The chilled lamb story continues
Note: Read yesterday's post before you read this one.
When Julia arrived home from school, she was thrilled to see two little lambs in the bathroom. This year she is much more interested in what’s going on with the sheep. Lambing before was just the time when Mom and Dad were distracted and she didn’t get as much attention. Both lambs were resting comfortably but still not acting as they should. At this point, they should have been up, making noise and acting hungry. We added a heating pad to the box and hoped for the best.
Weak lambs usually can’t suck on a bottle. We use a fabulous tool we call a “stomach tube.” Basically it is a large syringe with a rubber catheter tube on one end. The tube has a small hole in it. It makes feeding a weak lamb very easy. First you fill the syringe up with some lamb formula. Then you stick the tube down the lamb’s throat until it stops. You then plunge the syringe slowly and the lamb gets milk without even knowing it. It has saved countless number of lamb’s lives around here.
The Farmer “tubed” the lambs to feed them and then we hoped for the best. By evening, both were up and alert and no longer cold. A feeling of success swept over our odd family. Now we had two bottle lambs to feed. This means a big time commitment along with the expense of buying lamb formula. (Lamb “milk replacer” comes in a 25 lb bag and costs about $40.00. Basically it smells like infant formula. When I was feeding Julia with formula since we had complications and no success in the natural way, I always shuddered when I had to pay whatever high price I did for that one pound can of Enfamil knowing that you can purchase lamb milk replacer for so much less. Don’t worry, I didn’t. But it sure does make you think)
In the middle of the night, The Farmer got up and fed the lambs again. He returned to bed saying they looked good. It made me feel better that there would be a happy morning sight. Indeed, we did find perky hungry lambs. And they were even able to suck from a lamb nipple which makes feeding much easier.
Two days later, after dropping Julia off at school, I arrived at the farm finding the usual mass panic. More live lambs and one dead one. The mother was frantically pawing the dead lamb. It always makes my heart break when I see this. She clearly had fabulous maternal feelings and it was sad that her lamb didn’t make it.
After a while, The Farmer decided to try something we have never had any success with in over 25 years of raising sheep. I went up to the house to pick up the stronger black bottle lamb. When I got back to the barn, he had skinned the dead lamb and the distraught mother was in a pen by herself. We tied the skin around the black lamb with the cold, still wet pelt. Then we put the lamb in the pen with the ewe, stood back and hoped. Within a minute, the mother was licking the amniotic fluids off of her dead lamb’s skin. The little black lamb with the funny coat knew just what to do. She headed right to the udder and looked for food. Within a few minutes, the lamb was nursing and the mother seemed like she would accept the lamb.
We kept the odd couple penned up together for a few days. When we felt comfortable that the mother would take care of the lamb, we let them free to run with the rest of the flock.
The next day, a second mom lost a baby, only this time it was her second twin. The Farmer amazingly knows which one of his sheep is a good mother from year to year. I don’t know how he does it – they all look pretty much the same to me. We decided to see if she would accept our second bathroom bottle lamb and she did.
Natural maternal instinct surely is amazing.