Pulling Through

Mulberry’s lambs seemed a bit stronger yesterday morning. They no longer stood stiffly like cold toys, but were lying together in a limp heap. After bottle-feeding each a couple of ounces as a jump-start, I climbed into the jug and tried to teach them to suck at their mother’s udder.

Mulberry is not particularly tame but she has been remarkably tolerant of my fiddling and fussing with her private parts. She seemed to understand that I was trying to help. I gave her some sweet feed and while she ate her breakfast, I got to work.

I’ve done it a million times. Face in the thick damp wool, hands reaching under the ewe by feel. The trick is to hold the lamb in position with one hand, get a teat into the mouth with the other hand, and then tickle under the tail. Yes: you need three hands, which is what makes it tricky. Generally when you remove either hand to tickle, the lamb collapses or the teat slips from the mouth. However with a weak lamb the tickling is crucial. It mimics the mother’s licking under the tail and stimulates the sucking reflex.

Finally, finally, after ten minutes of sweat and fumbling, the little ram lamb got the idea. While I held him up, he latched on and began to suck. This is always an exciting moment. The life tide is turning! A friend happened to be in my barn four years ago at the exact second and captured my happy relief.

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Another ten minutes with the ewe lamb and she, too, had colostrum in her belly.

I dug out the snowdrift over the paddock fence, turned out the cattle, drove home, pulled off my coveralls, changed my clothes, and raced to a doctor’s appointment (no shower, no breakfast, brushing my teeth in the car). Then I raced back, warmed another bottle, pulled on my coveralls, and checked the lambs again before work.

This time, after their bottle jump-start, both lambs staggered to their feet and headed for their mama’s udder.

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Hooray!

I bottle-fed the lambs at 5 PM at evening chores and again at 9:30 after my last shift of teaching. By then I was a zombie of exhaustion. I looked at Mulberry and told her that it was her job, now.

It’s -21° this morning.

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