What else would I write about but lambs this week! And what a week it has been! I have the greatest appreciation for the work that goes into lambing on a larger scale.
For us it is a smaller endeavor as we only bred four of our ewes back in November. The way this works is that you put your ram in with the girls for about a month and let them do their work. The reason you leave them together for a month is hopefully to catch the girls cycling twice during the month, allowing for a better chance of conception. Then you wait.
Gestation for a pregnant ewe is about 145 days - give or take a few days either way. So you do the math. We do not track when our ewes are mounted so we generally go 145 day from the first day they were with the rams and count forward since we don't know exactly when they "did the deed." From that date forward you know you have about a month window in which you should lamb if they are pregnant.
Our girl Taraji lambed first about two weeks into that month lambing period. She has lambed for us before and it was almost the exact same situation. No signs of anyone in labor so I went off to work. I had some idea she had lambed when I pulled into the property because the other girls were all out to pasture and she was alone tucked away in the shed. I walked down the hill and sure enough a lamb head popped up next to her. There is nothing cuter than that!
Once the lamb is on the ground you want to put mama and baby into their own private space or "Jug" so they can have alone bonding time. It also allows you to closely monitor if baby is nursing well and if mom is recovering well and doing her duties. Mitch built the jugs into a barn stall a couple months ago so we were all set. To get them in there you pick up the baby, hold it low to the ground so mama can see where it is, and start walking showing her her lamb the whole time. Good moms get pretty fired up and follow. Occasionally they lose sight of them so you put the baby back on the ground, wait for mom to catch up, and onward. Once in the jug mom can relax a bit knowing her and her baby are in a safe space.
Little Johnny Rose as we called Taraji's baby, was born on March 24th and it was a whole week before the next girl went into labor. Drilla is the first ewe we purchased and has never lambed before. She was a whole different story. She isolated herself the evening before she actually went into true labor so we started watching her as soon as this happened. It wasn't until the afternoon of the following day that she really started into big contractions and real pushing. It went on way too long and after too long of having seen hooves first appear I realized I may have to pull the baby. Trust me, I begged and pleaded with whomever to please let her deliver on her own. No joke, I was terrified. I called Mitch and told him what was going on so he headed home. Just after that I finally saw a nose. Good sign. But she was obviously struggling to get the head out any further after many large contractions. Once I realized the amniotic sac was broken I thought "oh s*** I've got to do this." Truth is I thought at this point the baby was dead. I wasn't sure when the sac broke but with out it and with the baby's nose occasionally popping back inside mom between contractions, I knew I had to end this for Drilla either way. So I put on some gloves, tackled her and reached for those tiny hooves. I blew on little ones nose and saw the tongue move. This was all I needed to truly know it was time to come out. Once I had Drilla she gave in and as I started to pull I could feel her body relax a little. She was so tired and it was obvious immediately that she was happy for the help. Luckily I had gone to lambing school at Iron Water Ranch back in the early part of the year so felt as prepared as I could. I pulled the lamb out past the shoulders and then let Drilla finish. An all black lamb fell out and was alive!!! He immediately started wiggling and trying to get up. Yes!!! I put my sister Heather on a video call and she got to watch the end. My mom watched it later and was just amazed by how quickly he started trying to get up. Just about as soon as they hit the ground, a healthy lamb will be trying to stand and walk to find mom and nurse. For these guys in nature, if you can't get up and walk, you aren't going to make it. So that is the Drilla story!
Then came the others quick after that. The following day I noticed labor signs in Sweet Pea or Big Mama as we call her when she is pregnant. This was her third time lambing so we felt confident in her. Watch and wait. Her daughter Cream Puff was also pregnant but for her it was the first time. We pulled them up to the top of the pasture that night and started the regular barn checks. Mitch called me about 1am and said "we have babies!" The true shock when I ran down was that it wasn't Big Mama, but her daughter Cream Puff who had delivered. And even more shocking than her having twins (2 boys) was that one baby was black with a white head and the other one black and white. Both of these ewes are white and both our rams are pretty light so I didn't think I had a chance of dark sheep. Wahoo!!!! I was so proud of her for being such a good mama from the start!
Into a jug they went and since Big Mama was obviously in labor we pulled her into the barn. Hourly barn checks continued. Around 6am I walked in and there were two fresh lambs with an attentive mom licking away. A white girl and a black girl with a fluffy white head. Where the heck did all these black sheep come from?! Genetics are a crazy thing!
So here we are, two days from the last lambs being born. Patrick, the little black sheep with the rough delivery has been having some diarrhea and was a little less energetic so I have been giving him a lot of extra supportive care. Diarrhea can turn quickly if they get dehydrated. This morning at barn check he was the first lamb to pop up, stretch and nurse. Yay!!! And all the other lambs and moms looked good and healthy so I refreshed waters and food and left the barn with my first sense of relief in weeks.
Hopefully from here on out our job will mostly be to watch, clean and enjoy the spring lamb cuteness. We still need to vaccinate and I will slowly be banding the boys (castrating) over the next couple days but the rest their moms can take care of. We will not be lambing for several years now so we will be keeping all these babies. Plus how could I not with the lovely fleeces to come!!! Yay for my mamas for being rockstars!
I'll be posting a Ewethful Minisode tomorrow on YouTube with endless lambs so if you need to just sit and watch lambs, watch for it on Saturday!
Thank you for visiting the blog and supporting Ewethful!!! Enjoy the photos and take care everyone.
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill. I create hand spinning fibers from locally sourced wool and teach others online how to hand spin their own yarn.