Friday, February 18, 2011

Fat Alice

So we have a sheep we call Fat Cindy. It turns out she was never fat, after we finally sheared her, she just had a lot of wool. Really, none of our sheep are fat. But poor Alice - she's the shortest of our sheep from shoulders to hips. So when she gets pregnant, the babies have no where to go but sideways.

We had our first lambs this time around in December. Alice was so big, we thought she would give birth first. And we kept expecting it to happen. We have 15 pregnant ewes. There are only 3 left that haven't given birth. Alice is one of them. I thought she was going to go yesterday, she was making funny noises, and seemed to want to be in a stall, even though the sun was out. Nope. It was Trouble (giving us trouble).

So I tried to get some pictures, because I really really can't believe how big she is. She had twins last time. I honestly believe she has triplets now. She's got two huge saddle bags on each side, and is hanging pretty low in the middle. When she lays down, like in this image, she looks like 3 sheep squished together. I can't believe how big she is!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Solstice and Equinox

Trouble, one of my favorite ewes, gave birth today. She's one of our 2 year old ewes that was born on the farm, and this was her first time lambing. She really seemed to be struggling, and I was tempted to help out. She is normally very friendly and loves being scratched behind the ears. But I was making her nervous today. Could have been first time jitters, some of the older ewes don't seem to care when I am around.

I just happened to go outside to feed Cornelius. Since we are expecting Alice to go any day now, I peeked in the stalls to see if she was in there. I found Trouble making odd sounds and pawing the ground, so I kicked everyone else out, and closed her in, so she'd feel safe. I gave her some oats and a bucket of water, and Shannon and I waited.

The first one seemed to be a struggle. It appeared at first that only one hoof was presenting. I was really afraid I'd have to stick a hand in there and get the other hoof out. But she didn't want me near, so I decided to give her a chance, as long as I was seeing progress. Eventually the other hoof came and a little head tumbled out, so I let her be. It can be some time between lambings, and I assumed she had twins, based on her size. So I left her alone with her little one while she cleaned it off.

I came back out later, and she was working on number two. Something wasn't right, and I couldn't put a finger on it until it came out. They all move during lambing - you can see twitching, and as soon as that head pops out, you'll see it move. Even before their rear legs are out, you can see the lamb trying to break the sac to breathe.

Number 2 never moved, and he was so very very small. Solstice (the first born ewe) was a very little girl herself. And Equinox was even smaller. The sack never broke. I gave mama a chance to do something, but she abandoned it straight away. I tore open that sack to see if it would breath, but it was gone. The umbilical cord was twisted up like a pretzel. I think the little guy got stoked off in the womb, and starved. I've never seen a cord so twisted up. This, again, was a case of nothing we could do. But having 2 stillborns in one go round is very sad.

but Trouble knew. She never nudged it, isn't acting like anything is missing, she's doting on little Solstice, and I think all will be well with them both. I just hate the thought of such a precious little life that never had a chance.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Frosty and Clarice

Our two youngest ewes gave birth this weekend. Veronica, who is just a month over a year old, gave birth earlier in the weekend. We were a little worried about her little lamb because he is so small. Yes, another ram lamb! We named him Frosty. He's a little guy, but his mom is very attentive to him. She wouldn't leave his side yesterday, and every time he tried to lay down in the snow, she made him get up and move. He's jumping around like a silly lamb this morning, so even though he looks scrawny, he's getting food in him!

This morning, we discovered that Peppermint Patty gave birth to a little black ewe lamb. I named her Clarice! Peppermint Patty is also very attentive. As first time moms, these two are doing a great job!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Moose is getting BIG!

I tried to put Moose on a scale the other day. He's not yet 6 months old, and he's pushing 70 pounds. Stopped putting him on the bed at night, because I can't pick him up (and he's too chicken to jump) so he sleeps in his crate at the end of the bed.

I caught him playing with Atlas today. That is a feat in itself. Atlas doesn't play. He's a very serious dog, with an important job to do. But here they are.

Atlas and Goliath are Great Pyrenees, and small ones at that. they are both slightly under 100 pounds.

They caught me watching them, and decided to come in and say hi. Of course, Moose was playing the whole run in. Here they are you can sort of see a comparison of Moose's height next to Atlas and Goliath. He's not as tall as them, yet, but he's thicker than they are. Atlas and Goliath are a LOT of hair!!

I just like this action shot. Altas managed to get Goliath in the middle, so he could avoid Moose's nips on the run in.

Here's my Moose, once he settled down with a stick to chew on.
I can't say how much I love Moose. I know that Hobbes' loss is what made the room to bring home Moose, and I miss Hobbes every day. But there is so much silliness and sweetness in this puppy. He has a GREAT life on the farm. I think we have finally taught him about chickens, and he hasn't killed one in a few weeks. He's been a good boy about that. Now, I think digging is going to be an issue in the spring, but he's really sensitive, and doesn't like being scolded.

He's really patient with Shannon, she literally climbs all over him, and he just puts up with it. I think he was a good addition to our farm, and I am very thankful for him.

Snow Miser

Now that it is apparent that Veronica and Peppermint Patty are pregnant - we still had 7 ewes to give birth - until last night. I've been watching the development of their utters. Veronica is close, and I thought she might be next, but not quite ready. Gertrude and Daphne are so woolly that I can't see. And they are both sort of scared of people, so when I try to look - they run off. As a matter of fact, I spend so much time checking, that my daughter now walks up to the little lambs and tries to look. Apparently, it's important to check out the animals' behinds.

Anyhow, I was taken by surprise when Larry announced we had a little lamb born last night. Also quite surprised, from the size of Daphne, that she had only one. Sticking with out holiday special theme, this one is named "Snow Miser". and yes, it's a ram lamb.

He was having a little nap after getting a belly full of food from mom. These two are locked in a stall for the day, since it's cold, with a new blanket of snow last night.
Daphne actually did have twin ram lambs. "Heat Miser" was still born. She didn't even clean it off. My heart is broken for the poor little lamb that never had a chance, and even though there was nothing we could do, I still feel like I wish there had been something I could have done. From what I can tell, there was a good 6-8 hours between lambings. That is way too long. I know sometimes it takes longer than I can imagine, but it's usually 30 minutes to an hour between lambings - long enough for mama to lick the first one clean. This little guy didn't even get that far. We weren't there, but we don't believe he was alive when he came out. If Cornelius could manage, on his first day, to almost freeze, and have to come in the house to warm up for 4 hours - then this guy could have handled a few hours in a warm barn with his mama ignoring him. Daphne is a pain in the butt, but she's never abandoned a lamb before. And of ALL the sheep we have, she is the LEAST willing to let us help with anything. I think Snowy will be fine, but my heart breaks for the little lamby that never had a chance. Goodnight little Heat Miser.

This picture deserves a post of its own. But since I can't possibly want to recall how we got this thing delivered, and then how we stood it up, all you get is a picture. And the knowledge that no one died in the process, although the risk was there. That being said, this sucker makes our other grain bin look like a coffee tin. Now we are really in the bird business!
Speaking of birds, here is our Royal Palm and Black Spanish tom showing off, with some Bourbon Red hens hanging around.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lamb Photos and a Big Owl

We still have no new lambs, Prancer and Vixen were the last. We suspect Veronica is next, she's at least showing signs.

For anyone out there (this is for you, Mo) that raises sheep and hasn't lambed yet, here are some signs to watch for. The size of the sheep really isn't the issue - Betty barely looked pregnant, and we though Alice was going to give birth 2 MONTHS ago. It's the size of their utters that matter. Especially if the sheep has never lambed before, she won't have distended utters until she needs to. Poor Shirley, who has had 4 batches of lambs with us - she never fully shrinks back between. But they won't fill with milk until they need to. So watch the utters. At one point, you'll think "woah those are big," but no, wait a little longer. When they look almost abnormal, like enormous water balloons that look like they could burst - then you are getting close. Those things will swell up very noticeably and fast just before the lamb is born. There will also be some fluid leakage, but this can start happening days in advance. To know she is actively going into labor, she'll start pawing the ground - trying to make a comfy spot to lay. She may seclude herself from the others, and seek shelter, someplace quiet and private. And she'll pace a LOT. She may even be in labor before she ever lays down to push. You may see hooves sticking out.

I can only speak for my mixed breed of Suffolk, Dorper and Katahdin. These ladies need no assistance. As a matter of fact, the less we interfere the better. We ave never isolated our girls, but in the winter, I do like to lock them in a stall, alone with their lambs with some food and water. I lock them alone so the other sheep don't steal the oats and hay! And in the winter, that keeps the lambs protected from the cold, and gives them all time to bond. A day of that, and they are good to go. It's best to stay hands off. If you handle the lambs, then the mom may abandon them. They bond through scent, and the biggest bonding time is when mom cleans off the lambs. That's how they learn each other's smells and sounds. If you interfere, by cleaning the lamb, or bottle feeding the lamb, then you may create a permanent detachment. The only thing I would encourage - for a first time mama ewe, is to get in and break the wax plug off her teats, to make sure her milk can flow. Then back away and let nature do it's thing. It can take some time for mama to finish cleaning a lamb, and she may not let it drink until she's done. But mom and baby know what to do, so just sit back and watch. Once you see baby latch on and drink, there's nothing left to worry about.

OK, enough of that lecture...

Here's my little lamby playing with all the little lambies.

I also managed to catch a few pictures of this giant owl that's been hanging around. He's huge, this picture shows no justice. But he's perched atop our grain bin, and he had no qualms with me approaching, with my flash going off! Still didn't manage to get a good shot of him, it was getting dark too quickly.