We have 18 lambs on the farm right now, and still have 9 ewes left to give birth. Three of which are visibly pregnant and very far along in their pregnancies. So much so that every morning we expect to see their lambs, but not just yet.
This past week, we had 3 ewes give birth for the very first time.
This is Skadi, her mama was Marcia, who is one of our better moms. Skadi's dad was Jason, who was a full hair sheep, but Marcia is one of our last remaining wool sheep. So Skadi is a big scraggily. She gave birth to a ram and a ewe, the Ram is hiding in the back, Braeburn. He's got a solid hair coat, and the most adorable markings on his ears, I'll have to get more pictures. The ewe in front is Cheerilee, and she appears to be the first lamb of the season with a wool coat, like mom. They are doing great.
This is our beloved Hattie! She road in the Berthoud Days parade a few years ago. This is her first lamb, and boy is she vigilant with her! She's almost all black, with a white spot on her head. Her name is Rarity, she's got a great warm hair coat, and these two are going to do AWESOME! Now Hattie was bottle fed. She got abandoned by her mom in the bitter bitter cold, and she ended up being a house lamb for a while. Because of that, she's super friendly to people. However, I often notice once a bottle lamb has babies, that their attitude about wanting to be petted changes. She's all about her baby right now, possible when Rarity gets older, she'll go back to being her friendly self!
These were the first ones born and not a great start for Persephone. Well, first of all, twins at the first round are a good start for us, knowing she's capable of twins, and possibly will always drop twins. However, for a new mom, twins can be confusing. Sometimes, they either build the bond with their first born, and when the second is born, are confused and show no interest OR they get so involved with the second born, that they ignore the first and don't know it belongs to them. I think the white one (Fluttershy) was the first born. She was clean and dry when we found them. The colored one (Applejack) was still wet and not cleaned. We haltered up Persephone 4 or 5 times that first day to let the baby drink. She really wanted to. Without the halter, mama kept pushing her away. She spent her first night in the house, getting bottles, but when we put her back out, she kept sleeping on the lamb heating pad with her sister. She is very resourceful and is trying to drink from anyone who will let her. Hattie is too vigilant to let it happen, but Persephone sometimes doesn't notice and lets her drink, and sometimes she manages to sneak from Skadi, too. Every time I try to give her a bottle, I find that her belly is already full. She might not have a strong bond with her mom, but she certainly is a fighter and wants to get to food wherever she can. We like this trait, and we think we might keep her, just like Hattie. Just because her mom got confused, and we give a lot of leeway for first time mamas, doesn't mean she'll do the same.
Now the only downside for Miss Persephone is that we will watch this trend. Most of our ewes are on a "Three Strikes and Your Out!" Policy. 3 nonconformances, especially in a row, and we usually put you on the cull list. Culls typically include a combination of the following infractions: lamb abandonment, skipping lambing seasons (not getting pregnant), stillbirths, and birth defects. Birth defects we have only had once, that ewe is gone, as is that ram, so hopefully that was a fluke. Aggressiveness is also added in, not as an infraction itself, but if it presents with other issues, it doesn't help. We've only had one, but she sent Shanny-bug flying across the paddock when she had lambs. Not OK for our critters to go after MY offspring!
That being said, we have a mama going to the processor next week. She's almost 5 years old, and has only given us 3 lambs in that time. Her lambs are always small (of course, she gave us a HUGE ram lamb this time.) Another lamb that was born the same time as her, has given us 8 lambs already, and they are much bigger than hers. So we will be saying goodbye to Clarice, before she gets pregnant again. I'll be sad to see her go, as I always am, but letting go of a non-productive ewe helps us keep our average flock age low and allows us to pick a lamb from this season to keep! We already have eyes on little resourceful Applejack.
The irony of keeping Applejack is that we had really high hopes for Clarice. She's the granddaughter of Shirley, and daughter of Peppermint Patty, two of my BEST ewes. Applejack is also the granddaughter of Shirley, as Persephone is one of Shirley's daughters. I have high hopes for all of Shirley's genetics, but Clarice didn't play out as we hoped. So let's see how Applejack does in her stead.