Friday 25 March 2016

One, two, three...

...four.  Four?  Four!

Smudge had been waddling for some time.  I wondered if she might have triplets.  I never considered four.  Four is not that desirable.  Even triplets can be challenging.

If you recall previous stories about Smudge she is rather food focused.  Where there is food, Smudge is first.  And she vocalises this interest as well, with a very distinct, high, raspy voice. 

On the Sunday afternoon I could see "show" but Smudge kept eating.  Hubby suggested with Smudge's high interest in food that I bribe her into a pen.  And so, I, the Candy Man / Candy Person, got out some grain when no other sheep were around and got Smudge quickly into a pen.  And this was not hard.

I checked during the night but all was quiet.  When the alarm went off at six I quickly dressed and went straight to the barn, grabbing some lambing towels to have in hand.  As I approached the barn door I could see a little lamb face.  I scooped it up in a towel.  I peered over the pen wall and saw two more with Smudge.  And then out of the corner of my eye and left, something moved.  This truly was a double take.  I looked left, looked back at Smudge, and looked left again.  I went over and scooped up the forth lamb.

I was further baffled that these two lambs were outside of the pen.  I deduced that they were very close to the pen wall and wandered through the slats of the wooden skids I use for pens.  I had forgotten to fill in this area with cardboard.  It keeps lambs in and drafts out.

Smudge made lovely mothering noises - distinct, high, raspy, yet soft.  She seemed a bit overwhelmed.  Sometimes I wonder if she was experiencing a double take, as if to say, "Oh, there's another one, and another one, another..."  I do feel that Smudge had to focus on counting to four.

I worked with Smudge for a bit rubbing lambs with a towel.  It was colder than I had expected and I had to organise a heat lamp.  This lambing season is earlier than the previous two years.  Especially with four lambs, all extra attention is warranted.  I also put up tarps along the sides of the pen to further keep out the drafts.

One, two, three and four!

The four are evenly sized, which is good.  They are small, but that's not surprising.  They are not tiny.  There are two females and two males.  One has floppy ears and had a floppy hind leg.  I have seen this before.  The bones are soft at birth.  By the next day and even the day after that the bones hardened and the only remaining floppy was in the ears and a name.

Four.  I had to help out Smudge.  I thawed the cow colostrum I kept in the freezer.  My very helpful fellow shepherdess neighbour brought me baby bottle and nipples.  I warmed the colostrum and sat on a milk crate in the pen with each of four lambs on my lap, offering them the colostrum.  I did this four more times over twenty-four hours, the most critical time.

And it is amazing the difference following that first twenty-four hours.  I could see full bellies and the babies began to bounce and test out their legs further.  Floppy was okay but I continued to monitor him (or her; I can't remember because there are four!). 

I have continued to offer them lamb milk replacer (or lamb baby formula) several times each day.  They do not consume very much of this at all.  I wonder if one latches on to the nipple better than the others and takes more - but I'm not sure which one that is.  Okay, there are four:  Floppy; one with a black dot on his right knee; one with two back dashes on his right knee; and the other one.

Some shepherds remove one or two of the quads, leaving only twins on the mother.  The one(s) selected for removal should be the largest and strongest.  These would be either grafted onto a mother with a single or raised on a bottle.  I am choosing to leave the four on their mother.  I will continue to offer a bottle for the next several weeks.  I can see already that they are thriving.  It does take a lot out of the mother, but I'll have to monitor that.  Already I see forming a group of multiple birth families which will allow the provision of extra food for them. 

Olive with her triplets is doing very well.  She looks a bit haggard but is managing well.  They are now three weeks old.  I have offered a bottle several times to one that has been looking hungry, but she's not interested.  They are eating hay with their mother and having fun, tearing up and down at the front of the barn.  Last night one of them kept trying to jump on Olive's back while Olive was standing and eating.  Lambs do find mischief.

Frolicking in the sunshine under the supervision of Humphrey kitty.

 As of this writing, there are quadruplets, triplets, two sets of twins and three singles.  That's fourteen lambs from seven ewes for an excellent average at 200%.  The birth of singles following the quadruplets was almost refreshing. 

Monday 7 March 2016


Three!!  It took three people to take care of things while we were away.  Actually, it took more than three but that messes with my story.  We are grateful for everyone's assistance since without your help we would not be able to get away.

Yes, we were someplace warm.  We drove.  A long way.  There.  And back.  We had a lovely time with friends and look forward to visiting with them all again in the future.

Three!!  I was expecting one sheep to maybe, sort of, have her babies near the end of our trip.  You see, Abraham, the old ram, got out one day in October.  I came home and there he was, on the wrong side of the fence, with the girls.  Everyone was happy.  I marked the calendar for March 4th.

Getting ready to depart, it looked like Olive might lamb on the 4th.  It was hard to tell though since the "official" lambing date this year is March 22nd.  Olive definitely had an udder and it was growing and no one else looked similar.  So, I put three long red crayon marks on her back.  This way our farm helpers would know who frolicked with Abe in October.

On Friday, March 4th, we were getting ready to head out to breakfast with our sunshine friends before hitting the road for our journey home.  I checked my email and it said "two lambs" in the subject line.  I was expecting this.  There was more, though.  There had been health challenges for our sitters and trouble with the furnace.  So, I gathered information for my response - call the neighbouring shepherd and the furnace fix-it folks...

I hit send to respond and there was an instant second email with a subject line:  "correction.  six lambs".  Wow!!  And there were photos.  And the neighbouring shepherd was on her way.  And everyone was fine.

So, Olive did lamb.  She had TRIPLETS - two females and a male.  And MayBell had TWINS - a male and a female.  And then Chloe had ONE - a male.  So, three sheep produced six lambs.  What a way to begin the day!

Olive's triplets at three days of age.

Olive's triplets napping - Eenie, Meenie and Miney

The newly certified shepherd couple who were farm sitting at that time have the honour of naming the babies.  Olive's triplets are named as above.  MayBell's twins are Bonnie and Clyde and Chloe's singleton is Lobo.

Stay tuned for the "official" lambing season which is set to begin in two weeks, on or about March 22nd.

Oh, and we had a nice breakfast after everyone enjoyed the baby photos.