Notes from Windward: #61


My Moment with Demi

Demi is the ewe in the
bottom left corner
It started around 5pm when I was looking out my window at the sheep. I saw Demi under a shelter and knew immediately she was in labor.

She was on the ground with her head up, lips curled back and bearing down for real. I had to assist Kiss-Kiss with her birthing a few weeks ago (gloves on and up in her to mid-forearm to turn the lamb), and so I wanted to go out and make sure the presentation of this lamb was right.

Demi is a very skiddish Karakul ewe. We've had her for about four years, and she still runs from everyone when they get too close. I have befriended almost half of the flock and most of them love a scratch on the chin or back. I've tried and tried with Demi, even offered her tasty treats, but always before she just couldn't seem to get past the fear. Of what, who knows?

I got into the pen and could see little hooves popping out with each contaction. So far so good I thought, and sat down on one of the tractor tires to watch and wait. She had the baby within 15 minutes.

Demi and her day old lamb
I always enjoy watching that part of the lambing that comes between birth and the point when the lamb is up and eating. Demi has been a wonderful mother in the past so I decided to leave her be and come back out in another 20 minutes or so. By the time I returned the lamb was fairly cleaned off. He was shaking pretty badly though and seemed weak. Demi was starting to get panicky, and began pawing at the lamb to get him to rise.

I decided to get some towels to rub the lamb vigorously and warm him up. I got a bucket and turned it over to make a stool nearby where she had birthed. I sat down and grabbed the lamb, expecting Demi to just run around the pen bleating as the other mothers do when you're handling their babies.

Instead she helped me by continuing to clean the baby. At one point, she even stopped, watched me for a moment and then licked me as well. It was wonderful! She knew I was there to help.

When the lamb was well-towelled, and fitted with one of the jackets we make for the newborns, I set the lamb on the ground to see how it was coming, but it still couldn't stand on its own. Demi again pawed at him for awhile with no results, and that's when I decided it was time to intervene and helped him stand up. Even though Demi was being maternal and seemed to be appreciating my help I doubted she would let me clear the waxy plugs from her teats.

the lambs first encounter with hay
I figured I'd have to leave and go get Walt to help me hold her. At this point she was guiding the baby to the teat but he was missing badly and falling. I decided to reach down and give it a shot. Even the friendliest of our ewes at this point jump and try to kick us off but she raised her leg a bit to give me access.

I grabbed the teat and after a few pulls it ran with colostrum. I held the teat and guided the lambs head to it. Demi was watching over her shoulder and murmuring in her motherly way. No fear at all. It was like we had some strange understanding at that moment. I sat back on the bucket to watch and she just kept staring at me.

I do intend on taking advantage of this bond we have formed and am looking forward hopefully to being able to give her a casual pat or scratch once in awhile without the reaction she'd give to a stranger.

As we know it will all be up to Demi.

Bye for now, Heather