Bummer, Dude / First Lambs of the Season

Well, our first lambs came today. It is mid-February, and about 20 degrees out. This isn’t a huge problem, though it is not ideal. However, at about 5.40AM when we first saw them out there, their mother had hardly cleaned them off. They were cold; the ram lamb was clearly a little older than his sister. His umbilicus was frozen when I snipped and dipped it. They were walking around, but mostly laying down. Margaret (mum) was interested in them, but not entirely.

Scott held onto mum while I tried milking her to see if anything was coming out. Unfortunately, nothing was. I tried unplugging the wax seal you hear about so often, to no avail. By the way, if you’re trying to unplug a wax seal, you must know that A) The wax seal is INSIDE the teat and B) You have to use a milking motion. The milking motion causes milk in the teat to loosen the wax seal, which unplugs it.

But anyway, there was no wax seal to unplug. Her udder was quite firm, warm, and fuller than it had been, but by no means full. The babies were cold, wet, and hungry… and weak. So, I made a call. We brought them inside by the woodstove. This was a good call.

We immediately tried to get some colostrum into them. They were hardly taking it at all, but after a few attempts, they got maybe an ounce each in their bellies. They then slept.

I called our absolutely STELLAR sheep vet, Dr. Kelsey Hilton, to come out and see what was wrong with Margaret. I wasn’t sure if it was mastitis, or perhaps if I was unplugging it the wrong way. After an assessment, Dr. Hilton tried giving her some oxytocin to stimulate the milk production. Nothing happened. Dr. Hilton gave me some sad news. “This ewe is not going to get any milk in.”

Shit.

Now we have two bummer lambs. But oh my god, are they cute.

They will have to be fed colostrum every four hours for the next 24 hours. Then, they will go to milk replacer every 4 hours for about three or four days. Then, they will be on milk replacer every 6 hours for a while. Eventually they will go on grain and hay.

In the meanwhile, for the first 24 hours, they will probably stay inside. Then, they will go out with their mom. Hopefully Margaret will be ok with them. When we brought them back out an hour after we took them, she still wanted them. Unfortunately, bummer lambs are just that… a bummer. They often are abandoned by their mothers, and have to fend for themselves.

But, it’s only the first six hours of their life so far. It’s a little ram and a little ewe. They’re beautiful. I love them.

It’s worth the amount of time, money, and pain. For sure. But seriously, what a pain.

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4 thoughts on “Bummer, Dude / First Lambs of the Season

  1. The very first lamb we ever had was a bummer — we call them cade lambs — by the time we had brought her up we had learned a terrific amount about the nature of sheep, their communication etc — it was the most valuable exercise and Abi ( our cade lamb) is my most valued lieutenant as I care for the rest AND she’s been a terrific mum herself, contrary to popular belief.

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