Friday, April 6, 2012

Sue Weaver: New Arrivals, Part One

I'll return to the saga of raising Milo later this month. For these next two posts, let me tell you about our new arrivals.

Ronnie smiles. He is our first lamb to arrive this spring.

Background: On November 2 of last year, one of our rams, the Scottish Blackface Othello, used his massive horns to batter a hole in the fence surrounding our young rams' paddock. He and his Classic Cheviot pal, Fosco, used it to join the rest of our flock out in the big pasture. The other two young rams thankfully stayed put. When we found them together, we were upset because the flock included our four ewe lambs from last year and Hope; they shouldn't have been bred at all, much less by a larger-breed ram like Othello.

So 15 days later we gave each ewe a shot of a hormone called lutalyse that causes them to come back into heat. This almost always interrupts any early pregnancies. Almost.

Time passed, and one of my favorite ewes, Shebaa, who was bred to have May 3 lambs by little Arthur, began looking too portly, too soon. It looked as though the shot didn't work. But who was the dad, Othello or Fosco (who also happens to be her son)? We knew we could tell if the lambs were full-blooded Classic Cheviots or mixed breeds, but we wouldn't know until they arrived. So we penned Shebaa with a friend, Sam the Lamb, and began feeding her for an impending birth on or about March 27. However, as the day approached, Shebaa's udder didn't fill, and we (sort of) heaved a sigh of relief. We were glad she wasn't pregnant as a result of the ram escape, but she is huge — will she have triplets by Arthur? We'll see!

When I led the sheep to their fold on the morning of March 27, Raven, one of my other ewes, was already inside, hiding and baahing very loudly. Those are signs of first-stage labor in sheep. I poured the sheep's breakfast into their feed troughs, and Raven joined them. I crept up behind and copped a feel. Nestled amidst her unshorn fleece was a very large, soft udder.

We thought Shebaa would lamb, not Raven.

After breakfast I let the other sheep back out and set Raven up in a comfortable pen with a sheep shelter in it. Then I fetched my lambing kit.

I was worried. Was she big enough to have a lamb by Othello? Especially since, instead of dining on calcium-rich dehydrated alfalfa and blackberry leaves, Raven had been eating a dry ewe diet. She hadn't had the long wool clipped away from her udder or a Bo-Se shot for needed selenium, not even a CD/T booster to impart immunity from enterotoxemia and tetanus to her lamb.

Around 5:00 p.m. she began a long, hard labor that produced an adorable and very definitely half Scottish Blackface ram lamb. I trimmed and dipped his navel, and we gave her time to clean him up. An hour later she passed her afterbirth; then I carried the lamb, with Raven following closely, to our comfortable mothering pen.

No question — Ronnie is half Scottish Blackface.

A few minutes after our arrival, to everyone's surprise (even, considering her expression, Raven's), Raven threw herself down and began pushing again. After another long interval she delivered a coal-black ewe lamb. But was it Othello's or Fosco's? We couldn't tell! Since each lamb had a separate placenta (and this is quite unusual), the lambs could have had different sires. The black lamb's fleece was, unlike her sibling's, very much like our Classic Cheviot lambs’. We wouldn't know until later when her ears stood up. Next morning they did, and the wide space between them said Scottish Blackface.

We named the lambs Ronnie and Zora. They aren't exactly what we had in mind for the first lambs of the year, but they're cute. Very cute. And definite keepers.

Raven is pleased with her new lambs.
Ronnie is the white ram lamb, and Zora is the black ewe lamb.

Three days later two more enchanting babies joined our animal clan. Next time I'll introduce Jimmy and Esme.

Sue Weaver sold her first freelance article in 1969. Since then her work has appeared in major horse periodicals, including the Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Chronicle of the Horse, Flying Changes, Horseman’s Market, Arabian Horse Times, the Appaloosa News, the Quarter Horse Journal, Horse’N Around, and the Brayer. She has written, among other books, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, The Donkey Companion, and The Backyard Goat. Sue is based in the southern Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.

1 comment:

sista said...

Definitely cute lambs. Guess we can't always control mother nature but we try. I like the way you put thing. Cop a feel? Funny.