Thursday, February 01, 2007

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.

19 comments:

Mama Urchin said...

So sad and uplifting at the same time.

Stacy said...

I am so enjoying reading your lambing tales. We got our first lamb ewe at Thanksgiving. She was on the small side and didn't get pregnant. We are getting our second in a few weeks, and our third after she is weaned. Thank you for sharing your great stories.

Anonymous said...

So glad that worked out! I am enjoying reading about the lambs. It must be so rewarding to work with your animals.

Anonymous said...

Sophie and Owen have really enjoyed seeing the pictures of birthing ewes and newborn lambs, especially since they are so familiar with pictures of Owen's birth; it makes the 'whole world is a circle' idea hit home. Everyone looks forward to hearing your stories retold at breakfast.

Peg said...

Thanks again for these wonderful peeks in at your farm. I loved the story of the ewes accepting the 'orphaned' lambs. I remember reading in a James Herriott story about putting the skin of the dead lamb on the orphan and the mother accepted it, as if it were her own!

Anonymous said...

It's so nice to hear about the happy ending :-)

Anonymous said...

I am delurking to say "thank you" for sharing these stories and to thank you for your blog in general! I went to college in Western Mass and miss it very much, even though Boston (where I am now) isn't too far away. Reading your blog brings me back there :)

I've loved reading these lambing stories. I'm a science person, but nature never fails to amaze me.
Thanks again!
Allison

Ellen said...

Your posts bring back a flood of memories of when we had sheep (many!)raised pigs, had a milk cow, just about everything but horses. If the walls in our houses could talk, what tales of joy and sorrow they would tell...the triumphs and the losses of being a farmer. Thanks for sharing with us.

Francie said...

OK Kristin, you HAVE to write a book about your life on the farm. I don't know how you do everything you do - mother, surrogate mother, knitwear designer, and all the other things....enjoying the lamb stories. What a wonderful childhood for Julia...

Marit Kostøl said...

So good to hear that both lambs got "adopted"! The Farmer is a great fatmer- and you write about it all so vividly!
Thanks for sharing!
Marit in Norway

Chris said...

Oh my! What a moving story. And just now I realize who you are. I love your designs! I have your Knitting the New Classics and Knitting Beautiful Classics books, and I always flip for your patterns in the magazines. What a joy to know you are also part of the blog world.

Anonymous said...

Lamb adoption! What a beautiful story
--from someone waiting to adopt two little "lambs" (children) myself

Anonymous said...

If that isn't an endorsement of adoption I don't know what is. LOVE it!
Kieren, art teacher,knitter, and kidlover in Berkeley

Marsha said...

Talk about taking me out of my own little world! You lead a very interesting and it seems rewarding life!! Congratulations on a very good "season"! Now, are you embroidering some little lamb jackets?

Anonymous said...

I love lambie happy endings. Thanks! :D

Aud said...

Oh, what wonderful stories. Thank you for let us participate on your daily life. It is so much special to read about these things if you are living in an big town.

Greetings from Colonge/Germany
Aud

nickel martinez said...

hey Kristin this story was fascinating and mom told me about so i checked it out.. the pics are wonderful and i miss you guys already... say hi to mark and lil jules for me...

Mary Ann said...

Thank you for the wonderful glimpse into a world far away from my frantic So California days. Frantic too but in very heartfelt way with a happy ending (or two) this week!

Tami said...

Wow, that is amazing!
Thanks for sharing your story.
It must be tough to have the babies in the winter.