Saturday, 15 April 2017

Baa Baa Black Sheep

There is only one subject I can possibly write about today... this year's first lambs, delivered late last night, Easter Friday.

Our Shetland ewes do not have names, but the first mum of 2017 is the fawn girl, the fat one at the back with the big udders!

We moved the ewes away from Rambo the ram about a week ago and put them into the stables. But after a few days it was getting a bit stuffy and there were no imminent births, so we let them back outside into the small paddock up by the farmhouse. We have been resting this paddock so the grass was nice and green.

Yesterday the fawn ewe was spending most of her time in the small shed. Apart from clearly being the largest and her udders being enormous, she showed none of the other classic signs of being in early labour. No teeth grinding. No star gazing. No lip curling.

Yesterday afternoon we decided to bring her back into the stable, along with the non-pregnant ewe for companionship, but penned separately. We guessed she would probably give birth some time over the weekend.

At 10 o'clock last night I headed out to lock up the chicken houses and to check on the ewe on the way. I peered over the stable door and in the torchlight could see a dark, wet ball on the ground right below the ewe's back end. I ran to get Sue. "Sue, you might want to come out to the stable!"
With the lights on, we could see a freshly born, all black lamb, still basically a wet bundle of wool. It was just taking its first breaths, which was a relief.

Mum's instincts kicked in straight away as she started licking her newborn and giving it reassuring deep baas.
We dimmed the lights and left mum and baby boy to get on with it. There was clearly at least one other lamb to come out and it would probably be half an hour or so until anything else happened. Sue headed back in and I headed down in the darkness to shut away the poultry.

While I was at the chickens, I could hear much loud baaing. I don't know how you judge it, but it sounded like contented baaing. So I took another peek in the stable on my way back to the farmhouse and there on the straw was another black lamb, gangly legs in all directions.

It had certainly been a quick labour.

Both lambs were quickly up and mum's licking soon had them looking clean and fluffy. Instinct quickly led them towards mum's udders where they were doing all the right things - kneeling down and butting away at the milk sack, though for a while one of them was trying to get milk out of the hay rack!

There was not much for us to do apart from take photos. We snipped the umbilical cords and sprayed on iodine to prevent infection. Mum was happy to let me handle her lambs but I resisted the temptation to fuss them, giving them back to mum as quickly as I could for there was bonding to be done.

The only thing to do now was to check back in a while that the third stage of labour, passing the placenta, was going smoothly.

By midnight there were still two bags and a trail of slimy skin hanging out the back of mum. We went to bed and I set my alarm for sunrise.

When I put the lights on in the stable, mum was standing and both lambs were looking very healthy. It took a while for her to turn around, but to my disappointment there was still a trail of messy stuff hanging from her rear end, though it had clearly progressed from last night and was hanging much further.
Ideally the placenta would have been completely expelled (and probably eaten by mum) by now. Not to panic though. A quick google and we decided to leave it a while until a civilised hour when if necessary we could call the vets for a little advice.

And that's where we're up to now. It's 6.30 in the morning and I am tapping away at the keyboard and downloading photos while I wait to go back out and check on the fawn ewe and her two black lambs.

By the way, we have a boy and a girl.

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