Friday, January 28, 2011

Supplies Needed for Lambing Season

For the hobby farmer who is just new into sheep, and is expecting their first lambs, knowing just what to get can be tricky. 

Ewes are pregnant for 5 months, you should be ready for lambing at least two weeks in advance, and plan on having to devote extra time to the sheep for at least a few weeks after their lambing dates.  Being prepared will make things go much smoothly.

Most sheep keepers lamb in the spring, when the weather is a bit better.  Winter lambing is harder, often has greater losses, and is what we here just went through if you have been following this blog (although not our first time lambing).

The nipple at the center/top is new and does not have the tip cut off, the other has been used for a couple of weeks.  Note they fit onto this pop bottle.

Buying a nipple before you need one is something I totally recommend.  They are not costly and may be hard to find when you need it.  The nipple seen in the image is the kind that seem to work best for young lambs.  If you need to bottle feed you may need Colostrum, and will need Lamb Milk Replacement Formula.  In an emergency a can of evaporated milk, with a tiny bit of molasses can be used until these can be purchased, as such keeping a can of evaporated milk, and molasses, may be a good alternative to buying a bag of Lamb Milk Replacement before it is needed.

You will also want to stock up on old towels as they may be needed to dry off a wet lamb (normally you can let the ewe do this but you need to be ready in case you must help).

For a more complete list of other Suggested Supplies for Lambing Season- click here.
Prepare yourself so you know What to do if you have a Bottle Baby Lamb - click here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

One Lamb for Mrs Brown Katahdin

Mrs Brown Katahdin was found in the morning tucked into the big stall she had one lamb at her side.  We had left the stall door open since there were so many sheep now, and all were able to go out in the day. 

Temperatures were finally above freezing, it had been a nice night, and with the exception of the fact that the door had blown open allowing those who wanted to, free access to the hay outside, all was well. 

Mrs Brown Katahdin is a full sister to White Katahdin who had her lambs aready. 

Anyhow... Mrs Brown is very protective of her lamb, a ewe lamb, she stomps her foot just like her mom did, trying to scare me off.  I have shut them into the stall for the day.  Her lamb is big since it is the only one she had, and although the lamb was playing earlier, she was resting when I returned with the camera.

Ain't she cute?

You can Read more about Katahdin Sheep, click here.

The Great Sheep Escape

Every morning I go out to feed the sheep and let them out of the barn. I do this between 7:00 and 7:30 am. From the barn they can hear me coming and always make a racket, especially if I am late. On the morning of January 23, 2011, something was clearly wrong, there were no loud shouts of “HURRY UP AND FEED US!”. I was a little nervous to open the door, puzzled that they all might still be sleeping.

barn photo taken later in the day

I opened the door and turned on the light. There at the back of the barn was Dark Brown Barbado and her triplets, Mrs White Katahdin and her twins, over to my right was Favorite and her twins, tucked behind her was Mrs Brown Katahdin and a new lamb (more on that in my next blog post) but everyone else was missing. It was pretty easy to see where they had gone.

Our barn has 4 doors, one big sliding one at the front, with a small door in it, which we use rather than opening the sliding door. At the back is the door we use to access their pasture, and to the side another door leading out to hay, this is where I go when tossing hay over the fence to feed them outside.

photo taken later in the day - by the way.. if you think my barn is messy - you should see my house!

We have had crazy weather, the snow has made shutting the side door tricky, and as it happened I apparently had not shut it correctly the night before, at some time it blew open allowing the sheep outside for snacks - they were having a (pardon the pun) hayday!

It was a bit tricky getting them back indoors - lambs bouncing around like crazy, but at least the weather was better, up from the below freezing temperatures we have had for weeks, today is melting!  A quick head count to make sure I had all the sheep and lambs (10 sheep - 13 lambs) and then I had to attend to the new born lamb and its mom....

By the way... our sheep were not going too far, they had hay to eat and could not walk through the 18 inches of snow surrounding the hay, however you should know what to do if you ever encounter escaped livestock when you are out driving in the country - read here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Favorite Sheeps Twins, Fingers Crossed

On the morning of January 17, 2011, I walked into the barn to see Favorite Sheep with two new lambs.  She picked the worst corner of the barn to have them, right under a drafty spot.  With temperatures still well below normal (today was -21c) the lambs had bits of ice on their wool from where Favorite licked them to dry them off (ironic I know). 

Due to the fact that Favorite had a stroke a few years back she cannot control her saliva in the same way, and it often runs out of her mouth, sometimes it is rather smelly containing parts of semi-digested food.  This was all over her lambs.  I got a towel and did the best to dry them off, before bottle feeding one of the tiplets born the week earlier

(her face is particularly swollen here due to just eating)

Favorite had a girl and boy (a ewe lamb, and a ram lamb).  The ram lamb has the same marking on  his back as his mom, a black dot.  You cannot see it on her because her long wool has bleached white. 

After I got everyone fed and watered, I went into the house for my own breakfast, returning to check on them (and bottle feed again) after lunch.  Well.. by the time I went back to check I soon saw one lamb, but the other was missing.   I spotted him curled up and shivering against a wall. 

He was a house lamb for an hour at that point, I brought him in to warm him up, and even gave him a bit extra to drink to give him engery.  I did not get pictures as I was rather worried about him at the time.  The house cats quite enjoyed the novelty animal in the house!

He is back with is mom now, in the warmest stall of the barn, she had been looking for him the whole time he was in the house (I could hear her from the barn when I went outside).  I have my fingers crossed that he will do well and get strong, I will be checking again later today of course.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Diamond Finally has her Lambs

If you recall, Diamond was one of the ewes that has been big for a long time, she had a huge udder, and was waddling for a while.  I kept her in the barn for the past two days.. just in case.

Well, finally, on January 16, 2011, Diamond sheep had twins!  Usually she has triplets, and was certainly big enough I was expecting triplets, however I think she was just trying to hold off for warmer weather.  It has been colder than -20c for the past 10 days at least. 

Diamonds twins are as big as the 2 week old lambs born to Blackie sheep earlier, one is a ewe lamb (a girl), the other a little ram lamb (a boy).  Yes, that is me in the back.
An odd picture perhaps.  She has just had her lambs, so the blood is normal, her udder is huge, much larger than any of our other ewes get.  Diamond is a very good mother, and produces so much milk that her lambs will grow fast, and eventually other lambs will steal milk from her when she is eating (this is common with sheep when the lambs are a bit older and bold enough to leave their own moms).

You may note, she still has snow on her back even though she has not been outside for two days.  This shows how well the wool insulates the sheep, and visa versa, her own body heat is not even melting the snow.

You will also note that Diamond's tail has been docked, her lambs show a normal sheep's tail. 

Read about Milking Sheep here.
Read about Tail Docking here.

Patsy the Five Horned Ewe Has Twins

On the very cold morning of January 15, I went out to the barn to feed the sheep and check them as I have been doing every day now for over a month.  The last week has been particularly hard, temperatures have been well below normal, sitting at -23C on this morning.

If you have been following, you know that the sheep are brought into the barn at night and go out in the day.  They get oats in the morning before going out for their hay.  The ones with lambs remain in the barn, which is small and unheated but still far warmer than outside.

This particular morning Patsy was standing in a small corner there with two new lambs at her feet.  She is a good mother, not even leaving her lambs while I gave oats to the other sheep.
If you look close you can see that Patsy still has some snow on her back from the day before.  Her twin lambs are males, thus - ram lambs.   Patsy sheep also has 5 horns and sheds in a strange sort of way.

Patsy is a cross between a Jacob sheep (known for having many horns) and a Barbado sheep (hair sheep - thus the shedding, although a full hair sheep would not have the wool she does).

Read more about Jacob Sheep
Read more about Barbado Sheep

That brings our lamb count for 2011 to 9, with Diamond, Favorite, and Mrs Dark Brown Katahdin due soon, and Girlie and Baby Katahdin later in the spring.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A whole lot more Lambs, Cute ones!

Just last night, January 7, 2011, when we went out to bring in the sheep for the night there were a few more sheep.. little ones.. lambs.   Dark Brown Barbado - named so because when we got her we had another Barbado ewe who was slightly lighter brown in color, had triplets!

There was one larger lamb, a white ram lamb, who looks like he will get horns, and two tiny ewe lambs.  We will have to watch closely to make sure all get enough to eat.  They were all pretty confused at first, mom must have given birth right when the sheep were getting ready to come in for the night and they had been jostled around a bit. 
Picture taken the morning after their birth, you can see how much bigger the white lamb is, the smaller brown ones are ewe lambs, the one in the middle was still wet when we found her the night before, and had to be dried off.

What were those two thinking turning away from the camera?? How about some head shots?

When I went out the following morning to get these pictures, before getting the pictures, I saw that another ewe had lambed during the night.  So rather than putting this new one, and her twins, in with this delicate family of three, we put this family, known as Mrs White Katahdin's family, in with Blackie sheep and her two lambs.

One of Mrs White Katahdins lambs is a ewe lamb, one is a ram lamb.  I have forgotten which is which!

You may have noticed both these ewes, and their lambs do not like like "normal" sheep.  They are hair sheep, and will shed much like a dog. 

Read about Blackies Lambs born earlier - click here.
Read about the Advantages of Hair Sheep - click here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Meet Blackie Sheep

Blackie Sheep had a rough start. She was born on a cold and windy day, the temperatures were below freezing. Her poor mom gave birth to twins, and simply wandered away. Blackies mom is Favorite sheep, a ewe who had a stroke earlier that year – she had not even looked pregnant.

As extreme luck would have it we found Blackie and her sister only minutes after being born, still wet, laying in the snow, as we happened to be going outside to take some pictures of other lambs that had been born only a few days earlier.

We had to bottle feed them both, it was a lot of work, and cost a bundle. At one point Blackie gave me a scare. A tiny amount of chicken scratched had leaked from the bag, and she ate that, I assume this was what caused the problem because later that night when it was time to bottle feed, poor Blackie lamb had swollen up like a balloon. She could barely walk and was fully disoriented. I gave her some tummy medicine from the vet, and went to bed with thoughts and worries about finding her dead the next morning.

Blackie at age day one (insert) and exactly one year later.

As luck would fall on Blackie again – she was fine, and grew up to be a beautiful sheep. We sold her white sister, and made sure to watch Favorite Sheep more closely (she is mentally better, but physically doesn't look too good sometimes with her tongue hanging out of her mouth).

Blackies second birth day is January 11, 2011, she has been a mother twice, this last time of triplets, but sadly she lost one at birth.  She is one of our more friendly sheep and always "Chatty".

Meet Favorite Sheep - Blackies mom

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lambing - Who Will be Next?

Sheep are pregnant for 5 months, and often deliver at night.

We have 9 ewes, with Blackie already having had her lambs, it was a guess to see which ewe would be next.

Could it be Dark Brown Barbado?  She looks pretty large and has always had twins.  It probably won't be Baby Katahdin, isn't she cute? she is one of the 2010 lambs that looked like puppies, tucked in behind, and of course it won't be the Ram further back...

Will it be Diamond, or Favorite?  Diamond looks pretty big, and has always had triplets, she is an awesome mother.  Favorite, in behind, is Blackie's mom, the year she had Blackie she gave birth to the lambs and walked away, they would have died if not for a stroke of luck (Blackie's first year story here).  This was the result of Favorite having some kind of brain damage, likely from a stroke, you may have already read about Favorite Sheep.  With proper care Favorite had healthy twins last year, and we are watching her closely again.

These three ewes are the biggest, other runners up include Patsy, our Jacob cross with 5 horns.  I imagine we won't have to wait long to see which ewe is the next to give birth.

Read more about how sheep give birth - click here.

First Lambs of 2010/2011, Sad Ending for One, but Lucky for Another

December 31, 2010 brought a sad tale to my little hobby farm.  By looking on the bright side we see that although one lamb did die, in a strange way, another was lucky that to have lived.

It's my job to take care of the sheep most mornings. They sleep in barn overnight, and every morning I go out to feed them and put them outside for the day.

The barn is small, about the size of a double garage, but there is a horse stall, however the stall itself would be too crowded to keep all our sheep (9 pregnant ewes and a ram) in so we only use that to confine the ewes who have had lambs.

As I approached the barn, at 7:30 in the morning, I knew something was amiss. One sheep was baaing a lot more than usual. I opened the door stepping into the dark barn, fumbling for the light. Immediately my eyes fell upon Blackie sheep (also nicknamed Piggins because she is a bit pushy at feeding time due to being a bottle baby, and overly friendly to people). Blackie was standing there with a tiny white lamb.

Sheep often have twins, so naturally before putting Blackie and her lamb into a stall I looked around for a twin. The twin was nearly impossible to find. It was brown with white speckles on its back, and had tucked itself behind a garbage bin, all that was showing was its back, in the dark corner the tiny lamb (smaller than a house cat) looked like straw. It appeared to be dead. I pulled it out by its hind legs, and thankfully it was very much alive, it had crawled in, and unable to back out, fallen asleep.

Mom ewe, Blackie, was glad to have her lamb back, he needed to be warmed up. The barn is not heated since this would actually be bad for the sheep, being kept in a heated barn then put out into the cold winter weather for the day. They would get sick. Mom, and the two lambs were moved into the stall she would have food and water.

I started to feed the other sheep, and put them outside before cleaning the barn. Thats when the dead lamb was found. Poor thing. It had died close to the barn door, but in the darkness before turning on the light, I had not seen it and instead been distracted by the sight of Blackie with her white lamb.

This poor lamb had not had the sack removed from its nostrils (the ewe usually does this), it suffocated to death, or perhaps was born dead, I don't know. At any rate, Blackie had been a mom of triplets (less common than twins but not overly rare in sheep). Since there had been three lambs they were slightly smaller than usual.

The amazing thing is that if I had found the dead lamb sooner, I may not have ever noticed the other lamb sleeping behind the garbage bin. I would have assumed Blackie had twins, put her and her white lamb in the stall and left for the day, who knows what would have happened to the other lamb.  I suspect it would not have lived as the day was -15C, and both my husband and I had to go to work, not returning until 5:30pm.

The lambs are now a few days old. The white lamb being slightly bigger and a female, the multi-colored lamb being a male. More lambs to come!