Monday, March 5, 2012

Down to the Wire

It was around 10:45 last night, and I decided to do bed check on the remaining puffy ewes, Miriam and Patty, a bit earlier than usual. Just had a feeling I should. It's good to act on those feelings sometimes, and this night would be one of those times. As I walked towards the barn, I could hear someone making a fair amount of noise. At night, my sheep only get noisy when something's up, like the mountain lion or the bobcat is around, making them nervous, or the coyotes start up down in the crick bed. Tonite, I figured that a lamb was on it's way, and I was right. Miriam, clearly distressed, was pacing, pawing and making that deep-throated "chuckling" noise, and occasionally lying down and straining. I decided to just keep watch for a bit, as I could see the water bag just at the entrance to the world. Not time to panic quite yet. Miriam's not a first timer, so I let her do her job - until the rodeo started. Miriam jumped up as the water bag exited, swung around, the water bag burst - and sprayed poor Maddie who was nosing around, wondering what all the fuss was about. Now, if you know anything about animal husbandry, I'm guessing you know exactly what happened next. Miriam smelled the fluid on Maddie and figured that she'd had her lamb and now that lamb needed cleaning and she was done. Poor little Maddie had no idea what was going on and momma Jillian wasn't happy either, as Miriam kept head-butting her out of the way in her quest to clean up 'her' new baby. Time for the calvary to step in and take charge. I shooed Jillian and baby Maddie out the door along with everyone else (who were all steering clear of Miriam, but still didn't need to be in there) except Flossie and her new twins. Flossie is the flock leader and my oldest girl, and what happened next showed why I keep her around (besides the nice babies she has). By now, a single foot and a nose were showing at the entrance, so I settled down to wait just a bit longer. But Miriam, still confused and thinking that she'd already had her lamb, kept looking for Maddie, grunting and chuckling and licking up fluid from the hay. After 30 minutes of this going on with zero pushing, I finally threw in the towel and went in after that poor lamb. I thought I was wresting a tiger there in the cold, dark barn, my little flashlight having rolled off somewhere during the struggle to catch and contain Miriam. I tried with one hand holding her rear leg to pull the lamb with my free hand, but abandoned that idea pretty quick. I am no where near as good at 'throwing' a sheep - my sheep buddy Romella is really the ace at that - but I finally got Miriam on the ground and my knee on her neck. Then I went after the lamb. I found to my dismay that one leg was back where it shouldn't be, and I had no room to fish it out without doing the inevitible - pushing that poor lamb BACK inside, rearranging the legs so that both front legs were pointing forward, soles down, toes up, laying the head back on top of the two now properly positioned legs, and finally, with no help from Miriam, pulling. At one point, I felt sharp little teeth on my finger, so there was hope that the lamb was still alive. But it was a long, hard pull to get that lamb out. Finally, the lamb popped free and started sneezing and snorting, so I knew it was alive. Didn't care a whit about sex or anything else, as Miriam at that point had quite clearly had enough, and nearly flung me into the side of the pen trying to get up. I got her back down and laid the lamb across her front legs, and she could have cared less. This is where Flossie stepped in. Flossie starting clearing sac and fluid and umbilical cord from the new born, all the while gently rebuking Miriam for her behaviour it seemed. Finally, Miriam got the message, warned Flossie off and took over, with the new mommy chuckle telling me that she had this finally. But wait - it wasn't over yet. I felt that there was probably another lamb waiting inside and knew that Miriam wouldn't be able to do this on her own, so I apologized to the new mom, and dove back in. Nothing but but afterbirth remained. I was surprised - Miriam had twins both her first and second times, not sure why she only had a single this time. I'd figure it out in the morning, however. I managed to get up, make sure Miriam was taking care of business, find the iodine bottle and do my part, then stood back to watch and make sure all was well. The new baby was up within 5 minutes and looking for the lunch counter, and once that was located and the little tail started going, I knew we were okay. I watched a while longer, me and Flossie standing next to each other while her own newborn twins snoozed in the hay, until I was sure that all was well, and then I called it a night after giving Miriam some of the chicken scratch as a high energy snack. I headed back to the house to clean up and hit the sack. It was one minute after midnite when I got back in the house.

This morning, I went back out early to check on everyone, and that's when I figured out why Miriam looked like she was carrying twins - this lamb was HUGE! I just knew it was a ram lamb, given the size, but to my utter surprise, it was an ewe lamb. Massive bone, and at 8 hours old Mindy was almost the same size as Aprille's 5 day old singleton ram lamb Donny! Mindy had a full belly and I got her tail banded, then opened the Judas door to the outside world. Miriam and daughter promptly exited to go exploring and to meet the other babies.

And that just leaves little Patty. I'm sure she's only carrying a single also; she had twins last year but she was twice as big as she is now. Then again, I think she may have a few days at least to go, but I also have been known to have NO idea when the girls are going to lamb, given how many times I've been surprised.

After the last lamb(s) arrive, it'll be calving time. 3 more cows due this month, then we get a little break as the next three are spread out over the next several months. Life out here is rarely boring, and it's especially exciting this time of year, wondering who is going to have what. And that's not a bad thing, anticipation.





Mindy, 8 hours old



That is one BIG 8 hour old ewe lamb! Momma Miriam is not a small ewe



That's Flossie's son Toby, about 15 hours older than his half sis Mindy - and she's a lot bigger than he is. Kitty Boy on the top of the feeder bunk watches all the fun



Toby's front, Mindy's rear, barn cat on the bunk



Toby and Mindy and moms



Toby, Janie and Mindy, and Kitty Boy getting ready to get clobbered by momma Flossie. Look at that bone on Mindy compared to half-sis Janie!



Out in the world, with a pregnant Patty the only one left to pop



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