Friday, 13 April 2018

Lamb Triplets and Twins Arrive

Monday 9th April
You Might Want to Come Down to the Sheep Field
Main job for the day was to finish constructing the pond which I began digging out yesterday evening. This pond is purely for the ducks, who will soon be moving into the veg plot.
The weather was dull and drizzly, but I decided to ignore getting wet and carry on till I was finished.
Pond dug, liner ready
Lined with old carpet underlay.
Just a precaution as stones are rare in our soil.
In goes the water, straight from the water butt

Filling up nicely

So by midday the pond was well on its way to being finished. I had only been working on it for about six hours. It should be completed before dark... or so I thought.

It was 12:30 when I heard the sound of bleating from the sheep field. I went to investigate and here's what I found.
I phoned Sue, advising her that she might like to come down to the sheep field. While I was away, the geese decided to test the new pond. It seemed to meet with their approval.

We moved Ewe 00010 up to the stables as there was heavy rain forecast overnight. I had already set up a pen in readiness for this moment. When we got there, she promptly gave birth to lamb number three! This is unusual for Shetland sheep. 
The only other time one of our ewes gave birth to triplets we tried to adopt one onto another ewe. It didn't work out and we ended up bottle-feeding. At the time we decided that should the occasion arise again we would supplement feed. This means leaving the three lambs with the ewe, but bottle feeding all three as a top-up. Without this, mum's resources would be overstretched, especially as the lambs grow, and all four would be at risk.
But the ewes are not in tip-top condition this year. It has been a difficult year for lambing for everybody.

By the time everything had settled down it was nudging toward 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I returned to the pond, still determined to push on and try to get it finished.  I just needed to edge it with decking.

But it wasn't long before I was interrupted again. More bleating!
I phoned Sue again. "You might want to come down to the sheep field!"
For there was Ewe 0009, one of our badger-faced Shetlands, tending to a newborn pair of twin lambs. This was the first time that either of the badger-faced ewes had given birth to more than a single lamb. Both looked good and healthy. The badger-faced ewes give absolutely no hints that they are about to give birth. The lambs just appear! I am not complaining.

So five lambs in two and a half hours. 

Sue leads the ewe up to the stables using the lamb as the lure.
I was carrying the other lamb.
Each new birth was accompanied by bleating and baaing all round.
Even the rams were taking a keen interest.

By now the rain had really set in and I was glad to have got both mums and all the lambs safely into the stables. I mixed up some oats for the mums and set up a couple of hay racks. They would be hungry now.

The triplets were struggling to get milk and Sue could not get milk out of one teat. It is essential that the lambs drink in their first few hours, since the first milk contains colostrum from the ewe which transfers all her antibodies to the lambs.
The lambs were small and mum was looking a lot, lot skinnier than she was this morning.
We called a friend more experienced in teat management than us. She could come over and help but I would have to babysit her two grandchildren. Joy!

I survived an hour with a three and a five year old. I had never quite clicked what a poor message Cinderella gives girls about their aspirations in life.

The ewe's teats had cleared though one of the lambs was looking quite weak. Having said that, at any one moment any of the lambs was looking weak.
It was going to be a long night.

For the rest of the evening I busied myself in the kitchen making Chicken Tom Yam soup. One breast from the monster chickens went a long way and I have to say it tasted very nice. I cooked to the background music of a live band, for Sue had brought the Sugarbeats, the Smallholder Club's very own music group, over to the house for their practice.

Regular visits were made to check on the lambs. By now it was apparent that the weakest lamb was the last born of the triplets, one I had already named Flash due to the white streak across the top of his head. Oh, I forgot to say, we had to wait till the last lamb to get a female. All the rest are young rams, which is not the best news. Boys are always more troublesome.

Compared to the newborn lambs, Rambutan at two weeks old is looking like a giant! He had his final feed of the day at midnight. I fed some artificial colostrum to two of the triplets too, just to make sure they got enough of this vital ingredient and to keep them going through the night.
I set the alarm for 4.30am.

That was quite some day.

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