My ewe Bean finally lambed yesterday. Naturally, after all my preparations three weeks ago, she was now four days “early” and I wasn’t expecting it. Luckily the birth occurred minutes before I rolled open the barn doors for evening chores. I stepped in to hear the thready high notes of a new lamb above the chorus of bleating that always greets me at supper time — “We’re starving!” — and, underneath, the low whickering of a mama to a new lamb.
The lambs were born in the chaos of the big maternity stall and while Bean was lying down to deliver the second, all the older lambs had come over to paw and attempt to play with the first, who was flat on the ground and weaving her head drunkenly in newborn confusion. The other ewes rushed to the gates bawling for dinner. It was pandemonium. Oh, Bean!
I swooped in to scoop the new twins (one still mired in after-birth) out of the stall. No free jug, of course, and outside the barn door, the horse, cattle, and yearling ewes were all yelling to come in for the night. Yikes! Well, there was nothing to do but trade out Raspberry and her twins into the maternity ward and replace her with Bean and the newborns.
Bundling the wet twins under one arm, with the other hand I opened the jug gate and grabbed Raspberry’s lambs, one at a time, and carried them across the aisle. They wailed in fright, and Raspberry bounded after me anxiously. Meanwhile Bean was running around in circles in the maternity ward, calling desperately for her babies, and the other ewes, thinking I might be carrying supper, surrounded me in a sea of bodies, almost knocking me over. I showed the newborns to Bean.
“C’mon, sweetie, let’s go over to the jug!”
In all the uproar, Bean paid no attention. She kept calling and searching distractedly. All the other ewes, however, remembering the jug as a source of extra tidbits, surged out the gate and attempted to jam into the tiny space.
“Out! Out! Out!” I roared, holding the wet lambs above the fray, shoving woolly bodies with my knees. “Get out!”
At last I had all the ewes out of the jug. I hurriedly spread a couple of flakes of hay to freshen the bedding (no time for the usual mucking now!), put the newborns down, and ran to the tack room for grain. The minute the sweet feed hit the feeders in the maternity ward, the ewes lost all interest in anything but gobbling. I opened the gate and forced Bean out of the big stall. Since we weigh about the same, this was not as easy as it sounds.
“Really… you…want…to go!” I puffed, as she twisted and turned against me, sure her babies were somewhere behind us. But once out of the gate, she heard the high cries of the wet lambs in the jug and with one leap was across the aisle, immediately bending her head, licking and murmuring.
The temperature was falling fast. As Bean licked one lamb, I toweled the other dry. I iodined their navels and helped them find the teats. Once they were dry and had had some colostrum, I weighed them. Two ewes, the first born 6 lbs 7 oz, the second a tiny 5 lbs 14 oz. — and that was in their lamb jackets.
Bean is only half Clun Forest, and has the same Corriedale/Romney/Lincoln impossibly woolly bag that drives me crazy. However as a mother she is a work horse. She is only two years and ten months old and she has given me five healthy lambs.
* * *
I woke up at 2 AM hearing the roaring of the apartment heaters. I rolled out of bed and glanced at the temperature. 15° below zero. I climbed into all my barn clothes and drove down to the farm.
Bean was chewing her cud. Her twins in their jackets were tucked into her side, under the heat lamp.
Lambing is done for 2012. Eleven ewes have delivered seventeen lambs: six pairs of twins and five singles. Next year I’ll want to improve on those statistics but for now I’m just happy it’s over and the babies are safe.