This week marks a major milestone.
We’ve graduated in the eyes of several of our mentors. We’re no longer rookies, newbies, or city girls.
It all began when one of our neighbor’s house burned. We were on scene very early and got the only pictures for the fire investigator. Another neighbor is the real hero as he broke down doors to see if anyone was inside. Thankfully, no one was home. He also turned off the main propane supply valve.
Something we may never have mentioned last year, was that one of our mentors, “Flip” the guy who shears our sheep, and is the source for our breeding stock, told us “we’re smarter than he thought” when we told him we’d gotten rid of our horses.
This past week, we’ve been “apprenticing” at another sheep ranch. We get “paid” in dogies or bummers. Pedro, the shepherd, and his wife Rosa, care for 500 head of sheep. This year, more than 400 chose to lamb within 10 days. And that was after 20 cows dropped their calves within 15 days.
Needless to say, Pedro is bushed!
So, we were over there to see how we could help. He still had about 100 ewes to lamb, and nearly 1000 lambs to care for. His barns are bulging, and all the outside pens are full. He has so many lambs, he got permission from his boss to turn 250 ewes and their lambs into the alfalfa circles, where the new growth is only up about an inch.
When we got there, he was trying to get lambs moved, lambs watered, lambs banded and marked, jugs and pens cleaned, everyone fed and watered, and still observe the still pregnant ewes. Oh, and Rosa (his wife) is caring for 15 little dogie ewe lambs.
That’s where we came in… we could watch the pregnant ewes, and let Pedro know if there was a problem. Now, you need to understand. Pedro has 35 years experience. He is a US Citizen, and speaks pretty good English and better Spanish. His wife speaks only Spanish. I had 3 years of high school Spanish 50 years ago, and Cindy speaks no Spanish.
So, we’re standing there watching the ewes when we realize one is in trouble… where’s Pedro? The first person we can find is Rosa. She calmly walks to the ewe, grabs a hind leg and lifts it up until the ewe falls over. I could see where this was going and moved to help. We had a lamb with one leg back instead of both legs forward. I got the privilege of re-positioning the lamb and pulling it, cleaning it’s sac of the mouth and getting it to the mama ewe. Within minutes, she had two more lambs. She was so exhausted it took both Cindy and me to lift the ewe to her feet about 20 minutes later.
Pedro was astonished that we would step in and help like that. He has now declared us “shepherds”. What an awesome feeling. It’s been a long 5 years since Pedro had to come help us with a ewe in trouble. I still remember him asking “where’s your straw”, and having Cindy wonder why he needed a straw. We hadn’t prepared a proper bed for the ewe or her lambs.
Of course, obtaining the NRCS grant has elevated us in the eyes of our neighbors. No one here has ever considered something like that. While at the fire, the Fire Chief said he’d heard we got the grant. His son was on the approval board, and couldn’t help but brag to his dad about it.
While things have stayed under control here, I’ve been active on the Local Harvest forum. We’ve had a number of discussions, some a little intense. I’ve maintained my demeanor and have been able to help diffuse a few arguments. Those are always over “organic” and certification, or CSA and some of the new marketing/sales schemes calling themselves “CSA’s” and whether or not they should use a different designation.
As a result, I received a very nice complement from another mentor.
“You haven’t been a rookie for a long time
That really meant a lot to me, as I’ve considered Lucy one of my online mentors for several years.
Now that we’ve graduated, we really have to live up to all this… no resting on our laurels.
After a warm winter, with very little precipitation, either rain or snow, right at the start of lambing season, winter has returned.
Our season began prematurely when the gal who gave us quads last year, had a nearly full-sized, but underdeveloped baby, followed by another clearly aborted. Next up is a really wooly gal, who had a single boy. He’s a big boy, but being a single, he will be a market lamb.
Another ewe we bought last year had twins with our help. I had to lightly pull on the head as it was fully exposed, with one foot. For whatever reason, the ewe just wasn’t pushing effectively. By grasping the head at the back of the neck, I was able to apply enough pressure that when she contracted, the lamb remained in position, rather than slipping back into the birth canal. Shortly after that little fellow was born, she dropped a little girl. Yippee! Twins!
Things went fairly well, except that Mama never dropped her milk. Both Cindy and I massaged her bag, cleared the teats of wax, worked for better than 30 minutes trying to get colostrum, and got nothing. Sigh.
We tried this several times through the day and into the late evening, with Cindy in her Dr. Denton’s and farm boots… no pictures of that. We finally had no choice but to supplement with a lamb milk preparation. We managed to get a couple ounces into each lamb, and they quieted down. Fortunately, Mama had them in one of the small sheds, so they were well protected from the windy weather.
Next morning I had the duty, as Bev and Cindy had to go to St. George. You gotta’ picture this…
I go out to feed a little early. I’m hoping to encourage the pregnant ewes to eat, and displace the room for their lambs, thus having their lambs during the day. As I round the corner to the sheep pen, here’s the charcoal mama standing outside the shed with both babies. They’re practically screaming… really hungry.
I quickly toss 4 flakes of alfalfa into the upright two-sided feeder, and then 3 flakes into the smaller fence-line feeder, and proceed to climb over that feeder. Now, I really hate to admit this, but I am obese. That makes me pretty rolly-polly. Thankfully I keep my balance even though I’m carrying a 20oz pop bottle with nipple and about 12 oz of lamb formula.
I work my way to the south shed, taking care not to upset the other ewes any more than necessary. Once there, I plop myself on the ground. My knees are already bruised from the night before and just won’t take the hard ground. So, here I am, sitting on the bare ground (well, maybe some sheep droppings, too), and trying to work the two lambs around to be fed.
Finally, I’ve got one, I think it’s the boy that I helped. I have him in great position and get the bottle in his mouth. All of a sudden, Mama ewe takes a couple steps back, and Wham! butts me hard in my left arm, nearly rolling me over. This fun goes on as I finish feeding the little guy, and grab for the little girl.
Then the two-way goes off! It’s Cindy wanting to make sure everything is going ok… sure, here I am, trying to feed a hungry lamb, with Mama beating the daylights out of me… Things are going great!
I know, you asked, why don’t I just get up and take a baby with me? When you’re fat like I am, getting up is a bit more of a project. I have to hang on to something with both hands and pull myself up. Somehow hanging onto an upset ewe didn’t seem like a good option.
My back already hurts, now my knees are bruised, and my left arm is taking a beating. One time, she goes for my head and I duck just in time, finding my head buried in her chest… but the baby is still nursing. Now, I can see Mama’s bag is still full, even though there is plenty of evidence that the babies have been working on the teats. I can see where this is going… exactly where we didn’t want to go this year… but we’re well prepared.
Cindy and Bev finally get home and we make the decision to bring the little boy into the house. He’s chilled. While he is still alive, his core is chilled. We give him to Mom to warm while she’s in her recliner. In the meantime, we create a pen out of a big (as in 24 inches high and maybe 30×24). We line it with newspaper and then fresh straw.
The little guy has diarrhea, not a good sign. No matter what we do to warm him, it doesn’t look good. Our faithful young Border Collie does everything she can think of, too… even laying down with her head on top of his body. Laying on the bathroom floor, wrapped in several towels, he succumbs.
Facing a snow storm on Tuesday, we decide to bring the little girl in the house BEFORE she gets chilled. Sure, we could continue feeding her out in the pen, but with Mama and her attitude, the very windy weather, and prediction of snow, she’s now inside… with the run of the house.
She’s not eating well, but we’re getting a little Nutri-Drench down her along with placing little bubble of saline solution under her skin. That’s a technique Cindy learned many years ago when she would rehabilitate orphaned squirrels, raccoons, and other critters for the Ohio DNR. Four of the six dogs are taking turns looking after her.
Now we’re still waiting on at least 8 more ewes and four goats to have their babies, as the snow flies and the north wind blows… gonna be a long season.
After a very mild winter, it’s now raining and snowing, with more in the forecast, just in time for lambing and kidding… wouldn’t ya’ know it!
This year, we have 4 pregnant does (goats), and at least 12 maybe 13 pregnant sheep. The ram and buck went to breed on October 14 and 16, 2011. That means that somewhere between 145 and 155 days later, we should be very busy with the newborns.
The past weeks have been dominated by getting things ready, inventorying what we have, and purchasing what we need. We’re upgrading our supplies and have also been retrofitting the horse barn to prepare for the larger flock of sheep. Who knows, maybe the goats will take over the sheep pan. If they do, we’ll have to rearrange the milking stand, as it’s a long walk from the sheep to the goat pens.
We’re busily preparing for the inevitable bottle babies. We really prefer to have the mama’s take care of their own, but we’re also seasoned enough to know we’ll have a few bottle babies, both sheep and goats. We’re building a “teat bucket”, which is a big bucket with nipples around the bottom. You pour the lamb or goat formula in, and then the lambs and kids suckle as if the big plastic bucket is their mother.
We’ve also got heat shelters, lambing jugs, heat lamps and fresh straw ready. This week I ordered the branding irons (we use a special marking fluid like paint), polar fleece lamb coats, and ear tags. We’ll make a last minute trip to the co-op for lamb and goat milk, the marking fluid, a couple of “thermocubes” to control the lamps, and the ever necessary “nutri drench”. That last stuff really helps little ones when you have to help them along.
This year’s plan is to foster as many babies as we can, keeping them drinking the natural milk, as they seem to grow much faster without putting on so much fat. Using the teat bucket as necessary will mimic the drinking schedule much better than putting the orphan lambs or goats on a “convenience schedule”.
This is our first year with the goats. We’ve helped a neighbor with their goats, but have not gone through the whole process. We’re getting educated and are discovering many differences. The sheep have their babies standing up in most cases, while the goats lay down, and scream a lot.
What we don’t know is whether the goats will be like the sheep and have most of their kids during the day. Our feeding schedule encourages going into labor mid day, rather than during the night. Over the years, we’ve only had one ewe present us lambs over night.
As soon as the lambs and kids are all here, it will be time to plant seeds in the greenhouse preparing for our organic gardening season, and the Cedar City Farmers’ Market.
Incoming search terms:
- nutirdrench goat in labor