Mary's Lambventures forum: Lambing season 2011

 
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ImageMaryE
Mar 13, 2011 4:23 PM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
Mary's Lambventures, 2011

Several nights ago I started my nightly check of the neighbor's sheep flock. There hasn't been much for me to do, so I waited for an interesting night to begin this diary. I write about it while it's fresh in my mind while I have a cup of herbal tea and wait to feel sleepy before going back to bed. My usual pattern is to sleep 3 or 4 hours, go check the sheep, then sleep a few more hours. And so here is your 3am report from last night.

30 degrees, no wind, mostly clear sky, about 1/3 of a moon low on the western horizon. Tonight there was a little bit of moonlight to help me see, unlike last night which was totally dark. On the first trip out to the field, as the sea of shining eyes belonging to the flock moved around I could see an unmooving pair of ewe's eyes shining near the fence corner. I was pretty close to the first one I had seen, so I went to get that one first. She had a nice lamb and was very cooperative about following the cart to the barn. I had to keep looking back to be sure she was still following because she and her lamb were both quiet.

When I got to the muddy part of the corral, right outside the barn doors, I slowed down just a little too much and got the lambmobile stuck with it's front wheels up over the threshhold beam and the rear wheels still in the mud. Ok, close enough, so I picked the lamb out of the cart and we all went into the barn. I iodined the lamb's navel and put them in the last of the large pens. The other 8 were already occupied.

After entering info about ewe and lamb on the barn chart, I had to push the lambmobile backward through the mud to drier ground, then turn it around while trying not to become stuck in a new place. This would have been much easier if the machine had a reverse gear. It may have had one at one time, but it is very old and not in good repair. It has been in about the same shape for all the years I have been using it.

While on my way back out to pick up the second ewe I made a sweep of the lower part of the pasture to make sure there were no new lambs there. It only takes an extra minute or two and saves another trip if there is nothing. When I got to the ewe I had seen, I discovered she had 2 lambs. One was on it's feet and followed her away toward the flock, the other was not moving. Uh oh, it was not moving because it was dead. I picked it up and put it on the back of the 4 wheeler, secured by a bunge cord, then shined my flashlight toward the flock to find the other lamb.

The ewe and another interested ewe were both paying attention to the lamb. The flock was moving away and they all started to follow. This could get tricky. I putt-putted slowly toward them trying to get close enough to hop off the 4 wheeler and grab the lamb before the ewe disappeared into the flock, trying not to scare her. She seemed to be a little bit flighty. Thankfully the headlight on the 4 wheeler confused the lamb just enough so that it didn't know which way to go and I was able to get ahold of it before it decided which of the ewes to follow.

With lamb in cart, and momma now more interested in it than in following the flock, we started toward the barn. This ewe was also quiet. I putt-putted as slowly as possible past the edge of the flock whose leaders had decided to circle around to where they had been before I disturbed their night, and the momma kept following her lamb in the cart who occasionally made a cute little maaaa sound. Momma would grunt in answer, so after a couple of maaas and grunts I could tell we were still all together without having to look back. Sometimes looking back at the wrong time will send the ewe in panic back to the flock. Thankfully all went well.

When I got to the muddy part of the corral, I used a bit more throttle and managed to get all of the wheels into the barn without bouncing the lamb out of the cart going over the threshhold. Several of the smaller pens in the front of the barn had been prepared with clean straw so the new pair was put in one of them. Sometimes I have had to move a ewe with a single lamb out of one of the larger pens if I think the new one might need extra room to deliver another lamb. I could tell this one, after delivering 2 in the field, was finished.

The note on the barn table asked me to try to feed a little triplet lamb that was in the bummer pen under a heat lamp. It was too weak to suck from the bottle. I left the bottle of milk in the warm water in a picnic jug, and a note that the lamb would need tube feeding. With the milk already warm, that could be done quickly, but the tube apparatus was in the utility room at the house. This lamb will be bottle raised by another neighbor who buys them. I know from the years when I had my own flock that bottle lambs take time, time and energy that is in short supply when the ewes are popping out lambs almost faster than we can take care of them.

I was thankful that tonight's temperature is about 10 degrees warmer than last night although the pickup's windshield still needed to have the frost scraped from it so I could see to drive out my driveway and half a mile down the road. I park next to the big pile of barn cleanings directly across the road from the barn, so it is a straight trip to walk between truck and barn. The interior of the pile is probably pretty warm, it has a very pungent smell. I didn't think to shine my light on the top of the pile to check for excaping steam. That pile is a good source of fertilizer for my garden. I can take all I want and my neighbor is happy to see it go.
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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ImageMaryE
Mar 16, 2011 9:37 AM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
The nasty weather brought out the lambs, just as I thought it would.

When I left my house there was a good wind and a little rain, but nothing like what I was hearing when I went to bed about 9pm. The note in the barn said to iodine one of the lambs in the C4 pen as it was born there. A fresh lamb's navel is too wet to absorb the iodine, it needs to dry a little. I did the twin as well, because when I picked up the one closest to the gate, I could see very little iodine. The other lamb was the one who'd had none.

I opened the barn door, oh boy! waterfront property again. The lambmobile made a splashdown into it, and with mud and water flying, we made it through. Another very soft and slippery place was where we make a funny little S turn going through the corral gate into the alleyway and out into the pasture. I made it without any collisions with gateposts.

As I went along the fence line next to the road I thought of how many times I had picked up chilled lambs that had been born next to that fence. Tonight there were none there. Farther up the hill, along a different fence line, I could see eyes shining, a single pair of eyes. The ewe was raising her head to look at me, then sniffing something close to the ground. My light could make out 4 light spots, and I thought "Oh no, quads". But when I got closer it turned out to be 2 gray rocks and 2 lambs. That's better. Quads are too much, too small, and often lots of trouble. Give me a healthy set of twins any day! Ewes only have 2 faucets.

Momma was cooperative, being old enough to have a fully developed sheep brain. Sometimes this process takes a few years. She talked to her lambs as I put them into the cart, and trotted nicely to the barn. We splashed through the muddy lake outside the barn door. When I pulled up along side the empty pen inside the barn, she went in and waited while I iodined the first lamb and put it in the straw bedding. The second lamb said "maaa" when I picked it up, so she came out to check it, then went back in when that one was placed next to the first one. This pair of lambs are both female.

On the second trip out to the pasture it took longer to find another new family. As I hunted for another pair of isolated eyes, I checked the business end of the ewes as they moved around, looking for anything shiny which could be a water bag, or a partly born lamb. Nothing pending. Then I saw a ewe with a standing lamb, and one on the ground with it's head up. Good. I hate finding them flat, it's not a good sign on a cold, wet night.

The ewe moved about 20 ft away when I picked up the first lamb. I put it in the cart, and moved away so she would come to it. She watched while I picked up the second lamb and backed away as I came toward her. The lamb made a little noise, and she responded with "baaaa", which was answered by another lamb noise. I walked a few steps away to let her visit with her babies, then got back on the 4 wheeler and we putt-putted to the barn.

This pair was born just brief minutes apart, they were both very wet and very warm despite the weather. The ewe had cleaned off the birth sacks and hadn't had time to lick off the lamb goo. They were too fresh for iodine, so I made a note of that so that the next lamb checker will iodine them. I think this is a mixed sex pair, but since I didn't iodine them, I only noticed the plumbing on one lamb as I carried it from the cart to the pen.

I made another trip out to check places in the pasture where I had not yet been, but found no more lambs. As I returned to the barn I checked the ewes again, just to make sure I hadn't missed a water bag or a pair of feet the first time. Nothing.

Back to the corral, through the moat, and into the barn again. I always turn the lambmobile around inside the barn and leave it just inside the door, ready to go although I do not always find it that way. Before closing the barn door, I hunted for and found a shovel, went out into the mud and water, and moved some mud around to allow the water to drain. There is already a little drainage ditch there, but driving through the mud had blocked it. I also shoveled the mud off the platform near the trailer tongue, and tossed it into the tire tracks, making sure I didn't block the ditch again. The lambmobile is about 20 pounds lighter now!

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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ImageMaryE
Mar 17, 2011 11:06 AM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
Last night was calm, with a light cloud cover and enough moonlight so that I hardly needed my flashlight. A bit crispy tho, 25 degrees. There were no new lambs. A note in the barn said to check on one that seemed weak, it was on it's feet, looking for the faucet, then gave up. They'll need to tube feed him. He was in no immediate danger. The note also said that a ewe out in the field was unable to walk. I already knew there was one in trouble because earlier in the day the owner was here and got a call to go help with one.

When I went out into the field all the other sheep were in a corner where I had not seen them before. Worried sheep. And up on the hill, the ewe was dead. It can happen quickly. There were no orphan lambs in the barn, so I think it was a total loss, unless the neighbor who buys the orphans already took them. We try, but some losses occur every year.
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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ImageMaryE
Mar 18, 2011 11:53 AM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
Tonight I only had one new lamb to bring in. It is a big one, and I doubt that there is another one in the ewe. All the sheep were back on the hill now that the dead ewe has been removed. I thought another ewe would follow us inside because she is wandering around talking. Hopefully she will deliver her lambs soon and be a happy momma. The moon is big and bright so I didn't use my flashlight much, the wind wasn't blowing, and it was quite pleasant, well, except for the mid 20's temperature. Even with boots and insulated coveralls, I didn't want to stand around much. The weak lamb (from last night) in the barn is doing well.

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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ImageMaryE
Mar 19, 2011 10:29 AM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
Tonight was eventful but only because one airhead ewe was very uncooperative.

When I found the ewe and newborn in the field, they were together. Everything looked normal. As I came toward them she ran. Uh oh, not a good sign. I went to the lamb to make sure it was ok, then walked away from the lambmobile that was 20 ft from the lamb. The ewe and lamb were talking, so I went a good distance and stopped. She was somewhere in the flock, 2-300 ft from the lamb. I was about the same distance from it in another direction. Wait. Watch. Will she ever return to her baby?

I decided to move the lambmobile away from the lamb. Watched some more, no, she stayed in the flock. I went to the barn, tended to a lamb that had been born earlier, and decided to set things up in the barn in case I needed to bring the flock inside to sort her out. A ewe with a single lamb was moved to a pen in the other section of the barn, pen cleaned and new straw spread. Ok, time to check outside again.

The ewe had returned to her lamb, but left again when I wasn't even close. Now the lamb was on it's feet. I put it in the cart, walked away and waited. The lamb said "maaaa", she said "baaaa" but she didn't come to it. By now we'd been at this game for almost an hour. I went back to the cart, the lamb had jumped out. I put it back in and took it to the barn, iodined the navel, put it in the prepared pen and closed the gate.

On my way out to get the flock I opened both barn doors which makes a nice big opening. Just inside the door was nice alfalfa hay, 10 ft farther in was more, and beyond that 2 more piles. It's very good bait.

The flock was cooperative about going toward the corral, through the gate and into the barn like a horizontal waterfall. I stopped the lambmobile inside the gate and closed the gate, just in case. Experience has taught me to do that.

I closed one of the doors, leaving only an 8 foot opening for sheep to exit. Standing with my back to the door, I watched as the sheep milled around, moving from one pile of hay to another and checking out the lambs in the pens around the parimeter of the open part of the barn. Finally I spotted the ewe I wanted to keep inside.

Sorting sheep is sort of like a dance. I move toward them, they move away, I go right, they go left. Some escape around me and go through the door. I pay little attention to them, keeping my target ewe in sight. When I was down to about 10 ewes, she made a break for the door. I stepped toward her to turn her but she got by me and went out into the corral. I sprawled in the straw and thankfully didn't bounce off the door framing. This is where the closed corral gate helps. I went out through the mud and moved them around, trying to spot her. About half went into the barn. Ok, maybe I have her inside again and won't have to sort them all. I went inside, watched, shined my light around, nope, she was still outside.

I slogged out through the mud, brought them all back in and started the dance again. Soon I had only about 6 sheep left. I wanted to leave her inside with one ewe for company, but when I tried to let 4 go past me, she made a break for the door to go with them. I stepped in front of her and she hit me going full speed, knocking me backward through the door and into the muddy corral (sort of a soft landing), and then she ran right over the top of me.

Again I was thankful for the closed corral gate. They were all put back into the barn and I started the dance again. When there were 6 left, including Ms Airhead, I closed the door, opened the pen and put the lamb in the middle of the barn. Then I left the area to go make notes and fill in the barn chart. All the ewes sniffed at the lamb, lost interest and went back to the hay. Soon the ewe was acting like a mother. I did not attempt to put her in the pen, she needs time to settle down.

The barn note reads like this: white faced ewe with red tag is the mother of the lamb that is loose in the barn. She is a nutcase, and will flatten you! I left her lots of company after she knocked me down twice.

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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ImageMaryE
Mar 20, 2011 10:23 AM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
Tonight was much easier! Thank you, Lord! The only new baby in the pasture belonged to a ewe lamb (yearling) who was unsure of following her baby in the lambmobile cart. She went back to the edge of the flock, but kept talking. The lamb was very vocal and kept her attention. I moved the lamb very slowly toward the barn, stopped often, kept watching the ewe out of the corner of my eye, and circled back to get her a few times when she would start back toward the flock. The lamb kept talking, she kept answering, and we made our way off the hilltop. After we were out of sight of the flock the ewe followed better, right through the corral and into the barn.

Moving slowly and carefully, and avoiding eye contact with the ewe, I closed the barn door, picked up the lamb, iodined it's navel, kept it between me and the ewe so that she could see it, and put it in the pen. Then I walked away to the other side of the barn and tended to some other lambs that had been too fresh for iodine when they were brought inside, and watched while the little momma went to her lamb and stepped over the threshhold board into the pen with it. I casually made my way around the pens, looking at lambs and talking to their mommas, picked up the gate which I had placed against the adjoining pen, and put it into place without panicing the ewe. These gates are made with legs that fit behind the threshhold board which holds the bottom in place, while the top is held with a large hook at each end, heavy bent wire things that came off an old hay rake or something.

The crazy ewe from last night is in a pen in the quieter part of the barn. She stood watching me, looking calm, but I didn't go near her. I told her she looked quite sane! There is enough activity nearby to get her used to the barn environment, and enough space to make her feel safe behind the boards of her pen.
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
ImageMaryE
Mar 22, 2011 3:50 AM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
Lamb report: It's cold and windy, somewhat cloudy but with plenty of moonlight to help me see. The note in the barn said a granny ewe had come into the barn when another ewe and her lamb were brought inside, but had run back out. Usually when one comes inside like that it means she is very close to delivery, just not showing any obvious signs.

Yesterday's rain and snow made the corral a soupy mess again. The 4 wheeler slipped and slithered while I tried to find a set of firm ruts to follow. No problem once I got to the pasture. A few sheep were nibbling hay in the narrow strip near the corral gate, mostly yearlings. I looked for lambs and waterbags as I putted along on my way to the hill. Most of the flock was on the hill and on their feet. My flashlight has a powerful battery and a long reaching beam, good for checking ewes at a distance. They were moving around, a bit nervous because of the wind. I looked for impending signs of delivery and found none.

Near the far fenceline I saw two ewes who were interested in something near the ground. Ah ha! Lambs! Two of them. As I aproached I looked at the rear ends of both of the ewes to determine if only one was a mother, or both. Only one, and she matched the description on the note in the barn, having a white face and one black patch around an eye. They were both loving those new lambs and were not inclined to leave.

I quickly loaded the lambs into the cart. Both ewes were right there with their noses in the cart, still licking the babies and talking. I hugged the neck of the nearest ewe. She was so smitten with lamb love that she didn't even care! Some things are just so easy! What a contrast from the last two who needed all kinds of trickery and tlc to get the job done.

We made our way through the flock to the barn. Both ewes followed closely, one sort of grunting, the other saying "Baaaa". The lambs didn't say much, but that was ok. Slip, slide, splash, we were in the barn and out of the wind. I had a choice of empty pens, and chose two that were next to each other.

Now the trick was to get both lambs and only the mother into a pen. I picked up a lamb, and took it to the nearest pen. The granny ewe followed, and the mother stayed by the cart with the other lamb. Ok, this might be easy. I put the lamb in the straw next to the pen divider. Granny stepped into the pen and started sniffing and licking. The second lamb was put into the next pen. Momma followed closely, the granny was still busy with the first lamb. I got the gate ready to lift into place, picked up the first lamb and airlifted it over the divider between the two pens. Granny ewe watched but didn't move her feet. I put the lamb down next to the divider, only inches from where it had been. Granny looked at it through the slats of the pen. The gate was in place before she realized I had stolen "her" lamb. I told her she would have to have her own and let her stay in the barn out of the wind.
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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ivyplantsnyc
Mar 22, 2011 6:42 AM CST
Name: Ivy T
Manhattan, New York
Wonderfu story. I have a new respect for sheep and lambs.
Pause for Paws.
ImageMaryE
Mar 23, 2011 10:56 AM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
Frost covered the ground and the windshield of the pickup. I scraped about a 1 ft square opening, started the cold blooded old truck and drove to my neighbor's barn. It's only a half mile, but I was wiping the frost off the inside of the windshield before I was halfway there.

The barn was quiet except for one ewe talking to her lambs. I walked past a few of the pens on my way to the lambmobile. The granny from last night has her own lamb now. It was trying to jump around and play already. It doesn't take them long. It's birth was recorded on the barn chart at the 7am check.

Moonlight refelected off the icey surface of the moat behind the barn. It's smaller than the night before because of no more precipitation in the past 24 hours. The tire track ruts in the "dry" part of the corral were also in better condition than last night.

The sheep were all spread out on the hill. I putted around checking the fencelines, the corners and the hind ends of the wandering ewes. No water bags, no little feet, and God forbid, no dangling heads or tails. Near the upper corner of the pasture I saw eyes close to the ground. Oh, and a lot of legs! The ewe had twins, both were on their feet, and she was keeping them close together.

When approaching a ewe with lambs I try to be on the side toward the barn so I don't have to circle the lambmobile with lambs in the cart. I also try not to drive it directly toward them. The headlight on the 4 wheeler is a joke, weak, pale orange light, and in the last few days something has vibrated loose so it only comes on occasionally giving a brief hint of where I am going if I happen to be looking in the right direction at the right time. My flashlight is much more useful and dependable.

The ewe stayed with her lambs as well as they ever do. She only took about 2 steps away when I picked up the first lamb, and about 2 more when I picked up the second one. Then she turned, sniffed at them in the cart, and we started toward the barn. I could hear them all talking as we went down the hill. Just before crossing the little stream that feeds the pond you see in the picture I posted, I looked back and saw one of the lambs hanging over the end of the cart. He had tried to jump out. His hind feet were inside, tummy draped over the edge, with front feet and head hanging down.

I stopped, gathered him up and put him back with his sibling. We crossed the little stream and made it to the barn without him trying to jump out again. A quick study!

The lambs navels were iodined and they were all tucked into their private room for the night. Momma was pawing at the pen straw, probably having more contractions to expell the afterbirth. I gave her a little alfalfa hay to distract her while I moved one of the lambs to a safer spot under the feed rack. There is plenty of room in the recieving pen for her to finish her business.

After entering the info on the barn chart and leaving a note on the work table, I turned off the barn lights and walked to the pickup. The windshield was frosty again. I scraped a hole, wiped the inside of the glass with the back of my glove, and drove home. Navigating with only a small hole for visability would be dangerous and illegal in another setting, but out here we can see for long distances, and there is no traffic, especially in the wee hours of the night. This year I did see one vehicle moving along a road when I was out in the field with the lambmobile. It was a rare event!
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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ImageJaeRae
Mar 23, 2011 12:02 PM CST
Name: Jamie R
Zone 5, WI
save the rainforest & habitat
Mary I just love reading this. You know how much I admire your ventures but your writing is a fabulous painted picture show. Keep going!
Woman on the eastbound train
...........................................Je Suis Désolé.
(also a mule lovin', Charley huggin' girl)
ImageMaryE
Mar 24, 2011 9:53 AM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else

I could hear the rain as soon as I turned off the obnoxious music that is my wake up alarm. Obnoxious as that music? is, it's still more to my liking than the buzzer option. Now and then there is something on it that isn't bad enough to turn off right away.

The road was muddy and full of puddles. I could hardly wait to see the corral. Oh yeah, we need a few ducks out there.

The note on the work table said to iodine a set of twins that came in at 10, and that a granny came in with them. The granny was standing in the next pen, and had delivered twins in the interim. I put the gate in place. One of her twins was nose to nose through the slats with a lamb in the next pen. "Hi. You been here long?"

Rain was noisy on the roof, but they don't pay me to stand in the barn and stay dry when there might be cold lambies in the field. The tire ruts in the corral took the 4 wheeler this way and that. It felt like a boat with waves. I made it through the mess without getting stuck or hitting a gatepost. My flashlight beam bounced off low clouds and raindrops. The sheep were on the hill, mostly standing. I checked them as I went along the fenceline, shined my light into corners, and tried to avoid steep uphill places that are almost too much for the poor little worn out 4-wheeler. The only small 4 legged creature I found had long ears. He sat still, trying to look like a rock while I passed.

None of the ewes had any signs of impending birth. I was glad to head back to the barn. Clouds drifted, and I could see reflected light from over the next hill at another ranch. It's calving season for them, and could have been somebody checking for newborns, or maybe just their yard light. Earlier, from the house I could see a light below us and behind a hill where there are a lot of cattle. That light was moving.

And across the mountain, about 60 miles away, my sister would be doing the same thing, out in the rain on her 4-wheeler, looking for new calves or a cow having a problem. I'd much rather be dealing with sheep in the dark. Some of her stories are really scarry!

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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ImageJaeRae
Mar 24, 2011 9:58 AM CST
Name: Jamie R
Zone 5, WI
save the rainforest & habitat
Mary: when you refer to grannys...are they really? I mean do ewes stay with their daughters, sorry if this is a stoooopid question...from a city kid.
Woman on the eastbound train
...........................................Je Suis Désolé.
(also a mule lovin', Charley huggin' girl)
ImageMaryE
Mar 25, 2011 1:00 PM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
No windshield scraping tonight, and no need for the wipers either. It's cloudy and black, black, black. The temperature is just barely above freezing. There is some wind, but thankfully it's not howling or making the barn doors bang. All in all, a pretty good night for checking the flock as long as my flashlight battery was good. I've learned to start each night with a freshly charged battery.

I splashed and slithered through the soupy corral, checked the fence line along the road, the first corner, and crossed the small stream before I saw any eyes. As I followed the fence I could see a ewe with two standing lambs. I decided to check the nearby flock as I went down the fence line toward the farmhouse. No sheep down there, so I went back up the hill, shining my light on sheep fannies. Yes, I see a water bag, and was able to make a preliminary ID on the ewe, dirty face, light colored ear tag. She was going along with the flock, and possibly hadn't chosen a birthing place.

The ewe with the lambs was being a nice momma, she has obviously done this a few times. I pulled the lambmobile up close to her so that I wouldn't have far to carry the lambs, put the babies in the cart and we started toward the barn. She followed closely, holding a conversation with her lambs all the way into the barn.

A few things needed to be moved out of the way of sheep, and with that done and both the barn doors open I splashed through the corral again, circled the flock and followed them to the corral. The flock has been in the barn enough times to know that there is tasty alfalfa in there, so there was no problem getting them to go inside. They all went in by themselves while I closed the corral gate. I closed one of the doors.

The ewe I wanted had her mouth full of hay and she was wandering along the row of receiving pens. I watched as she stepped over the threshold board into an empty one, sniffed around, and left. While she was in there I thought about carrying a gate over to close her inside, but realized that would scare the whole flock and she would leave before I could get it in place. So I watched. She left the pen to get more hay, then wandered into another corner, the one farthest from the open barn door.

This was a good time to get some of the extra sheep outside. The ewe stayed in the back of the flock. Now there were only a dozen or so sheep inside, and the ewe was showing interest in pens with lambs. I decided to try another sort of trickery. She worked her way down the row to the pen where I had put the new family only minutes before. Good. I calmly walked over, picked up one of the new babies, and stuck it under her nose. Oh yes! I carried the lamb across the barn to the nearest empty pen and put it down in the corner on the straw. The ewe went into the pen and sniffed the lamb.

While she was occupied I put the gate in place, then reached over it and stole the lamb. "Sorry lady, you have to have your own baby." Momma was happy to have her baby back, they do seem to be able to count, and besides, she saw me take it.

The rest of the flock was encouraged to go outside. I slogged through the mud, opened the corral gate, shooed them out into the pasture, started the 4 wheeler and drove it through the moat into the barn. Time now for entering the info on the barn chart, leaving a brief note on the work table, and saying goodnight to the ladies, all in exactly one hour.

A mid day update, the ewe I tricked into the pen had twins. I leaned over the side of the pen to look at them and she sniffed at my face. Do they remember? I think they do.
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
ImageMaryE
Mar 25, 2011 1:05 PM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
Jamie, to answer your question about the grannies, no they are probably not the mothers of the ewes who just delivered. Their hormones are just telling them that there is something right about the smell of a freshly born lamb, and having smelled it before, they associate it with the early labor they are experiencing. They act like grandmas, helping the mother clean off the lambs, but sometimes go overboard with their enthusiasm and try to steal them.

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
ImageJaeRae
Mar 25, 2011 1:12 PM CST
Name: Jamie R
Zone 5, WI
save the rainforest & habitat
Thanks...so kind of midwifery....I love these stories. Even though I was born in the city, I confuse my friends because every year when the fair happens (and they go to the beer tents), the first place I head is the animal barns and while ostriches and pigs attract me too, it is the sheep and those wonderful 'knowing' eyes that pull me the most.
Woman on the eastbound train
...........................................Je Suis Désolé.
(also a mule lovin', Charley huggin' girl)
ivyplantsnyc
Mar 25, 2011 7:36 PM CST
Name: Ivy T
Manhattan, New York
A queston, what kind of sounds are made when a mother is talking to her lambs?. The conversation has special sounds that is different from regular sheep sounds?. Different pitch?.
I ask because a mother cat has special chirps or sounds for calling her kittens. Very distinct and noticeable.
Pause for Paws.
ImageJaeRae
Mar 25, 2011 7:44 PM CST
Name: Jamie R
Zone 5, WI
save the rainforest & habitat
Please don't think I'm cutting in because I am interested in Mary's answer to your wonderful question too...but I do want to say that truly, animals DO have language...that Mary has the opportunity to listen to the sheep is a blessing to her. I guess "yes"!
Woman on the eastbound train
...........................................Je Suis Désolé.
(also a mule lovin', Charley huggin' girl)
ivyplantsnyc
Mar 25, 2011 8:30 PM CST
Name: Ivy T
Manhattan, New York
Those that listen to animals and understand them are blessed. Just think, years ago, more people were closer to nature than they are now. Healthier with the fresh air and exercise too.
Pause for Paws.
ImageMaryE
Mar 25, 2011 10:32 PM CST
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
The ewes seem to have a gentler voice when talking to their newborn or young lambs, not as loud as when the lambs are older and she calls them from a distance to come to her for milk. It varies with the ewe, some have a higher pitched voice. Some of them make a chuckley sound when talking to their young babies. When I am bringing newborns in from the field, often I have the mother and a grannie following. I can't always tell which is which, but their voices are distinctive from each other, one high, one lower, sometimes just sort of a grunt. I'll have to do more careful listening.

I guess it is a little bit like a human mother, using soothing tones. As with human children, they learn when mom means business or when she is calming their fears.

Sheep are generally quiet, but when they are being moved from one field to another, or after the lambs have been running all over like unruly little gangs of thugs, the lambs will stop and call for their mothers. In those cases, the ewe answers and the lambs will eventually find her. Or if the ewe's udder is feeling full and she knows it's time to feed them, she will call for them. There is a transition between mom keeping track of her lambs and when she shifts the responsibility to the lambs to find her when they are hungry. Now and then we will see a ewe on one side of the field calling for her lambs, and the lambs are on the other side calling for her. Somebody's gotta give. At that point, 2 or 3 weeks old, the ewe's will is stronger than the insecure or hungry lamb's.

Another funny thing is that twins stay close together. They will eat grass side by side, and when mom calls them to eat, they run in unison toward her, separating at the last moment, and stopping suddenly, one on each side. The nursing only lasts a minute or less, and she just walks away when her udder is empty. An hour later it all happens again. This is why we do not leave triplets with a ewe, because she only has two teats, and somebody is always left out. If the weaker lamb is left out too often it could starve, or becomes an adept little thief, bumming a slurp here and there from some unsuspecting ewe.
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
ivyplantsnyc
Mar 25, 2011 10:57 PM CST
Name: Ivy T
Manhattan, New York
Thank you.
The next time that I go to the State Fair, I will check out the lambs and sheep in the area where the 4-H clubs are. I usually just stop for the Clydesdales and horse jumping. I see that I still have a lot to learn.
Pause for Paws.

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