewe that I have now. She lambed on March 8–that was only two weeks ago but it sure seems like a long time now. Ears                                                             This photo was taken two days prior to the day she lambed.

Ears lambing-1                     I now have a different BFL ram here so Ears was bred to Peyton, making her lambs 75% BFL.

Ears lambing-2                           The first lamb was born about 1 in the afternoon.Ears lambing-3                        He was on his feet within 15 minutes.Ears lambing-4                  Even after as many lambs as I’ve watched just after birth I am always amazed by how quickly they stand and try to nurse.Ears lambing-5

Ears lambing-6            Ears was working on the next lamb but it was an hour after the first had been born and I saw significant meconium staining. That indicates some level of fetal distress, so I pulled this lamb. No wonder it was slow in coming–it was 12.4 pounds!Ears lambing-9                         I checked for another lamb and this one was born in about another five minutes. Ears lambing-10                         This is 31 pounds of lambs!Ears lambing-11                              All were up and trying to nurse in half an hour. IMG_5617                   This is Ears and her triplets the next day.IMG_5618                           So very cute!!!


Bronagh Lambing

While I’m working in the barn I often take photos of the lambing process–partly to amuse myself and partly to use as a resource when new sheep raisers ask about the lambing experience. It is useful to know how much time there is between seeing a ewe in labor and when lambs are born, time between deliveries of twins, time it takes for a lamb to start nursing. There are wide variations in these figures, but I like to be able to show a “real-life” scenario.

This is a ewe named Windy Acres Bronagh who lambed a week ago.Bronagh lambing-1                   I saw her at about 7 a.m. and knew that she was in labor. The first sign of labor is often just behavior. You have to know what normal behavior looks like to know when something is different. I spend a lot of time looking at my sheep.Bronagh lambing-2                   A more obvious sign is seeing the sac emerge when the ewe has contractions. Bronagh lambing-3                  The first lamb was born about 7:20 and I brought the lamb inside the barn.Bronagh lambing-4                   It sometimes takes much longer before the second lamb is born, but this one was coming within five minutes.Bronagh lambing-7

Bronagh lambing-8                     That’s the first lamb getting up within ten minutes of birth.



Bronagh lambing-10            Both lambs were nursing within a half hour.IMG_5464                 This is the lamb board. These lambs were #49 and 50.

18050-5                       This is one of the lambs one week later.

Lambs, Lambs, Lambs

Are we getting tired of lambing posts? It only happens this time of year.

IMG_5308               Do you remember this lamb from a couple of posts back? Trista had a 10+ pound lamb and then almost two hours later a 5 pound lamb. She didn’t want the little one and I struggled to get it to nurse. I ended up milking Trista and tube feeding the lamb colostrum. I left the lamb with Trista but she became increasingly less happy to have it around and more hostile.

The lamb wouldn’t suck on a bottle and I was getting very frustrated. It’s one thing to have to feed a lamb every four hours, but then when it doesn’t suck it’s maddening. You get the nipple in the mouth, the tongue hangs out the side and the precious colostrum goes everywhere. (This brings back frustration of trying to get Brown Swiss calves on a bottle. The Milking Shorthorns were fine, the Brown Swiss were not.)

A solution presented itself the next day.

IMG_5361                    I saw this in the barn. This lamb was standing hunched up like a lamb does when it doesn’t feel good. This view from the top down shows how large it’s belly is and it was tight as a drum. From previous experience I suspected intestinal atresia, a malformation of the digestive tract where the intestine is not complete. The lamb eats normally at first and then there is no where for the milk to go and this lamb was already over 24 hours old–it didn’t have long to live and was in great discomfort.

When a lamb dies if you put the fresh skin on an orphan lamb sometimes you can trick the mother into thinking that it is her baby.  I went to the house for my new knife (purchased for when I need to necropsy or skin something and the sharpest thing in the house has been a pocket knife). By the time I came back to the barn the lamb was dead.IMG_5310                In addition the lamb had stopped nursing so the ewe was at risk of mastitis as her udder filled, even though there was a remaining twin. One side had started to fill more and become uncomfortable. That starts a vicious cycle where the ewe won’t let the lamb nurse and that side of the udder gets worse and worse. This is a photo of milk from Trista, the orphan’s mom. I got over two cups of milk from the ewe with the baby who died.

The trick was going to be to get this lamb who had never nursed on her mom to nurse on this mom.

IMG_5364                  I made a little lamb jacket out of the skin by cutting a neck hole and leg holes. It’s kind of hard to tell if you don’t know that’s what you’re looking at. IMG_5365-2                 The new lamb was smaller than the one that died so this jacket was a little large. The mom wasn’t convinced at first that it was her baby, but she didn’t outright reject it. The lamb had eaten (been tube fed) just two hours before so it wasn’t hungry. But later that night it was hungry. It was on it’s feet and when I held the ewe still it nursed! 18028                  The next day the jacket was beginning to smell. The idea is that at first the mom smells her baby and eventually gets used to the new lamb smell. So our transition was original lamb smell mingled with new lamb smell, new lamb smell mingled with dead smell, all new lamb smell. I had cut a portion of the skin off to get more of the new lamb smell and because I wanted the lamb to be able to adjust to the cold when the second skin came off.  But this skin jacket was so big that at that point it got tangled up and I took it off.

I kept the ewe and the lambs in a pen for several days so that I could watch. The ewe slept with her lamb and not the new one. She would stomp when the lamb tried to nurse but if I went in the pen she resigned herself to it (almost rolling her eyes) and stood there.

Mae-18028              We have success. I haven’t had to hold the ewe for a few days while they have been in a group pen. They will go out tomorrow and I’ll keep an eye on them. But I think the baby has a new mama.