Notes from Windward: #67
Last Lambs of the Season
Snowy finally delivers
Snowy raised a pair of twins last year, so it took her longer to get back into condition than it did for the ewes who only raised a single lamb. As a result, she was later coming into heat, and I was beginning to wonder if she'd taken at all. Sheep will lie, you know, about such things in order to get extra rations.
After lunch, as I made my way down from the dining hall, Snowy met me at the gate, twin ewe lambs in tow, to show me that she hadn't been lying, not one bit. I opened the gate, and she eased out of the pen before the other sheep could figure what was up, and then it was just a matter of tossing out some alfaha to distract Brownie and Susie away from the gate as I eased Snowy in to join them in the summer pen. The purpose of separating the nursing ewes from the others is that it's hard to be a working mother and also have to fight for your share of the hay. By separating them, we can insure that the nursing ewes get the feed they need in order to raise their lambs without draining themselves.
I was delighted that Snowy presented us with ewe lambs because her fleece is one of our best. It's a pure white wool with lots of crimp so it's perfect for felting or making hand-spun yarn.
Brownie's boy came over to check out his new playmates, so I snapped a pic so that you could see how big he's grown already.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67
Well, we thought we were done with lambing, but it turned out that Pepper was holding back on us since she showed up at feeding with a healthy ewe lamb tagging along behind her.
The lamb seemed active and it would have been easy enough to just toss the morning's rations and get on with other things, but good practice pays so I took the time to move Pepper and her lamb into the jug, get her another flake of hay and some fresh water. It was good that I went through the usual routine because the wax plugs sealing Pepper's teats had set up and were preventing any milk from coming out. I had to squeeze quite firmly to expell them, which Pepper didn't appreciate at all, but if I hadn't, her lamb wouldn't have been able to nurse.
It was a nice, sunny day so after lunch it was time to move Pepper and her ewe lamb over to the summer pen to join the other mothers. By separating them, we're able to make sure that the nursing ewes don't have to compete with the other sheep for access to feed. The concepts of sharing and compassion aren't big on the list of sheep qualities, so keeping the two groups separate insures that the nursing ewes get enough feed so that they don't drain themselves in order to keep up milk production.
At this point the only sheep left in the lower garden pen are Pia (who's two ram lambs didn't make it) and the three yearlings--they're looking a bit confused as to where the other sheep have gone. Sort of the sheep equivalent of being the last ones called when choosing sides for basketball.
When a ewe goes into labor, she gives off pheromones which rams can interpret as her coming into heat. My guess is that this causes the ram to stay near her and keep others away, something which would afford the ewe a bit of protection when she's at her most vulnerable moment. Whatever the evolutionary value, we keep the rams off by themselves during lambing since a head butt from one of the rams could cause another ewe to miscarry.
Now that the lambing is over, there's no need to keep the rams in a separate pen. They're actually fairly easy to handle, just so long as you move them before they've had a chance to eat and offer some good hay as an inducement for them to go where you want.