🎵 It’s the moooost wonderful tiiiiiiime of the year! 🎵 Lambing season is here!
I’ve jokingly said that lambing is a shepherd’s Christmas, but there really is no better time of the year. Or maybe it’s more like the Superbowl! I spend weeks preparing for it and when it’s over I immediately start thinking about next year. But when I say that lambing season really snuck up on me this year, I mean it quite literally.
It all started a couple of weeks ago. The sun was shining and the sheeple were cooperating (for the most part) as we rounded them up and got them ready to shear. At that point we were about two weeks out from lambing season, so I wanted to make sure that they were comfortable and ready to go beforehand.
In the middle of all that, I noticed a little bit of blood out in the paddock so I went to investigate right away, fearing some bad news, and…surprise! There was a little black and brown ewe lamb hiding behind a straw bale (the one in the photo above!). So exciting of course, but a bit shocking too - we make due date estimates based on our ram marking harnesses during breeding time, so April 1 was what we were planning for but this little girl showed up two weeks early!
After all that excitement, I figured it must have just been a fluke but it became pretty clear after that it was official and we were lambing because babies started popping out EVERYWHERE!
In general, when it comes to the lambing itself, I like to keep a careful eye on things but will generally stay out of the way. Most of the time, ewes can lamb on their own without me needing to intervene at all, and it’s how I would prefer it, but there are some occasions where we will need to step in. For example, one of our ewes, Björk, was in labor and I saw a nose and one leg forward, so I knew I needed to stand by just in case it needed a gentle pull as this isn’t the ideal position for the lamb to come out. I ended up softly pulling out the ram lamb and she went to work cleaning him. Her second twin ram lamb was pretty big and also ended up being in an awkward position (he was elbow locked) so I got the feet out and then he mostly came out without my help; all in all, both good outcomes.
And because of the, let’s face it, ~chaotic~ nature of lambing season, it’s super important to keep track of our lambs. We use plastic ID collars with her name and then an ID number I assign to each lamb for the first few weeks of a lamb's life. Once the lambs get bigger, we replace these plastic bracelets with permanent ear tags.
Lambing season has its highs and lows and one of the scarier things to happen this time around was dealing with a chilled lamb. Because this particular ram lamb was so big, labor took a long time and he got cold during the process and his face was pretty swollen from a hard journey through the birth canal. The ewe was distracted with her other ram lamb, so I knew I needed to step in.
A chilled lamb can decline very quickly, so I parked him in front of the heater and got straight to work warming up some colostrum on a double boiler (you can’t do it in the microwave because it kills all the good bacteria). Colostrum is the first milk that mammals ingest after birth and it serves as a major immune boost, which is exactly what this guy needed. Thankfully, I always keep extra colostrum in the freezer just in case of emergencies like this, so we were covered.
Before feeding a lamb, it’s important to wait until their body temperature is above 98.6 degrees or so - if you feed them when they’re too cold it can shock their system and worsen their condition. Once he was warm, I bottle fed him some colostrum. And slowly but surely he came back to life! He soon started to stand and shortly after that he was ready to go back with his mom and twin, where I helped him start to nurse! One week later, you would never know he had such a tricky birth.
There is always some #sheepdrama during lambing season, but here’s hoping that the rest of lambing season is even smoother sailing.
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