Sheep in the Frigid Cold


My ten ewes are getting rounder by the day. Late last summer, when life was extremely sad and chaotic, I decided (as I would probably not be keeping any lambs this year) that for simplicity’s sake I would simply breed the girls to the Clun Forest ram lamb that I was selling later in the season.

Fine. Not a bad plan, and the teenaged ram was thrilled to oblige. Unfortunately, however, I was so very stressed, I did not get a marking harness on this enthusiastic boy.

Thus I have no idea who is bred and who is not, and when lambs will start arriving. This is a problem. It is -20° F today and the past two days have seen -25° and -32°.  A lamb born wet and helpless in these bitter temperatures would not last long.

Moreover there is a good chance that one of the novice ewes will be first to lamb; as these young girls did not have nursing lambs at foot last fall, they would have been in prime shape to be the first ovulating. A maiden ewe is occasionally so traumatized by the pain of birth that her mothering instincts don’t kick in and in fright she abandons the crying baby instead of caring for it.

My nerves are shot.

Just managing the cold to keep the animals safe has been challenge enough. I have turned everyone out only for a couple of hours at a time. The teenaged calves have been particularly restless in their stalls and eager to get out. However when I open the back barn door again all the animals burst from the run-in shelter and head for me at full speed, led by Lucy’s horse Birch at a gallop.

Yesterday a mean wind blew up, making the trip to manure pile dragging my muck bucket a tortuous experience. With each foray my glasses froze and then fogged on re-entering the barn. Wind-whipped tears froze on my cheeks. Finally I took the glasses off altogether and mucked blind, just piling the dirty litter in the barn aisle. When it warms up enough to tackle it I will have a big job.

And then there is mucking the deep bedding out of the sheep stall, a monster, four-day task that had been on the schedule for this frigid week and had to be scuttled. I hope to start it tomorrow when it hits a balmy 10° above zero.

In the meantime: please, God, no lambs quite yet!


One Response to Sheep in the Frigid Cold

  1. Elaine Murphy says:

    Hi Selden, I cannot imagine how cold it is where you are, as it’s -6 around here in the morning. As the ewes get rounder with pregnancy, could you set up a pen in the garage of the apartment and put them in there and you sleep in the apartment at night. Set up baby monitors so you wouldn’t have to physically check during the night. It’s too bad sheep can’t have their babies at a warmer time of the year!

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