- Written by Maria McDonald
And so, suddenly, its August! Wow, time sure flies! Especially when you’re having fun, and there sure wasn’t a lack of exciting things in the past few months!
For one, was the lambing, which happens in June/July. Sometimes it seems to me that our entire year revolves around the lambing. Either we are preparing for lambing, lambing, or dealing with the after-effects of lambing. And everything else has to somehow fit around this one momentous event…
For two, we’ve got a baby on the way! Talk about exciting things happening…this one totally tops them all off!
And that’s what these past few months have been about for me…juggling lambing and being pregnant for the 1st time. And somehow the timing really worked out not bad because by the time we were approaching the busy season, I was past the queezy, morning sick part, which was awesome. I can think of a hundred things I’d rather do than puke behind a weed patch with a couple bottle lambs sucking on my pant legs!
But like I said, it worked out good. We prepared everything so that when lambing stuck full force, Wayne was out in the field and I was in the barn. I guess before I go any farther I should explain a bit how we lamb on our farm…
Lambing is when all the mother sheep have their babies. Some people jug lamb, which means that when a ewe (mother sheep) has her lambs they put them in a little pen (or jug, as they are called in a shepherd’s world) for a day or so to mother up and then gradually put them out to bigger and bigger pens with more and more sheep. This means all the sheep have to make their way through some sort of barn or lambing shed. It also means you can lamb any time of year because it is possible to heat a lambing shed if it is too cold. One disadvantage of this system is that you need enough barn space for all the sheep you have. So if you run out of money or space for more barns…no more sheep.
Other people pasture lamb, and that’s what we do. This means all the sheep have their lambs out on pasture, preferably on a lot of green grass. This means you have to lamb in the spring or summer when the weather is nice and the grass is growing. If you pasture lamb too early and you get hit by a late snowstorm, that is pretty much a death sentence for the lambs.
So this year, Wayne was out on the pasture, monitoring and marking lambs (we mark them, so in case a lamb loses his mother we can match them up again) and when he found one that was in trouble, he would bring them to the barn and I would take care of them. So I was kind of like the hospital!
Sometimes the ‘hospital’ part of lambing is depressing (because you only see sick and problem sheep) but mostly I loved it. I was out of the hot sun, didn’t have to walk miles and miles, and could sit for a quick rest most any time.
I had all kinds of ‘patients’. Some were ewes with weak lambs, some had too little milk, and some couldn’t keep track of their lambs. All ewes with triplets came to the barn (they don’t generally do that well on their own). Then I had some that I called ‘Rejects’ and they were ewes that had twins but only wanted one and didn’t like the other lamb. Then of course I’d get bottle lambs or orphans. These are lambs that wander around the pasture and we don’t know who the mother is, or the 3rd lamb of a set of triplets (often the ewe can only feed two lambs properly), or a weak/sick lamb that needs tlc, one time I had one that was just too short to reach her mother’s udder (imagine that)!
So, I’d start the orphans off on the bottle, but if Wayne brought in a ewe that had a bad birth and her lamb was dead, I’d put her in a pen and give her one or two orphans (depending on how much milk she had and how old she was) I called these ewes ‘Foster’ ewes and they are great, because they save me a whole lot of bottle feeding! This year I had 23 ‘foster’ ewes that each took one or two lambs off my hands!
After everything was said and done, we had a great lambing! I managed well in the barn, pregnant and all, and Wayne managed well on the field, even without me out there, so it all worked out great! In fact, it worked so well, we think we might just do it exactly the same way next year even though I won’t be pregnant (we will have a baby though, but that will be next year’s adventure…how to lamb and nurse at the same time!)