Thursday, January 25, 2018

Lambing Season 2018 + Thoughts

The sheep have begun lambing. Actually it has been going on since late December. There are about 40 lambs so far from 32 mothers. That means that the twinning percentage isn't too good. Most farmers look for twinning percentage to be at least 150%. It may change as lambing progresses. 

Twinning is a result of many things. It is mostly thought of as result of genetics. Rams and ewes who were born as twins are more prone to produce twin progeny. Feed, health of the ewes and rams, and weather all contribute to the twinning percentage. Last year, we had the highest twinning rate ever. Could it be that the ewes' bodies are taking a year off and recovering? Was the weather poor when they were ovulating and dropping eggs? Here is an easy to understand article that explains how a shepherd can increase their twinning percentage. 

(This mama doesn't want 1 of her lambs so the ewe is tied to the wall so the lamb can nurse and she can't butt it away. Hopefully she will accept her soon.)

This year, The Farmer has a new helper named Andrea. She works on a veggie farm in the growing season and wanted to learn about sheep. Andrea has been a great help. She is learning all kinds of things about animal production and husbandry. Andrea is upbeat and positive and very pleasant to be around. And that 20-something level of energy is so fun to watch. We both try to see if she can exude some in our direction. The other day Andrea got to witness a lamb being born for the first time. She was thrilled to see it and couldn't believe how fast the lamb got up and nursed. (Ewes frequently lamb during the night or very early in the morning when humans aren't around.)

I so appreciate Andrea's help. I have a lot going on here before the release of my next book (more about that soon). We have raised sheep since 1980. This is our 37th year of lambing. Just writing that -- how is it possible? I remember how excited I was when our first lambs were born and how I marveled at the ewes' ability to mother. Most of the ewes just know what to do. I remember the sadness I felt when a lamb didn't make it. We used to name all the lambs. We don't do that anymore -- only one of the lambs has a name this year - Horatio. Not sure where The Farmer got that name but it fits the little guy. He is being supplemented with a bottle because his mom has teats that are difficult to nurse from. His twin figured it out but Horatio was slow to start and probably would not have made it without milk fed from humans. 

After all these years of raising and watching sheep, I have become more realistic and grounded and know that not every animal will make it. I am used to the things that can go wrong. There is not always a good outcome to every situation. I have seen "things" that most of you could not ever imagine (unless you are a doctor, nurse or have seen service overseas). Some days we used to call our farm "Daily Tragedy Farm." Not all days but some days - things just go wrong and there is not much to do to fix them. I think all of this has helped me become a better person - more pragmatic and matter-of-fact when faced with situations in life that are not wine and roses. But don't get me wrong - some days I just want to run back to the suburbs where I don't have to walk on ice, haul in wood for the furnace, and worry about the lives of so many critters, much less the health and feeding of my little human family and the messy farmhouse. But then I realize that I would be very bored and not as fulfilled. I need all the craziness and lack of knowing what comes next that our farm and our lives offer. It keeps me challenged, if sometimes overwhelmed and confused about what direction I should head in. 

(The ice at the barns below. We do have some sand trails around to walk on.)


Michele in Maine said...

37 years is a long time! What a wealth of experience you've gained. Glad Andrea is around to help and eager to learn. Good luck!

Auntie Shan said...

ahh... a sea of ice... [you have MORE! You win!]
I'm dealing with a tad bit of frozen "high tide" myself. The other night when it was warm and then flash-froze, I ended up with a puddle [nearby melt and groundwater] that over ran the bottom of my garage door... yep. FROZEN SOLID. No matter how much chopping I do, it's just glued! So. Can't OPEN my garage to get my CAR OUT. -- Suppose to have another thaw by Friday night and over the weekend..? HOPEFULLY, it'll break free!

Yeah, that sounds like a low twinning rate for you guys. Would that late shearing have had an affect considering the early onset of the really cold weather? Which, we haven't had for so long a period in almost 2 decades... Their "resistance" has probably been slightly bred out of them in that time.
Then again, it could all be a plot hatched by THE DOG... FEWER sheep to chase after, LESS work for her to do... #JustSaying

Anyhoo, hope the overall survival rate holds up. And, your "spirits"!

fracksmom said...

thanks for the update, hard to believe it has been 37 yrs Thought it was closer to 20.

Thanks for keeping it real

Sally said...

I envy you. I really do. And yet, you are my reality check. I appreciate the joys, the successes, and the struggles. xo

Adaliza said...

Maybe the earlier lambing ewes have a lower twinning ratio - something Mother Nature has done to give those singletons more of a chance of survival through the coldest months? Or maybe it's the ram? I remember when I was with a sheep farmer over 40 years ago (OMG - is it really that long ago that I was with my first sweetheart), anyway, he had one year with fewer twins. I can't remember what he thought had caused it though - that's not much use is it!!! I don't envy you that ice - ugh. Spring is definitely on its way here with snowdrops and daffodils coming up faster each day. It's good weather for crochet! Ax

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