03 March, 2012
I am a novice sheep owner and producer. Since October, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of these lovely new lambs, who finally began making their entrances last week. Our co-op is comprised of 23 sheep, but only 5 of them belong to me. With only 5 ewes and the current market for sheep, every lamb is particularly precious to me this season.
I'm sure every novice has a bit of anxiety about caring for ewes and lambs. I've spent many hours reading, picking the brains of my wonderful generous friends who are small-scale producers and working together with my co-op partner to prepare for these little ones. I've helped friends with lambing in previous years, pulled lambs, doctored ewes and the like - but it is different having sheep of my own. The investment is greater.
The main things I've been concerned about are stress and shelter. We have limited, partial shelter for our sheep. They have plenty of natural cover in the form of mature trees which is perfect for adult sheep, but not terribly helpful for lambs. My co-op partner's husband constructed fantastic jugs in the semi-enclosed barn, but still it is not as protected as a regular barn would be. In addition, there is no way to safely put up heat lamps in the jugs.
So of course when the late, wet snow began to fall in earnest and the winds began to whip across the plateau, my ewes decided it was the perfect week for lambing! With partial shelter, what's a novice worry-wart to do? Enter the fashionistas.
After talking to friends and reading my new Laura Lawson Ewes and Lambs book (terrific book by the way, can't recommend it highly enough - great gift from a friend) I confirmed that lambs are like any other baby animal and do not thermoregulate well for the first 48-72 hours of life. I would see photos of lambs lying in the kitchen or laundry room of friends' homes, or under a toasty heat lamp. But living off-site from my sheep, this option wasn't realistic.
Lora told me how she makes little lamb jackets out of children's sweat pants. Brilliant, I thought! So I ran to the thrift store and the only suitably sized pants they had were purple. Excellent.
Using the diagram from the Laura Lawson book, I made the little jackets. After looking at the commercially available Lamb and Kid Covers I snagged one of Zora's old dog coats that was a gift but did not fit correctly. It would be perfect for a smaller lamb. Tossed all of this into the lambing kit and the rest is history!
The first set of twin ewe lambs were born to #806 on a miserably windy freezing cold night, complete with snow. They were the testers of the imperial purple sweat pants legs. Neither mom nor lambs were troubled by the coats.
They were turned out into the new lamb pen today and are enjoying it greatly!
Yesterday, #816 Freckles delivered a small, healthy ewe lamb. Freckles is the ewe who survived the dog attack in November. She also delivered a stillborn incompletely developed fetus. After talking to friends and reading my Lawson Bible, I think this was because of a disruption of the attachment point, probably during the dog attacks.
I was expecting another sparkling white lamb from this white ewe, but wait - what is this little red thing with markings like a Barb or other wild looking sheep? A quick photo text to Lora gave me the answer -- she is red with badger or badgerface markings. I learn something new every day! You can guess I have taken to calling her Badger. So much for not naming sheep ;)
After being turned out for a bit, Badger was shivering and chilled. Back to the jug for those 2, but the purple jackets were too big for this smaller lamb. However, the dog coat fit perfect. I got a good chuckle over the collie/sheltie print.
Both girls are making excellent mothers and I'm grateful Lora at Rocking Dog Ranch sold them to me! Love those katahdins.