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!