2016 is going to be an amazing year. The season began on the evening of February 4th, it was practically balmy at 50 degrees F. I was doing my evening barn check and filling up waters and feeders for the night. Two ewes had been looking ready to explode for days with huge udders and big pregnant bellies. One of them, a gorgeous Gotland ewe, #611, was laying down near the water while I filled it. She stood up and turned around looking uncomfortable. I watched her in the beam of my headlight and though: It's such a warm night for February, wouldn't it be a perfect time for her lambs to be born. #611 lay down and her water broke.
I wasn't sure for a moment if' she'd just peed or really had began lambing. A glimpse of a front foot emerged. She looked fine so i dashed into the house to get Josh and Brandon to watch. We got back to the barn with both front feet out and 611 pacing. She then lay down and pushed. Sheep do cry when they lamb, it sounded like she was being torn apart for a moment. Then the first lamb slid out. 611 stood up and began to lick her new ram lamb while making endearing sheepy cooes and cuddly noises. The lamb was on his feet within about 5 minutes, text book birth and mothering.
15 minutes later the second lamb, a girl was born. I waited to see her try to stand. The ewe had the normal looking afterbirth hanging out, it usually takes an hour or so to fully pass. At that point I guessed they'd be fine and probably wanted peace and quiet for a while. I put the ewe and both lambs in a lambing pen (jug) and went inside.
At around 9 PM. I went out for one more check hoping i'd find everyone sleeping peacefully. The mother was standing up nursing her three lambs. Wait, three? Apparently she'd had another lamb tucked up in there! It a big bog with a white spot on his head. The ewe lamb also had a small white spot on her head. All three lambs were happy and healthy the next day.
February 5th was a snow storm. The few days of warm weather were blown away and all the mud was covered up by a fresh layer of clean snow. February 6th dawned clear and crisp. Inside the barn fresh life was learning to stand. A wensleydale ewe, #491, had a white ram lambs nursing. She also had more feet sticking out of her. She gave me stink eye and i guessed she was nearly done so I left for a few minutes.
I came back to no progress at all. I put her in a very small pen and investigated. The feet were upside down. That generally means they are back feet and therefore the lamb is breech (backwards). Let the pulling begin. The ewe was not thrilled for the first moment. Then she lay down and pushed.
Trying to pull a breech lamb is hard. The feet are slippery and hard to grip and it feels as though you are about to pull the lamb apart. I got him to move a tiny bit, then he was stuck. I braced my feet on the ewe's rump and heaved. She pushed, I pulled. I thought we were both about to give up after what seemed like a long time. Then the lamb moved. We got him out up to the shoulders. Ok, one more big effort and we got him out.
The ewe was panting. The lamb wasn't breathing or moving. I cleared out his nose and began to rub him all over. Then he squirmed and took in a huge breath. Alive, thank goodness. Both lamb and mom lay panting for a minutes. Then the mom began to lick and make her cuddly noises. Everything would be OK.
By noon the two big Wensleydale boys were trying to bounce and nursing like champs.
I love lambing season. The explosion of new life is exciting. I never know what i'll get or how it will go, but the lambs are so cute and exuberant about life it is worth all the trouble.
2016 here we come!