Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Stacia enjoying the view out the dining room window. Little Bandito asleep in the hay. Favorite folk art rooster in the kitchen window.

Relaxing with Madonna's babies

Madonna is one of our original Navajo-Churro girls. She had two lovely white lambs this year but won't let me put coats on them so they often look chilly. That's good enough reason to bring them inside for a cuddle and to warm up by the stove. and maybe just a little bit of warm milk in a bottle in case they're feeling snackish. I had made a little plaid coat for this lamb, named Scotty, but his mother hates the plaid design and although i removed it promptly, she has never felt the same about poor little Scotty since. I had no idea she was such a fashionista. Luckily, auntie Nanette who has only one baby, has decided to allow Scotty to eat at her house. Sometimes it feels like life in a sheep soap opera. The drama, the hostilities, the greed, the baby snatching and pregancy intrigues. and always lots of mammary glands in sight.

afternoon sunshine on Family Day

Almost fifty lambs now and only 14 ewes left to lamb. Better luck lately (knocking on wood here) and although I delivered two earlier in the week, both with one foreleg turned under, mom and babies all did well. Warming up now in the afternoons with the sunshine in the barnyard and some days there's a whole lot of sheep lounging in the sunlight. It's their version of the Dominican Republic, complete with buffet hay feeders and lots of other young uns to keep the kids amused.

fashionable lamb coat

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lambing problems galore

We are seeing a great deal of our vet "Terrific Tony" these days. After he delivered Chopsy's sideways lambs, he was summoned again a few days later for a ewe who had two dead lambs, then for Nanette who had a twisted uterus. I've learned that sheep lamb fairly quickly so when I see a ewe moping about for a day and/or straining with no result for a couple of hours, it's time to get professional help.

It's easier here as we aren't as far off the beaten track and our vet is based in Cobden which is just a few miles up the road. So when Nanette continued to push and no lamb was forthcoming after an hour, I called Tony and he came right out. We had her in a lambing pen and he did the usual disinfectant and lubrication routine, reached in and said "we got a problem here!". I said something not printable. A twisted uterus occurs in cattle but Tony said he had never encountered it in a ewe. He decided to try to maneuvre things back into place and to deliver the lambs. The alternative would have been a Caesarean. I held Nanette's head while she bleated piteously as he worked inside her. A few moments and a live lamb emerged, dunked and thumped and laid on a towel. The second lamb was alive when it was born but took a few gasps and expired. We tried pumping its sides, trying to get a breath rhythm going but to no avail. Gave the live lamb to Nanette who immediately started licking it.

I was in the barn off and inn the rest of the day and evening as Nanette was still lying down and the lamb couldn't find the udder. So I got him on but he was too confused to drink. I milked her by hand into a jug and then put the milk in the bottle and fed baby a good long drink. By this morning ewe was up, lamb nursing and all is well.

BUT, while all this was going on, I noticed Nanette's sister also starting to mope around. When a sheep mopes, she stands with her head down, her ears drooping and pays no attention to hay and even grain. Tony had taken a quick look at her yesterday and pronounced her not yet
ready to lamb.

One of our problems this year is that some of our sheep are thin and not in excellent
condition. We couldn't milk this summer because we had to move farms so we left the lambs with the ewes for four months. We stopped feeding grain on the advice of an older shepherd who knows dairy ewes and said we would have to try to dry them up or we'd have mastitis problems. And because it wasn't a good grass year, the pastures weren't as lush at the end of the summer as they should have been. AND because we had the coyote problems, we had to limit their roaming to the large field AND because their wasn't as much grass, they also had to compete with my brothers cattle at times. All in all, the result is that some of the ewes are thinner than they should be and none of them were flushed for breeding.

When ewes are too thin and carrying twins, they can develop pregnancy toxemia which will kill them in short order. We've been feeding a pound of organic grain each and all the hay they can eat for months but it's hard for them to get back in condition which they are pregnant. I know now in hindsight, that dairy ewes HAVE to be milked and maintained as dairy stock. The equivalent would be to put high producing Holsteins out on grass with no grain and let them each keep their calf. You would have fabulous fat calves, just as we had fabulous growthy lambs, a cow with udder problems, thin and in no shape to be milked the following year.

So red 69, Nanette's sister, is one of the thinner girls because she raised two huge lambs last year. I gave her a milkshake of eggs and corn syrup intermittently throughout the day and she started brightening up. She started having some contractions but no lambs forthcoming. So Tony was summoned again and he delivered a dead lamb followed by a healthy live one.

Both were big lambs and there was no reason the first one should have been dead. Last year, we lost one of this group of ewes to a lambing problem and one other had a dead lamb. And they were in prime condition last year so whatever the reason...

So I was relieved when I made my six ayem trip to the barn this morning, to find a new healthy large happy lamb born to another ewe, safely and without vet assistance!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Chopsy lambs.

Baby lambs are arriving daily. So far we have eleven black scamps with blue eartags and only one little princess with a pink tag. Everyone so far obviously fathered by our Navajo rams. The vet had to be summoned for Chopsy who is a large dominating half wild unsheared braying harridan and had been labouring for about four hours. Of course she wouldn't let me help her or even examine her nether regions. So we hauled her into the 'hospital' pen and when our vet, who I call  Tony the Terrific, arrived, I was able to pin her head by the hay feeder while he did the elbow length surgical glove examination. Two lambs, trying to emerge sideways. He was able to twist them around and pulled both out in short order. Both alive and breathing after being dunked in cold water to kick start their breathing and swung by the heels to remove mucous and get the gunk out of their mouths. Chopsy started licking them and we left them to bond for an hour or so. When i went back to the barn, both were up and nudging around in that dopy way newborn lambs look for the udder. However because the woolly beast had jumped the fence at shearing, all they were finding was dirty fleecy dreadlocks. So we pinned her down again, and i used a huge set of clippers to remove most of the wool from her undercarriage and then managed to latch both lambs in turn onto a teat.
By this time, I was thoroughly smelling of sheep and had been kicked and peed on. We turned on the heat lamp as lamb number two is the second tiniest lamb we've ever had; only half as big as lamb number one.
Back out later and both were nursing. Chopsy tolerates being given water and hay and grain, but she is no fan of humans. Even kind and loving ones such as ourselves.
And by the way, the reason she is called Chopsy is short for mutton-chops, as in the sideburns because she does have woolly sideburns. When she's being evil, I think it could be short for mutton chops as in the frying pan.

These are the first lambs born. First mom is Aretha and the little black and white tykes belong to Anastasia. I will take a picture of Chopsy and her infants tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Winter snow days

January 2012

I'm having all sorts of design problems with this blog and it is getting frustrating, not being able to write my posts and then drop them into the proper spaces.
I'd like to spend less time on the computer. Actually, I love spending time on the computer but I'm starting to have shoulder problems and I think it is from using my IPad as much as I do.
I feel much healthier when I spend more time outside and in the barn, except for my gluten allergy which is really aggravated by pouring out grain and the dust inside the chicken pen.

Weather has been so easy this winter. Some freezing rain intermittently but not much snow and blessedly mild for a Canadian January. Water pipes in the barn are fine (we have them wrapped with heat tape) and although the lambs are wearing their little fleecy coats, they scamper around in the barnyard happily.

Snowy January day