Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting Better

The weather has improved somewhat.  This is yesterday.

Rainbow's end......the sheep barn!

Today we are at 34 degrees and seeing spitting snow....again.  Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are predicted to be warmer so we're planning sheep work for those days.  If I'm working bare handed with needles and syringes it's helpful to be able to feel them..........

I've gone through the lambing records and tallied up some results.

We had 148 lambs from 76 ewes, so a 195% birth rate.  Of all ewes exposed to rams, four either did not conceive or resorbed the pregnancy early on, and a fifth (Wabbit) suffered an abortion possibly due to being manipulated during shearing or just misfortune.  We had no losses at birth, but have since lost two ewe lambs - one euthansia due to a crippling condition, either spinal trauma or advancing congenital stenosis, and the twisted intestine from this past Monday.  We had 71 ram lambs and 77 ewe lambs, so a fairly even split.  We had 77 white lambs and 71 colored lambs.

Some lambs are already distinguishing themselves with fast growth and everyone will get a real boost when we are able to turn them onto pasture - whenever that will be.  By weaning time we'll have a pretty good handle on which lambs are candidates for breeding stock sales or replacement stock for here.

In the meantime...back to the skirting table!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blue Monday

The old saying is "So goes Monday, so goes the week".   I certainly hope that isn't going to be the case here.  For one thing, we were smacked with a late spring snow storm.  I'm not a fan of cold weather in the first place and getting this after such nice weather - and when we should be thinking about turning the flock onto pasture - is doubly hard to take.  The sheep didn't seem too thrilled either, although Pickles was willing to do reconnaisance.

Don't bother coming out, guys.  It's totally not worth it.

More depressing than wet snow, however, was the loss of a lamb.  She presented with colicky symptoms on Thursday - mildly bloated, some fever, depressed and painful with gut cramps.  This is not that unusual for young ruminants.  It takes a while for their stomachs to switch over to being real ruminants and transient belly aches caused by a gas bubble usually resolve in a few hours.  Still, since she had a small fever we treated with penicillin, banamine (essentially injectable aspirin) and a booster shot of BoSe as she was just 5 weeks old and due for it anyway.  She had a little pasty stool but not the copious diarrhea that you'd expect from a viral or bacterial intestinal problem.  Saturday she seemed improved - no longer puffy, moving around more with the other lambs and looking much less depressed.  Sunday AM she was flat out, very depressed and somewhat bloated again.  Crap.  We repeated the penicillin and banamine and added an oral drench of water, vegetable oil and baking soda to try to relieve the bloat to help her feel better, and also drenched her with just plain warm water to stave off dehydration.  Unfortunately, this morning she was deceased.  A necropsy at the vet's showed that she had suffered a twisted gut, like a horse.  Nothing we did caused it, nothing we did would help it, and surgery probably wouldn't have been helpful either as the involved section of gut had died and made her toxic.  Sadly, she was doomed from the get-go.  We were sorry that she had to go through that, and sorry also for her mother as this was her only lamb.  We did have them penned together since Saturday morning, so they were together when the lamb died.  The ewe seems to have grasped that her lamb is more than just missing, as she was a very diligent mother but hasn't spent a lot of time looking for her lamb, just standing and calling once in a while.

But life marches on.  In the afternoon we set up the creep gate so the lambs could have access to nice hay and a bit of grain without the ewes horning in.  They were more than ready to have their own space and at one point over 70 had come in of their own accord and were nibbling and milling around and enjoying not being crowded by the big ewes.  The moms pressed up to the gate, partly cross that the lambs were ignoring their calls, but also annoyed that they couldn't get in at the choice eats we had set out for them.

Crap.  The good stuff is right. over. there.

Really?  A fort just for us with no grown ups?  Where?

So hopefully tomorrow will be a better day and spring will come back soon.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Ones We Were Looking For

Yesterday - the very day after our expose' of the last. pregnant. ewe. - we had babies at early morning barn check.  Wooo!  Done at last with this particular waiting game.  (Don't you wish public scrutiny of non-perfoming public officials got such quick results?)

Click to biggify.  Notice the toothy grin on the ewe.

They are not the biggest lambs ever - only 7.5 lbs each - and one would have expected (stern look at the ewe) a little larger lambs from someone as big as she is, but they are behaving normally and going to come along fine.

Hey, I know you!

And of course they are fuzzy and Disney-cute so even coming last they will get their fair share of snorgling, a term coined by my friend Sara over at Punkin's Patch

So......lambING is over, but lamb CARE continues.  The oldest lambs are already coming due for a booster injection of BoSe to insure that they have adequate selenium levels.  We are so awfully deficient here and they are growing so fast at this stage that we've had unhappy first-hand experience to prove that they need this supplemental dose or there will be sporadic losses.  As they reach adolescence they will be eating enough mineral mix to meet their needs, but for right now there just aren't enough natural sources available to them to meet their need.

First vaccinations for older lambs are looming too, as well as putting the moms over the scale to check body condition in conjunction with eye scoring for parasite load.  We have a major barnyard fence repair project that suddenly has leapt to the front of the to-do list. Plus I still have a bajillion fleeces to skirt, a festival to get ready for, and oh yeah, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival to attend. 

Good thing I can sleep through the night now.  Apparently, I'm going to need it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Holdout

This is Alexandria, the last pregnant ewe I'm waiting for.  Everyone else was done by the 14th.

Do you mind??  That's really unflattering.

Based on when the rams were removed from their breeding groups I know the last possible lambing date is the 24th.  I would really - really - like her to hurry up and not take till the very last day.

I'll lamb when I'm good and ready, dearie.  In the meantime if you want something to do you can go skirt some fleeces.  Or something

Fair enough.  I have plenty of that to do.

 (But hurry up.) 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuckered Trio

We have now combined all the smaller mixing groups except for the one with the last lot of youngest lambs.  It was bedlam for a couple of hours as everyone trooped back and forth, got separated, then went looking for each other.  Lambs and moms would call, come close then pass each other and miss connections because other animals were standing in the way.  Then there were the happy lambs that just wanted to run around and didn't care that mom was calling them.  They had pretty well sorted themselves out by chore time.

With the whole length of the barn floor open, plus the yard and the length of the former-feed-bunk-now-loafing-shed the lambs can run flat out for a meaningful distance, make a turn and run back.  They do this several times in a row particularly at feeding time when the excitement from the adults is contagious.  It's good because it gets a lot of them out from underfoot at feeding time.   Sheep are not careful with lambs at this stage - they feel it's every sheep for themselves and even with ample feeder space they all try to cram into the first section.  We have to keep an eagle eye out that a lamb doesn't get unwillingly swept along among the big bodies and squished.

These three siblings are taking a rest in the sunny yard after the morning races.


Sheep siblings will almost always choose to sleep or hang out together.  Single lambs make friends and hang with them, but twins and triplets come with built in companions and they seek each other out in preference to others. 

The lamb facing away from us has a burdock burr on its head.  We had some lovely second cutting alfalfa - perfect feed for milking ewes and growing lambs - which we've discovered the hard way is peppered with burdock.  The dang plants grew about seven inches tall and because it was so hot and dry they set seed at that size.  Usually if there are burdocks in the hay they are biggish plants that we can see as we're feeding and pull out.  Not this time.  The lambs are peppered with burrs and the ewes are carrying a lot on their faces.  We'll pick them off over time as we handle the lambs for vaccinations and the ewes for eye scoring and later coat fitting, but for now they are a huge source of annoyance to me as the animals look unkempt and uncared for.

There are certainly loads worse things I could have to worry about, but in the words of the immortal Roseanne Roseannadanna, "It's always something." 


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunny Saturday

Saturday was the first sunny warm day we've had since mid-March.  We opened the barn doors to the barnyard and let two mixing pens run together.  While the groups weren't overcrowded you could practically hear the older ewes saying, "Thank Heavens.  If I'd had to stay cooped up in there one more day I'd have been making the front page and not in a good way."   There was a lot of traipsing back and forth and a little head butting as the adults reinforced their standing in the flock.  After some initial consternation at mom going around the corner out of sight, the lambs all ran and played together then hung out in the sun.  It was a treat to sit in the doorway and watch the activity and of course the lambs all had to come investigate.

Hello.  I'm a lamb.  What are you?

So.  You come here often?

Hey!  You're blocking the sun!  You're kind of - big - if you get my drift.

Man, you've got some weird fur.  It's all slippery.

I can hear the pasture....calling me.....

I don't trust her.  She looks funny.

I think she's OK.  It's just hard to be as cute as us lambs.

Cute, but growing fast.  I caught these two lambs in an older mixing pen chewing a little cud already.

What?  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

You have to wonder what they think the first time a cud comes up.  "What the heck is THIS??"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Still In Nursery Mode

........but getting closer to the end.  Foxy had a big pair of twins yesterday which leaves just Helga and Alexandria yet to lamb.  Here's she's licking off lamb #1 - a big ewe lamb.  Note that reflectived red tint to moorit mom's eye and the green reflection in the black lamb's eye which I spoke of earlier.

Foxy and ewe lamb

Those red eyes again.  That could freak a person out if you didn't know what it was.   It's like a bad horror movie effect.

She went on to also have a ram lamb weighing 16 lbs.  That's our biggest lamb ever and he's doing great.  Between him and his sister, this ewe created 31 1/4 lbs of healthy lambs, plus all the associated fluid and tissue that goes along with the process, and put on a big functional udder too. Let's round it up to a conservative guess of 50 lbs.  As she only weighs around 170 lbs, that's an additional 30% of her entire adult body weight that she built from scratch in 5 months.  Biology is an awesome thing.

The older lambs are growing very fast and eager to poke around in the hay feeder tray for fines after the moms fill up and give them room.  These 2 siblings are tired after a day of learning how to be sheep.


Andy took advantage of the weather to start spreading fertilizer on the pastures.  We will need all we can get this year!  The odd warm spell at the end of March started the grass nicely, but now it's in a chilly limbo (as it really should be for this time of year) and not growing.  With fertilizer readily available it ought to jump in a satisfying manner when it warms up.

The adult sheep know darn well that pasture time is coming and they watched Andy through the gate with laser like focus.

Look, he's in. the. pasture.

"What's a pasture?"

You'll be finding out pretty soon.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Attack of the Cute

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Only five more ewes left to lamb.  Woo-hoo!  So, after running silent during the last weeks of craziness, here are a few pics of the rampant cuteness going on in the barn.

Ruby, standing guard over a passel of babies

Black lamb splashed with random white speckles

Colored Cotswold lamb with 'facial drama'

Teething - chewing on a bit of straw

Such a widdle fuzzy-wuzzy. 
(Note- I only talk like this about animal babies.  Human babies....meh.)

Sunlight shining through his ear


"I like this "sun" thing."

Moorit lamb - "This ear tag is so heavy!"

The "I may get a wild hare and jump in the air any moment" look.

More cuteness to come.  And maybe even a narrative.