Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sheep Update


Lambing season is over on this farm! Our last lamb was born Saturday afternoon. I had to help the mama with this one. I came home from knitting class to find her walking around with 1 foot and a nose showing. I tried to be patient and watched her push quite hard, off and on, for over 30 minutes. Then I decided it was time to step in. First, I felt for the other foot and found it just inside. I was relieved that both front feet were present but knew she still needed help so I consulted Managing Your Ewe. The book helped me figure out that the lamb's elbows were probably bent and locked. Picture yourself with your hands up by your face impersonating a rabbit. That is basically how the lamb was positioned. What we want is more like a person with there hands up above their head ready to dive into a pool. Make sense?

So I sloshed my hands in some disinfectant and felt around for those feet again. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I had to pull really hard on each leg, both of which were very slippery, and there wasn't a lot of room to work! I finally pulled one leg out, then the other. My biggest fear then was that she would lay down or turn and damage the legs. Then she pushed again and the lamb came out in my arms. One more big push let it all the way out. I was so relieved when it started breathing! Mama did very well, the only problem was that it took her a long time to stand up afterwards. She was obviously exhausted. I moved the lamb up by her head and she did a great job cleaning it off until she finally stood up. I caught him nursing later on and he's been doing great every since.

So... 4 ewes, all first time moms, produced 5 lambs for us this year. Total count is 3 girls and 2 boys. The twins and the solid black lamb are all very sturdy looking and large. The first lamb born has had some trouble, first with an infected tail band and then with limbing due to, I suspect, a joint infection stemming from the tail infection. I've treated her with penicillin injections for the last 4 days and am going to take the wait-and-see approach now. I don't condone routine antibiotic use but won't let any animal gimp around like that when I can fix it. She is a lot better, only slightly less active then the others now. This last baby is doing great he is just a little on the small side and sort of knobby kneed.

We'll see how it goes but the plan now is to send the two males and possibly the first female to the freezer and keep the other two to add to our breeding flock. I'm not good at judging sheep conformation but feel very good about the twins and the black female, they look very good to me.

Have you ever had to assist with a birth? Have you ever tried lamb or mutton? Did you like it?

6 comments:

Farmer's Daughter said...

Wow, that's awesome!

I've never had to assist with a birth, fortunately the ones I've seen have been all good.

My dad talks about how sometimes they'd have to tie a rope around the calf's ankles and pull it out when the cow had trouble.

Congrats on the new lambs!!!

Laura at Fearless Chef has a lot of mutton recipes because she bought a lamb last year.

Captain's Wife - Jennifer said...

The only birth I have helped with was for a cat! :) And that was just to get the first baby out the rest of the way because it was hanging part way out and the momma was *screaming* and spinning in circle. I don't know if she really needed the help or not, but it freaked me out! :) I have never eaten lamb or mutton. What is a tail band?

Farm Chick Paula said...

Yay for you, Jena! The little lamb is so sweet- I just love those ears! It sure is a good thing you were around- things might not have turned out so well!

Jena said...

FD - Thanks! I'll have to check out those recipes as I'll be cooking lamb for the first time.

Jennifer - I know what you mean with cats, I saw that happen with a barn cat once and it is scary how they act. A tail band is a small, thick rubber band that you put around the base of the tail with special pliers. It cuts off the circulation and eventually the tail falls off. The Suffolk sheep that we have are born with long tails like a dog and they are usually docked. Supposedly the tail gets in the way of things like birthing but our main reason for docking is that no one would buy our lambs if we didn't. Banding has been the least traumatizing method we've found for doing this. We use the same method for castrating sheep & calves by putting the band around the scrotum. They don't seem to mind. BTW, this would be one advantage to heritage breeds of sheep, some types are born with naturally short tails that don't need docking.

Paula - Welcome to the blog! I'm glad I was there too, I don't want to imagine how it might have turned out otherwise.

Everydaywoman said...

Oh my God, I respect you now more than ever! How did you keep your composure? Were you alone with this birthing Mama? Of course, I know this is your line of work, so you knew what to do, but not many people can say they did this!!!!

My Dad would tell stories of how he helped dairy cows with difficult deliveries, but as a youngter, I wasn't there to help first-hand . . .too bad!

Now that our workhorse, Annabelle, is expecting a new foal this summer, we're eagerly anticipating the birth and "boning up" on how we can help . . . plus we'll have our vet on stand-by. Since she already had 2 foals before she came to us, and her former owners said she did everything on her own, just fine, we're hoping for the same!

We've had a lot of lambs and sheep, as pets, but I just can't bring myself to eat mutton. I felt the same about vennison, growing up as a kid. Actually, I really don't care much for meat, maybe that's why.

Jena said...

Ruth - This was one of those times when I was running on adrenaline and didn't think too much about it. I called Brian because I thought I'd need help but it was all over by the time he got there. It was a good thing I had that book or I probably wouldn't have realized what the problem was.

I'm sure Annabelle is going to do great, don't worry! That is one birth I've never seen - how cool for you!

I hope I like the lamb/mutton since we'll have easy access to it now. I'm not big on venison either but I will eat some pepper stick or venison steak, that's about it. I don't eat hamburger or any kind of ground meat at all, unless you count sausage and those pepper sticks. Oh, and hot dogs - but only Koegel's. I just hate the idea that it is all ground up and I can't pick through it. When I eat a normal cut of meat I cut off every bit of fat. I really like chicken, especially since you don't EVER find hair on it, that grosses me out. I could live without meat and be just fine but I figure since I'm not ready to give it up I'd better make sure the animals I eat have the best lives possible. That's the best way I can explain it to people who ask how I can eat them after caring for them so long.