In the quiet of dusk I count sheep. For real. At the end of the day, before it gets too dark, I count. First I count the twenty-eight ewes. Then I count the forty babies. Usually I have to count several times to get my desired number. Often when babies lie together in a heap it's hard to count actual critters. Add the two rams and we have SEVENTY.
I count before it gets too dark in case I have to search the field for a missing sheep. Usually if someone is missing there are other signs and counting just confirms that one is missing. Mother's blat for a missing baby and babies blat for a missing mother.
I am routinely mobbed, several times a day. This is the reward for healthy bottle babies. Bottle feeding is necessary for survival and for ensuring that babies get a good start. In the case of the quads I chose to supplement all four. In the case of Olive's triplets, I chose to supplement the smallest one who looked hungry. So, now I have five bottle babies. Yet, these are all getting supplemental bottles in that they are being raised by their respective mothers. This is important since their mothers teach them how to be sheep. Otherwise they want to be humans and move into the big house.
There is now an orphaned bottle lamb, given to me by my neighbour. I named her Fleur as I will try to name ewes after flowers this year. Zinnia is a flower. Freckle is not. Sometimes the theme doesn't fit.
Back to Fleur. She is a triplet. The problem my neighbour has with multiple births is she is convinced they cannot all do well. This is mostly true, but they don't all do badly. At any rate, she removes multiples, leaving two only, one for each teat. The other reason she does this is because she crosses the highway with her sheep daily and a bottle baby running the wrong way is very dangerous. I understand but choose not to to it that way. I am grateful for a new ewe lamb for my flock. Fleur has settled in very very nicely. Really, though, I am her mother. Yet, because she was almost three weeks of age before she left her mother, she knows she is a sheep and this is good.
This morning I was late. It's Sunday. We were up late. I woke up at 6:30 and rolled over and went back to sleep. Usually I don't sleep but this morning I did and the next time I looked at the clock it was 8:14. That's a huge sleeping in morning for me. Up I got.
I was juggling two dishes of dog food and a bag of baby bottles. Millie was behind me going in the gate. Before me was Ruby jumping on the gate looking for breakfast and under her were the quads. Somehow this all worked. I opened the gate and just let it go. Millie went in, Ruby backed up, the babies scattered for a moment. Ruby jumped up and knocked some of her food out of the bowl. I put hers down and quickly moved away to move Millie away - they need some distance between them. And then moved away at right angles to get the babies out of dog breakfast eating range.
I whipped out bottles. I clamped one between my knees and somebody grabbed on to it. I then had one in each hand. Now three were occupied and the forth jumped on the others, on me, and I used my elbows whenever possible to push it away. Then the older triplet arrived looking for his breakfast snack. All five were mobbing me.
I watched as the bottles' contents quickly went down. Each was allowed a half bottle. I guestimated and then pulled - hard - to get the bottle out of their mouth to check the volume and decide whether to return it to the guzzler or find a waiting guzzler to finish it off.
It's all over pretty quickly.
Quadruplets in the dog house
And then I move on as I have one more bottle. Butterscotch, a lovely older ewe who always twins and is a great mother, has had some udder challenges. The base of the teat had become infected. This was likely due to an injury from a hungry lamb with sharp teeth. I should have checked her out sooner. I kept her in the mixing pen as the lambs looked hungry and I wanted them looking perkier before I put them in the flock. By the time I checked her there was quite an infection.
Butterscotch's boys basking in the sunshine.
To take some pressure off of Butterscotch's udder and to get these lambs going I offered a bottle. They took it without much convincing - they were hungry. So, this morning I took my last bottle to Butterscotch's boys. I had moved her back to the mixing pen yesterday. The smaller twin came to me and I scooped him up and sat down on a milk crate. He slowly and quietly took the bottle. What a calm and relaxing time we both had while he slowly topped up his tummy. Butterscotch had continued to feed both lambs but would push them away when that teat got really sore.
The second lamb required catching and he was not that hungry. Only two thirds of their full bottle was consumed. Butterscotch was feeding them well. I managed to feel her udder and it was good. I would look more closely later in the day. She was baaing a lot and pacing: she wanted out onto the grass with the flock.
A very happy Millie the Maremma, snoozing in the shade with her sheep