Life has been so rushed I have not kept up this blog. Ten days ago at morning chores I discovered that Pixie had given birth. To my relief, because I had isolated her she and her lamb were already safe in a jug. I swooped in, toweled the lamb dry, iodined his navel, and put a jacket on him. The lamb was big and healthy, about ten pounds. A single ram, I thought; too bad. I had wanted to keep a ewe lamb from Pixie and with her serious issues it seems likely that this will be her last season.
Worryingly, Pixie could not get to her feet. I hauled her up and she flopped immediately, almost crushing the lamb.
I raced up to the house. January 19! The earliest lambing in my memory. Naturally, I had scheduled time the following day to organize my lambing supplies, scattered in the move. Now I was climbing over boxes in the garage, looking for a lambing bottle and milk replacer. Go, go, go! I was due at work in half an hour.
Ten minutes later I was racing back to the barn, a bottle of milk warm next to my skin inside my coveralls. When I reached the jug I discovered that Pixie had given birth to a second, much smaller lamb — a little ewe.
“What a good girl you are!” I exclaimed to Pixie, immediately toweling and jacketing the new shivering mite. I jump-started each lamb with a few ounces of milk replacer and then had to leave for work. (Peeling off my barn clothes, I washed the amniotic fluid and iodine off my hands, pulled on clean jeans and turtleneck, and decided: good enough! I brushed my teeth in the car and reached my classroom just in time.)
I worried about the lambs in my absence. Pixie was struggling to rise, swaying, and falling. I prayed she would not smother them before I could return. I was brainstorming slings to keep her on her feet.
I was able to find someone to cover my lunch table and returned at noon. Pixie was swaying but she was standing, and the lambs had been fed.
Still, she collapsed quickly and several times I pulled free a wiggling lamb pinned between her weight and the wall. I had all sorts of ideas involving a canvas log carrier rigged as a sling, but in the end I decided Pixie was a great mother who would do her best, and the lambs were becoming stronger and more nimble every minute.
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Five days later I heard the weak bleating of a new lamb at morning chores. No ewe was answering the call, so I suspected the mother was one of my two inexperienced maiden ewes. Sure enough, my young ewe Trefoil (she was a triplet) was dragging afterbirth behind her. I filled the grain feeders to distract the flock, scooped up the wet lamb, moved Geranium out of the spare jug, and put the lamb in the jug under the heat lamp. Normally when I carry off a newborn, a ewe will follow her baby, nickering with anxiety. Foil, however, remained in the main stall gobbling grain with the crowd.
I dried and jacketed the ram lamb, and dipped his navel in iodine. On the other side of the aisle, Foil continued to evince no curiosity about what had happened to her lamb, or even to realize she’d had a lamb. At this time of year I generally travel to the barn with a bottle of milk replacer under my sweatshirt. Thus I was able to feed the lamb before going to retrieve his feckless mother.
Here is Foil in the jug. She had not even sniffed at her son under the heat lamp.
She yelled on and off most of the day. Help! I’m imprisoned here with an alien!
Thankfully, Foil was clueless, not mean, and she had a sturdy milk supply. I milked her briefly to accustom her to the sensation; and, jump-started with 3 oz of warm replacer, her lamb was soon strong enough to stagger after her to nurse. By evening his belly was full and Foil seemed mildly interested in her little stranger. (Now she’s a devoted mother and would be indignant at the suggestion that it had ever been otherwise.)
The next day, as the sheep addition was crammed with the unfortunate hay delivery, I moved Pixie and her lambs back to the main stall. Sadly Pixie’s balance has not improved after lambing as I had hoped. She was immediately knocked over in the crowd and trampled, her legs thrashing in the air. Meanwhile the yearling rams were attacking her lambs and she had no ability to protect them. I spent all afternoon creating a makeshift lamb creep and dividing the stall in half with a gate from the back field, separating the rams and allowing Pixie some peace with only three other ewes.
At the same time I moved Geranium back to the empty jug. Geranium is massively pregnant. I keep thinking she can’t go another hour. Though her fleece is long, I can see moving lambs rippling across her distended sides. She grinds her teeth with discomfort. And yet the lambs still have not arrived. This photo was taken three days ago.
Damon stopped by yesterday with his son-in-law to replace the tractor tire. While he was here he kindly fixed the hay elevator chain which I’d been unable to figure out. It took him under 90 seconds. I love people with mechanical ability!
Rick had said he would return yesterday and we would move the hay together. Damon snorted. He and I have heard that song before.
By night I had moved all the bales to the hayloft and stacked them. I was tired but satisfied … until I remembered that all this work simply returned me to the exact spot I was one week ago, before the hay delivery. I still have to muck out 320 square feet of deep bedding.
Maybe Geranium’s lambs will arrive today. Last checked at 3:45 AM.