Yesterday when I arrived at the barn at 7 AM, ready to spend an hour before work fixing fence for the cattle, I pulled open the doors to hear the crying of new lambs. Geranium had lambed at last! Two big boys, who were on their feet but hunched in the cold.
Meanwhile I looked through the doorway into the matron stall and saw that Bess had given birth early. Two small black lambs were lying in wet heaps, squirming and crying, while she ran around distractedly.
So much for fixing fence. The cattle would have to stay in for the morning. I grabbed towels and iodine and lamb jackets. I let Magnolia and her lambs out of the jug, scooped up Bess’s lambs, and used the crook to catch Bess and drag her in. After an hour, I had everyone cleaned and dried and snug. (I weighed all the lambs. Bess’s little ewe and ram twins were 9 and 8.1 pounds, respectively. Geranium’s big boys were a whopping 13.13 and 11.5.)
Bess’s lambs had received no attention from her and shivered uncontrollably. When I tried to help them latch onto a teat, Bess jumped so frantically she was trampling the lambs. Luckily, for the past week I’ve been traveling with a bottle of warm milk inside my coveralls, just in case, and I could jump-start them with two ounces apiece. In the adjoining jug, Geranium was an extremely attentive mother but her milk had not yet come in. Her lambs seemed stunned and apathetic in the cold. I gave each of them two ounces of milk also. Geranium hovered protectively, talking to her lambs and pawing them to their feet. Bess blithely munched hay and ignored hers.
I got DH to cover my lunch table at school and returned to the barn at noon. Bess continued to ignore her crying lambs, so I fed them again. Geranium was on the job but her lambs still seemed lethargic and her milk had still not let down.
I gave them another small feed, and now they staggered to their feet, searching for her udder.
After work I spent an hour wading through snow, disconnecting all the bottom fencelines in the barn paddock. I turned the cattle out and mucked the barn.
Meanwhile, Magnolia’s lambs, now five days old, were prancing and frolicking in the big sheep stall.
By the end of evening chores, Bess’s lambs were strong enough to pursue their feckless, silly mother and snatch a little colostrum while she wasn’t paying attention.
Wonderful Geranium had her boys fed and warm under her eye. I love this photo with the little ram snoozing on top of his big brother and his face buried in his mother’s wool. (Click to enlarge.)
Magnolia’s lambs were sacked out in the matron stall, at the edge of the lamb creep.
The forecast was for -15° F. My ewe Georgie is due at any moment. Given the severe cold, last night I drove down to the barn at 9:30 PM, 12:30 AM and 4:30 AM.
When I snap on the lights, the cattle blink in the brightness but rarely bother to get up. (Here are Leo and Marty, chewing their cuds.)
No more new lambs yet. It’s supposed to fall to -25° Thursday night and stay bitter cold for five days.
If only all the mamas could be as wonderful as Geranium.