We ran into lamb number 120 today and she was walking like she'd never had a broken leg. Dominique cut the splint off her leg the Saturday before last. Success stories are good stories and there are never enough of them.
How 120 broke her leg, we don't know. At birth her mother wouldn't accept her; maybe it happened when 120 was butted away in the jug. The ewe was a first time mother and was so crazed that to help calm her I gave her 1 cc of Oxytocin which among other things* assists maternal behaviors and is sometimes called a "love potion" because it facilitates relationships. After the injection the ewe slowly became caring and finally let her lamb to the teat.
Baby was saved.
But in the yard several days after her birth, I noticed 120 limping along on 3 legs and picked her up to find a broken leg.
It had to be set.
I wrapped the leg in one of our knit wool hats that we found laying around the shepherd's room, cut two splints from oak and wrapped everything tightly with duct tape. I gave the lamb 1/2 cc of Banamine, an analgesic, and put her on 1/4 cc of penicillin a day for a week.
120 is doing well, getting fat on mama's milk and peg-legging around like she's looking for a white whale; when she can put weight on the leg, in 2-3 weeks, we will cut the splint off.
*Oxytocin is a hormone active in female reproduction. Recent studies have begun to investigate it's role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, trust, love, and maternal behaviors...from Wikipedia. Generally, I have Oxytocin on hand at lambing to assist milk let down in recently lambed ewes that are dry.
Rain or shine, the ewes have their lambs outside in the barn yard. We let them bond there before we bring them into the barn, and usually place them in jugs; 4'x4' plywood cubicles (numbered to 26) with a water bucket, hay free-choice and grain twice a day; there, they will not be distracted by other sheep.
They stay in the jugs for a day or two where we make sure they're eating well before we release them into a communal pen with other mothers and newborns to begin socialization. After a day in the communal pen, but only if the lambs are strong and playful, we put them outside to mingle with the other lactating ewes and lambs.
Between Friday night (with me at market Saturday) and Sunday morning Dominique brought 25 lambs into the barn. That's a lot of work: the room service bell never stops ringing, "Warm milk for a weak twin in 5, baa..."
Monday into Tuesday, we had bad weather for sheep. It would have been better had it been colder and snowing. Conditions like this are not only miserable, they are lethal. Some of the weaker lambs were hunched up: they draw in their bellys to conserve energy thus arching their backs. Because the lambs were cold and wet, they needed more nutrition (their dams had little milk); without milk they wouldn't survive in the cold rain too much longer. The storm was to go on for hours, until evening they said, maybe longer. I looked at Dominique, "We gotta bring'em in." We readied the barn for the chaos of hundreds of sheep by securing the jugs to keep the newborns in with their mothers and spray marking them in case the lambs got out and lost in the crowd; we put out feeders, water tubs, and minerals making room for the newcomers.
Dominique opened the gate and shook a grain bucket: most of the sheep came into the barn thinking they were being fed. With 50 lambs and 25 ewes still outside we closed the gate because the ewes inside, who had fallen for the ruse, couldn't find their lambs and began go back out to look for them. We would have to get the rest in by hand. We caught the lambs one by one and put them over the gate as we cajoled and enticed the ewes to enter and find their babies, opening the gate quickly so the ewes inside wouldn't escape into the rain and mud. Sheep are vocal; they know the voice of their own: when separated, the lambs and ewes call to one another: 100's of baas at once, basses and tenors, in a contrapuntal but atonal chorus of desire. What cacophony!
With everybody inside, we put out some good hay and I went around with a jug of milk and a stomach tube giving 2 oz. of milk to any hunchy lamb. Dominique opened the windows and I pushed the barn doors wide apart: lambs in close quarters can develop pneumonia—if it's not one thing it's another—good ventilation prevents it. We were lucky. The wind was blowing through the barn; with a single case of pneumonia, an infectous disease that spreads rapidly in lambs, we would have had to kick all the sheep out into the rain and suffer the lesser losses due to exposure.
By evening all was quiet; the ewes and lambs had found one another and many were snoozing. There was good air inside the barn; even though it was big enough to milk 90 cows, 170' x 60', it was tight for 200 ewes and 180 lambs.
Tomorrow, or as soon as the cold rain stops, we will put them outside again. Thursday should be a push: 75F and sunny.
...born in the first 14 days of lambing; fast and fertile, this farm. But the real marker will be at ± 18 days when all ewes will have cycled once. After that, we will will continue to have lambs for another 18 days but the birth rate should drop dramatically; the rams were kept with the ewes for a second cycle to catch anybody they didn't catch the first go round.
13, 14 lambs today. Minutes before I got to the barn, a big and healthy lamb had arrived; the mother was young and spooky with her first baby. Doing the minimum to not disturb the pair, I sprayed scourable blue marks on their heads to ID them to one another until we can eartag in the morning and I dipped the lamb's wet navel cord in iodine to prevent infection, as the ewe ran around us nervously looking for her baby. Putting the lamb down, I stepped away and the ewe came back to lick it dry.
Even though the night was windy and wet, I let them stay at the place of birth as ewes bond to the spot where they've lambed. If she looses her lamb, or is separated from it when moving the pair to the barn at night, the ewe will return to the spot of parturition to look for it.
I'm sure they will be fine outside. Leaving, I swept the flashlight around the blackness of the yard seeing its beam reflected by many pairs of sheep eyes looking at the light as it passed over them.
We must remember, sheep know how to be sheep better than we do, and we must trust them.
These ewes are in need of help. They don't make enough milk for their twin lambs; in this pen there is a lamb bar, a bucket full of milk with nipples on it. We train the lambs to supplement themselves by going to the bar when they're hungry.
They catch on quickly; in a week or two the lambs will begin to eat solid food requiring less milk from their moms and from the lamb bar.
Everytime we turn around, there's a little lamb there. Lambing will go on through April 21st.
Around 9 PM in the yard I found a first-time mom with a small lamb that had a plaintive, hungry baa that told me it might not be alive in the morning. I had to get mother and lamb inside the barn and into a jug, a 4'x4' plywood cubicle, to milk colostrum from the mother and to tube the colostrum into the lamb with a 60 cc syringe fitted with a rubber tube that I slide down the lamb's throat into its stomach for delivery.
Flashlight in hand I trailed the ewe and lamb (holding it before her, a carrot to her maternal instinct) through the crowd of gestating ewes about 50 yards to the barn door and inside to a communal pen which held the jugs.
Fortunately the ewe had milk and I tubed the lamb probably saving its life. I then color coded it to the ewe, 3 purple dots sprayed on the back of each, and I dipped the lamb's navel in iodine, then gave the ewe good hay and water before I said good night. Tomorrow should be busy...
I guess I can't count as well as my sheep can. Lambing is marked on my calendar to begin on March 17; but now, on March 11, here the lambs come, tumbling through the Universe, low over the horizon to stick their landing in the barn like astral gymnasts, 150 days from when the rams went in with the ewes. Quelles débutantes!
When I got to the barn this morning I found a ewe lamb born during the night to the ewe, who'd had a vaginal prolapse, spray marked with a "P". Two days ago I moved her inside the barn to keep an eye on her and pushed the prolapse back in—surprisingly it stayed without a retainer.
While I was dipping this lamb's navel in iodine, another ewe lambed outside. A second healthy ewe lamb and another attentive mother, so far so good. I'll post this and go back to the barn; it's almost 8 PM. Chances are good that I'll have more babies. I'll keep you posted on the lamb action.