<< Back


Posted 6/3/2008 6:14am by Catskill Merino.
Sheep Drink
Sheep need water.  When the sheep are rotated to a new paddock, the water tub must be moved with them. 
I like to look in on the sheep twice a dayYesterday evening when I got to the ewe paddock, the float valve that regulates the water level in the tub was spraying water in the air with a hissing sound.  I clamped the valve in place (on the right) to shut it off.  No longer disturbed by the splashing, this thirsty ewe and her lamb walked over to the water tub for a long drink.
Posted 5/28/2008 8:21am by Catskill Merino.
Part 3 
Dominique took 427 home with her, and she reports that his appetite is very good.  He readily took to the lamb bar, a bucket  filled with ewe-milk replacer fitted with latex nipples permitting him to self-feed when hungry.  At three weeks of age his rumen will have sufficiently developed to digest solid food and he will be weaned from the costly milk replacer.   In his pen he has hay and a bowl of grain with which he plays rather than eats, but that will change as he gets older. Dominique readies him for pasture by offering him fresh grass clippings. This little footprint likes green.
Posted 5/21/2008 8:35pm by Catskill Merino.

Part 2
Sunday morning, the news wasn’t good for little 427: he was hungry, he was thin and he was crying.  94 had dried blood on her hocks indicating that she had recently lambed, meaning she was probably the mother of 427; but she butted him away when he tried to get to her teats.

I can’t fault a ewe who has had a hard time lambing for refusing her lamb, most don’t refuse them no-matter-what, but some do.  Perhaps 94 will reconsider caring for 427 if she is confined with him in a jug, a small area (~24 sq. ft.) that is private and away from the other sheep.  Sometimes after several hours the ewe’s maternal instinct returns, the pair bonds and all is well.

We moved 94 & 427 to a jug and made them comfy by putting out hay, water & a little grain.  The next, and perhaps the most important, order of business, was to get 2 ounces of  94’s colostrum into 427.  Delivery with a stomach tube is the most expedient way of getting colostrum into a newborn.  Colostrum, the first milk from the udder, carries antibodies that will ward off disease for 6 weeks until the lamb’s immune system develops.

Fortunately 94 had a good full bag; some ewes are dry at birth and you must use colostrum from another ewe who has recently lambed, if you have one.

Milking 94
Dominique milks the colostrum from 94 into a Ball jar.


Tubing 427


Dominique tubes 427, or places colostrum into the lamb’s stomach with a tube connected to a large syringe.

Then as insurance against the possibility of 94 continuing to refuse 427, the lamb must be trained to a bottle with a nipple on it; this is easy with a day old lamb but the older the lamb gets the more difficult training becomes.  427 took to the bottle better than any other lamb I’ve ever had; he was a real goer and filled himself quickly.  And this was good because after a day together 94 still ignored 427.

Dominique even smeared 94’s afterbirth on 427 to enhance his scent.  This is a modified slime graft, an old-world technique, which usually involves a ewe who has one of her lambs die. The shepherd skins the dead lamb and cuts leg holes into the pelt; he places the legs of an orphan lamb, like 427, into the holes making a Persian lamb coat for the orphan.   This familiar smelling pelt fools the ewe into thinking the orphan is hers and she cares for it.  After a day or two when the ewe has accepted the orphan the pelt coat is taken off and discarded.

But no slime luck with 427; he was going to be a new-age bottle baby, a fat and friendly little guy whose mother is the world.

Posted 5/21/2008 5:42pm by Catskill Merino.
Part 1 
Her bag was so big she could hardly walk.  Her rear hooves needed trimming too, like Aladdin’s slippers the front of the hoof curled up and she had to step high to not trip herself.  She was slow and easy to catch, and Thursday Dominique did catch her to trim her hooves.   Her ear tag number was 94.  

On Friday 94 walked better but she still hadn’t had her lamb.  For several days, I’d been afraid for her, afraid she'd go down, wouldn’t be able to get up, be too weak to lamb and die in birth.

Saturday is always a day of crossed fingers, you hope the weather is with you, you hope you do well at market and you hope the sheep back home are safe.  Saturday night after market we go back to the farm and transfer the unsold lamb from the coolers to the freezers.  As we pulled up to the barn, Dominique grabbed the Maglite and said questioningly, “I’m going to see if 94’s OK.”  It had been a long day.  When I’m this tired, everything—good or bad—can wait until morning; but I don’t like to say “no” and say nothing.

I began to unload the truck as Dominique, her flashlight bobbing its yellow ray across the fields, disappeared into the dark.  I waited; I knew the longer she was away the worse it was going to be.  15 minutes later I saw the yellow light bobbing back.  “There’s a dead ewe—but it’s not 94—and there’s a new lamb without a mother.”  I took the light, “Where’s the ewe.”  We went over the fence; the ewes and lambs parted as we made our way through the flock.

I shined the light on the ewe; her eyes were dead-open; she was still supple (no rigor mortis) when I rolled her over (to see her number, 385) meaning that she had probably died that afternoon.  I was relieved to find no teeth marks on her; coyotes hadn’t breached the fence.  She was a healthy, young ewe.  How her back was arched in death made me suspect enterotoxaemia from Clostridium Perfringins Type C commonly called “overeating disease.”  Usually enterotoxaemia affects lambs, but occasionally one sees it in mature sheep.

“I’ll take care of her in the morning, where’s the lamb.”  I swept the light over the sheep and found the motherless 6 lb. newborn lamb in the middle of the flock going from ewe to ewe, being butted away. Ewes only accept the lambs they've birthed; they know their own lamb by smell.

Dominique picked the lamb up, saw that it was a ram, dipped his navel in iodine, put a tag in his right ear, number 427 and spray marked his back orange to identify him from a distance.  The thing to do now was to leave 427 there with the hope that his mother would find and accept him.  Dominique put him down and we turned to go but 427 stumbled after us, “maa, maa…” I picked him up, carried him to a group of ewes, possible mothers, and let him go there.  Looking over our shoulders to make sure he wasn’t still following us, we walked quickly to the fence and crossed it.

Sunday, we’d be there in the morning—our day off—to see if ewe and lamb got together—sheep never take a day off.
Posted 5/15/2008 10:15pm by Catskill Merino.
Ewes at evening
What Poem and I saw

The ewes are at pasture now, but lambs can still arrive as late as the 28th.  Mornings and evenings, I walk through the flock looking for newborns; with me I carry my lambing bag containing iodine for navels, ear tags and spray marker.

This evening when Poem and I approached the lambing paddock the sun was low in the sky.  I told Poem to stay as I awkwardly hopped over the fence.  I could feel her eyes on me as I walked toward the sheep.  If I were to call her she would glide over the fence as if on wings and bound to my left side, look up then back at the sheep and await a command.  She waits on the other side of the fence and I'm proud of her. The sheep remain calm, I can look at them undisturbed.  And Poem is there if needs be.

I slowly make my way into the flock.  The ewes know me and ignore my presence, but the lambs stare at this odd, upright, two-legged creature among them.

No newborns that I can see, and the old pregnant ewe I've been waiting for is still a day or two away from lambing, but she is moving better today.  The weather has improved, the temperature is in the 60's and it sprinkled this afternoon.  The lambs look good and the pasture is lush. 

It's a great day to be a sheep.

I turned away from the flock to see Poem with her prick-ears waiting for my call.  Lucky dog, me.  I started back to her and came upon this little family.

Ewe & her twins
Mama and her three week old twins

Posted 5/8/2008 5:12pm by Catskill Merino.
Pillow to pillow, market day is 19 hours.  Then Sunday wants to be a day off, but the pastures are growing and the grain bin was almost empty.  This Sunday there was to be “no rest for the wicked,” I would have to work.
The sheep had to get to grass so I wouldn’t have to spend $1003.56 (what I spent 17 days ago) for another three tons (the minimum order) of the oat/corn/soy grain mix that I feed over the winter.  Besides out of this month's cash flow, I needed to buy a larger market truck to get the garlic to market in July. Farmers are always dancing to these screeching fiddles of weather and money and this tune I know well.  Sunday was to be long hours; Monday was to do what didn’t get done in order to get the sheep out that afternoon.  
Before going to pasture, sheep must be dewormed with an anthelmintic to interrupt the vicious cycle of the deadly barber pole worm.

Life Cycle of Internal Parasites

Mature worms reside in the stomachs of sheep and shed eggs that reach the pasture through the feces. Other grazing sheep ingest the eggs or hatched larvae that mature in the sheep’s GI tract.
Worm Life Cycle



•    Weakness
•    Loss of appetite
•    Diarrhea
•    Weight loss
•    Change in wool condition
After Parasitic Diseases in Sheep from the Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University

On Sunday we dewormed the flock; 400 sheep got a Sub-Q injection of Ivermectin and the 100 plus rams got their annual CD/T vaccination (against overeaters disease & tetanus) in addition to the anthelmintic.  Then we put Electronet fence out around the 2 acre paddocks where the two groups of sheep were to be moved.  By the end of the day, Dominique and I were where fatigue feels heroic.


Here I am on Monday with a lamb, born earlier in the day, lost in the sheep move that afternoon.  The lamb's belly was full of milk, evidence of a good mother, but where was “Maaa,” the lamb cried and cried.

  Me & sleeping lamb

Mother was probably out getting full of grass to make milk and would soon be looking for her baby.  While Dominique went to the barn for an ear tag, beat-ass me reclined on the cool grass and pulled the lamb in close to begin rhythmically stroking its head with my fingers like its mother would do with her lullaby tongue.  The lamb closed its eyes and went to sleep.