Thursday, March 10, 2011

lambs soon!

We are less than ten days from lambing here at Cold Antler Farm. The shepherd's records for the blackface sheep mark the earliest birth at March 19th. All my lambing books say to take that date and remove three as the earliest birthday. It's the 10th of March and that means by next weekend there could easily be two more sheep at this farm.

Right now all I can do is remain extra vigilant and make sure everyone has what they need to get the job done. Everyone is eating well, has a nice straw bedding in the shed, and for once mother nature is starting to agree with this whole lambing thing. Tomorrow might reach above fifty degrees. Beats being born at -8.

My job when the lambs come is to make sure they are healthy and upright. If a lamb is with her mother, drinking her milk and by her side: we can assume all went to plan. But that still means the sheep needs to be tagged, docked, and looked over. She'll need her cord trimmed and dipped in Iodine. If I come across a lamb in the shed or snow without its mother, I just have to pray that it's still alive and I can bring it indoors under a heat lamb on a blanket and feed it some of the frozen colostrum I have from my friend's dairy goats. Just in case of such events I have special tubes that the lambs swallow down right to their stomachs and formula if their mother's don't produce milk.

My biggest fear is that a lamb will be in trouble giving birth and I won't be able to help. I know that's what vets are for, but if it happens at 4 AM and I'm still asleep...the guilt would be tragic. All I can do from tonight onward is set my alarm at 2 AM and 4 AM to check on things.

Any day now. Any day now....


Blogger Unknown said...

Seems you are as prepared as you could possibly be so good luck Jenna.

March 10, 2011 at 6:18 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Jenna, our first year with kidding season we bought a used baby monitor to put in the barn (we keep our does penned inside a smaller barn fence when they are a ready to kid). The receiver was in the house. That way, we could listen for the sounds of a doe in distress at 2 a.m. They can pick up sound from many feet away. It helped us rest easier! -Jen

March 10, 2011 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Is there any way you can set up lambing jugs? They work well for keeping mom and babe together. Also, when there are multiple mothers, they can get rather testy with errant babes, going so far as to butt them rather hard.

Good luck to you! Mine are coming soon, but probably not until the beginning of April. The shearer is coming tonight and so I'll be better able to tell what's going on "down there".

March 10, 2011 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger daisy g said...

Nothing like being fully present as you dreams turn into reality, huh? Best wishes, Shepard Jenna!

March 10, 2011 at 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Luck! I'm waiting on kids. . . my doe's due date was supposedly Monday, but I'm thinking we're moving on to the next possible due date (I'm not sure when exactly she was bred as the only way to get her to settle is to run her w/ the buck). It's a little nerve-wracking, but I know everything will be ok. The longer we wait, the warmer it'll be, right?

March 10, 2011 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger City Sister said...

Good luck with the whole lambing process. It will be great to see the flock expand.

March 10, 2011 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

I was going to suggest the same as Jen, is there a baby consignment store near you? You could pick up a good quality monitor for little money and have some peace of mind.

Congrats! So excited for your new babies!

March 10, 2011 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Lambs!! How exciting! I can hardly wait so I can just imagine what you are going through. Just a little longer now. I am so glad your weather is lots nicer for them to lamb in.

I am waiting on my 1st calf. I am a nervous wreck. oing out to check her back end. So much going on there right now! And the underside too. Nice big udder already. But the waiting! ANd 2 does due in a few weeks. All this new life on these farms. SO sweet.

March 10, 2011 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

You seem to be doing everything correctly and by the book. I'm very excited for you! Can't wait for pictures.

March 10, 2011 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

The main thing is that you are as prepared as you can be, and have lots of experienced help to call on too. Birthing is always a crapshoot and with 6 ewes there is likely to be a glitche or two - so be prepared for that and relieved if there isn't. Glad the weather is starting to co-operate.

March 10, 2011 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

keep tabs on their udders and vulva, maybe even take pictures so you can set up some sort of visual timeline of the progress of each ewe to help estimate lambing in future years...or even aid in a possible first time lambing book?

just when i thought the ewes on the property i worked couldn't look more "ready" it would still be days or even a week before any activity.

i'm not sure if you have a deworming protocol in place but it would be worth asking your vet what schedule you should put both the ewes and lambs on, parasite control is super important.

March 10, 2011 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

Oh this is so exciting! Yes do get a baby monitor. I had one for my mare when she foaled. Also don't forget to remove the placenta from the field. Do they eat it? I have heard that cow's will eat it, but if it is not removed somehow it will bring in the coyotes and that would be devastating! Oh can't wait to see pictures!!!! Good luck!

March 10, 2011 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Oh the baby monitor is such a good idea!

I hope all goes well for you.

March 10, 2011 at 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I checked my ewe constantly for 2 weeks. The 1 night I decided to stay in bed and not lock her in the stall, she had her twins. Luckily, she was an old hand at the process and the other sheep and mini-horse didn't interfere. Keep us posted! Can't wait to see pics.

March 10, 2011 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hope you don't need any sleep.... For my first year lambing, I am only lambing 2 ewes. Next year, I'll breed everyone. You might not get to see any of them be born. They probably won't have any trouble at all. You are prepared, though, so I am sure all will come out well.

March 10, 2011 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger E said...

A ewe that dies at lambing is sad but not tragic. But it's also part of farming. You can't keep watch all the time and wear yourself out in the process.

Keep the line between pets, farm animals and humans firm in your mind or you will never run a profitable farm. A sheep petting zoo has pets. You want a farm - you have farm animals. That doesn't mean that you don't provide for them and give them the best possible care.

March 10, 2011 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Jenna, I've been reading your blog for a while now but this is my first post. Have you heard of Marestare? It's not just for horses, they have sheep and goat cams posted too. I haven't used it my self as I have no livestock(yet:)).

March 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Robbie Grey said...

My mother used to get up every two hours when either a mother horse or dog was due to make sure there were no complications and record the date and time as best she could.

March 10, 2011 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger SouthernHeart said...

How exciting for you, Jenna! Sounds like you're prepared and I agree a monitor/cam sounds like an excellent idea. Might want to mount it on a wall if possible so it doesn't become a "chew toy" (or am I just thinking of goats?!).

There are several nearby sheep farms here in the Callahan Mountains where we live. I love it when the babies are out and about...running around like puppies with their long tails. I never knew sheep were born with puppy dog tails! (before they're docked) Somewhere in the process, try to get some rest!


March 10, 2011 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Ivanhoe said...

Hey! You know what you need? Some kind of timer/countdown on the right side of the website until the first lamb is expected! :D Not that the little ones will necessary adhere to that timing... but still, would be kinda exciting to see that.

March 10, 2011 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

We lost a kid last year (our first kidding season and also our does' first). It was early on a January morning and very cold. It never got dried off and fed. Even though we were doing our best to be diligent and check on the girls often, we still missed it. You just can't be out there every minute (and the process doesn't take all that long). Of course we felt bad, but well, we all have to sleep sometime. We decided that day never to breed to early in the season. We now breed late, so no babies are born on our farm before March. That by itself won't prevent future losses, but at least it increases (greatly) the odds that they'll be born in warm weather. Don't worry too much - you'll do your best, you'll learn things, and in the end you'll be proud of all those babies and mamas! I can't wait to see them!

March 10, 2011 at 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really amused by the "heat lamb" typo :)

March 10, 2011 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

We had lambing today! So proud of our mama sheep Gabby and her three healthy little ones. Especially pleased to have a darling girl!

March 10, 2011 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger kippy said...

Ever since seeing All Creatures Great and Small as a young city kid, I've wanted to be around a farm during lambing. It looks fascinating but lots of hard work for the ewe and farmer.

March 10, 2011 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Susanna said...

rooting for you.
Use livestock marking crayons to mark the matching mother and lamb - don't know if that breed twins like our dorsets did. get a few colors, and draw 3 red hatches on the lamb, 3 red hatches on mother's back, etc.
also, from my own tough experience as a little kid trying to save bottle babies, just make sure you know if your intubating tube is in the stomach, or in the lungs. still gives me nightmares. it's a quick silent drowning and the guilt will haunt you. overall just prepare yourself for a some grisly and tragic experiences with nature in the coming weeks. set your expectations so that coming upon a dead lamb in the early morning won't floor you so much you can't keep on keeping on.

March 10, 2011 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

I'm so excited for you as you take this next step! You've done your best to prepare although the baby monitor would be a great idea. While you will eventually have a loss I'm sure you can handle it as you've handle others. I'm thinking of how you had the courage to put down your first rabbit after it's spine was broken. Overall, Mother Nature always runs it's course.

March 11, 2011 at 12:11 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

By the 1000th lamb born on our place and the thousands of hours checking the barn it finally hit me one night that ewes have been lambing on their own for centuries and done just fine without us. More times than not all goes well.

Enjoy the moments. Try not to stress. Lambing season is fun and the herald of spring.


March 11, 2011 at 1:24 AM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

Keep your nails short and some sterile latex gloves in the barn in case you need to help.

More often than not, everything will go fine. In my limited experience, the mothers will often delay kidding/lambing until we leave the barn. We'll go back an hour or so later and there's a baby or two out.

We lost two lambs last year but it was nothing to do with lambing. Unfortunately, death is as much a part of farming as new life.

You'll do fine.

March 11, 2011 at 2:49 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

Here's an off-topic comment. How old is that illustration? Way back in northern Europe in the 1500s-early 1600s people called cotton "vegetable lambs", completely not understanding what it was and how it grew. That engraving? woodcut? reminded me of that.

March 11, 2011 at 7:09 PM  

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