Today has been one of those roller coaster lambing days. I am writing this with a little ram lamb (Kevin) on my knee. Some time between just after midnight and just after 4am black faced ewe had twins. When Kath got there the little girl was laid out and the ram lamb was cold and shivering. She brought them into the shed. The ewe had just been standing staring at them. She had obviously licked them dry a little but not that much. Kath used our home made lamb box (hot water bottle under straw and a towel over the top) to bring them round. Both has some colostrum replacer with the little girl having most of it and they seemed to come round. Both were up and both has a little drink off the ewe. Kath came away to let them settle.
She went back an hour later and they seemed to be ok although the ewe wasn’t being very attentive. We then went on together about 9am ish and again the lambs seemed to be doing ok but the ewe was mostly just staring at them. We had hoped to get lambmacs on them and then get them out but they were clearly not yet ready for that. We needed to nip into town and buy sheep food and we thought we’d pick up some more colostrum
replacer too, just in case. Glad we did! We decided we’d see what the lambs were like again on the way back.
When we got back, the gimmer lamb has gone downhill rapidly and the ewe wasn’t interested. We got a hot water bottle on the lamb and made another bottle of volostrum up and tried to get her to take some. She had a few tiny little sips. The ram lamb was shivering. It was clear that the ewe had given up on or rejected the gimmer lamb so we decided to take her home. The ewe was protective over the ram lamb so we thought maybe if she could focus on him, she’d mother him more. We took her home and tried to get her warm and some life into her. There didn’t seem to be much fight. Kath then went back to check if black faced ewe had made any attempt to get the ram lamb up and drinking while mum and I sat rubbing the gimmer lamb and sort of waiting for her to die. The ram was bleating at the ewe and she was just staring at him. Kath brought him home. Mum and I then sat with a lamb each on our knees rubbing them and keeping them warm and I think we were both fairly convinced they would die. Kath made us some lunch and we just kept trying to get lambs warmed through and worried about them not drinking at all.
Slowly slowly slowly thought they warmed up a little. Once there was a little bit of warmth in them we wondered if we dare hope. Then the gimmer found her voice and then she peed all over me. Sings of life. The ram lamb was still going downhill. He’d seemed stronger when we got him home but now he couldn’t hold his own head up. But our lamb box, a fire and the sun through the window did the job. The lambs warmed up and once properly warmed though tried more food. They finished the volostrum we’d made for them and had a little normal lamb milk. It felt like they might come round and they could even both stand and take a few steps. Then the gimmer lamb just collapsed again. Just standing for a minute or so had exhausted her completely.
When it started to look like the lambs might make it, they needed names. Bottle fed lambs get names, even the ones like Lily the year before last who aren’t with us very long. We were joking about silly names and just as Mum suggested Kevin the ram lamb stretched and moved his head so it looked like he was smiling and approved. The name has stuck – the poor thing is now called Kevin. We couldn’t think of anything that fitted for the girl. All suggestions somehow didn’t feel right. Then Kath said that she’s cute how she snuffles all the time and we knew we had her name: Snuffles.
To try and preserve our own sanity and make sure we also look after ourselves and each other as well as the lambs, Kath took a break and went for a run. She was going to feed our rams and last year’s ewe lambs and see if the pregnant ewes were ready for food yet on her way. She rang me from the field. She’d been able to hear black faced ewe bleating from a long way away. I drove on leaving both lambs tucked up in the lamb box and we milked the ewe. We got about 400ml before it obviously started being painful for her. Then we let her out. We should have engaged our brains at this point but this is what tiredness can do. Black face was a bit of a baby thief last year. We should have taken her straight on to the field where the non pregnant ewes are.
Black faced ewe trotted over to the rest of the flock and immediately started bothering the other ewes getting up close and personal with them so they kept running away from her and she kept following. Then it suddenly looked like she’d settled but only for a second because she did a 180 degree turn and trotted straight back to the shed where Number 6 had her triplets. We took the chance, ran after her, slammed the door shut (with Number 6 outside and her lambs inside so far from ideal) and grabbed black faced ewe. Then we walked her on to the other field where she settled down a bit. This way she has company and can work through whatever hormones and emotions without causing stress to the other ewes.
We got home and the lambs weren’t in the lamb box anymore. They were keen to drink the milk we got from their mum and between them finished it in a few goes. They seem to be getting stronger. Both can now stand up on their own and both nudge with quite some force when they want feeding. We keep popping tea towels under them when they pee but there are inevitable puddles on the carpet which we keep mopping up – we’ll have it cleaned after lambing! There’s also been poo – preceded by quite a bleat so at least there’s warning for that to get the paper towel ready! While the bought milk clearly doesn’t taste as good as the real thing both lambs are taking the bottle – in what seems tiny tiny bits but both are consistently drinking now and both are staying warm. They seem more content but they are still weak. We are hopeful without being hugely confident. We know better than to be confident – they are sheep, you just never know! As you can see, Einstein the cat is very skeptical. The other two cats are dismayed.
So for the next little while these little ones will live in the shower room. It’s easy to clean and it’s easy to keep warm without overheating the rest of the house (we’ve turned all radiators off or down and moved the thermostat into there). It’s lined with newspaper and padded with straw. I am building up to moving them from in front of the fire and having them with me. I actually thing they’ll sleep but somehow I like having them right here with me. I’ll do my midnight check as usual and then feed them and then Kath will feed when she gets up to do the early morning feed. It’s worked in the past, let’s just hope that the routine is acceptable to Kevin and Snuffles.
Update on the others: We are keeping a close eye on one of the shearlings who was lying on her own for much of today but not hugely far away from the flock – she possibly just couldn’t be bothered to move. Our Number 12, our lovely older ewe was just beginning to bag up maybe, no sign of anything with the others. The triplets are thriving. We’re all amazed at how relaxed Number 6 is and how far she lets them wander but also how well she is doing. She’s taken them out to the flock for some of the time but keeps taking them back to the shed. She’s coming to feed which is great and the lambs certainly have lots of energy. There is already a little video clip on our Facebook page and I’ll see about adding some more but for now enjoy this: