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A Trip Down Memory Lane

It’s been a little weird around here lately…not bad weird, just different weird.  It’s the “no lambs” thing.  It all started with no pregnant ewes (by choice) and that meant I didn’t spend endless hours staring at the ewes’ butts nor did we have long conversations about so-in-so’s vulva over our evening meal. (Our sons used to love this!)  I wasn’t trying to sneak a hand in behind the ewes to feel their udders while they were busy at the feeders.  And chores were done in much less time because I wasn’t standing around staring at those wide bodies in the hope of seeing a lamb butt or foot moving around.  I can’t say I’ve missed those “last check before bedtime” trips to the lambing shed/paddock, especially when it’s the kind of night when getting dressed to go out takes 10 minutes and then when you get out there the ewes are snoring, cudding, “heavy with lambs” grunting.  They look at you — you know they’re laughing because you look so ridiculous and they know that nothing is going to happen until 6AM.  You know it, too, but you can’t sleep unless you check…

Not long ago, I found myself heading out to check the hens just before midnight.  I couldn’t remember whether I’d powered up their fence after I’d collected the eggs that day and the dogs were barking to beat the band.  I didn’t need a headlamp because there was a big moon.  It was cold but dry and the sky was full of bright stars. Somebody’s dog was barking far away and a coyote was singing back…or maybe it was the other way around.  No peepers yet…still too cold. As I passed by the sheep paddock, pausing — I could see shadowy sheep “bumps” spotted around.  That was a nice walk out…like at lambing time.  Maybe I am missing it just a bit.

I’ve been visiting friends with lambs, but also I’ve been getting my “lamb fix” by going through photos of lambings past.  Talk about a trip down memory lane!  I’ve gotta share some of these.

Here are a couple of those wide bodies (aka the aircraft carriers) waiting for the big moment —

Cassie is more comfortable standing these days.

Cassie is more comfortable standing these days.

Kate will have her lambs soon...she hopes!

Kate will have her lambs soon...she hopes! In the meantime, she enjoys the warmth of the early Spring sun.

When a ewe decides its time, she picks a spot where she feels comfortable.  Each ewe has her own idea of the best place to bring her lambs into this world. Some like to be in the middle of everything.  Others like privacy.  Some lie down, labor quietly and produce lambs in a nice little space all neat and tidy.  Others tear up the bedding all over the barn and make an awful mess.  And, our favorite, there are ewes who will find the muckiest spot in the paddock and do it there.

Most of the time, lambs are born without incident…front hooves appear first,  followed by a nose and before too long, the whole body arrives.  The lamb comes in a bag along with its amniotic fluids. The bag is most often broken during the process or when the ewe stands to deliver the last bit of lamb. At that time, the umbilical cord is broken and the lamb begins to breathe on its own.  It’s a neat arrangement that Mother Nature has come up with.

This lamb will be "on the ground" in just a minute.

This lamb will be "on the ground" in just a minute.

In just a moment or two (which seems like wa-a-ay too long when you’re watching this process), the lamb is shaking its head and starting to wriggle around a bit.  Mom is already talking to her newbie and the lamb is responding.  She’s chortling and humming (singing the mama song), licking the lamb to clean and dry it. There is nothing more efficient than a ewe’s tongue for drying a lamb. And boy! are they ever wet!  You could easily soak a couple of plush bath towels trying to dry a lamb and get nowhere near the results that a licking ewe will get. Ewes will often nudge their lambs or paw at them to get up and before you know it, the lamb is getting its legs in gear. Once mobile, the lamb will seek out the udder and tank up on precious colostrum…the original energy drink!  The lamb is good to go once its well fed.  Ewes are the ultimate multi-taskers so if another lamb arrives, she’ll get everyone organized. Amazing!

As the lambs dry, they become the most darling little bundles of wooliness.  And around here, they come is all sorts of colors.  That’s the wonder of owning natural colored sheep!  And the best thing about the white lambs is that we can really see their expressive little faces.  Of course, we think that Coopworth lambs are especially cute!  So here are a bunch of photos of the little darlings…

Great markings on this little one!

Great markings on this little one!

Looking for a little tickle under the chin.

Looking for a little tickle under the chin.

Siblings snuggle together.

Siblings snuggle together.

That Spring sun feels so good!

That Spring sun feels so good!

the lamb equivalent of a trampoline!

The lamb equivalent of a trampoline!

Cassie enjoys nap time with the lambs.

Cassie enjoys nap time with the lambs.

A bundle of black lambs.

A bundle of black lambs.

OK — that’s enough for now!

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