Part 2: The First and the Last

If you missed part one of our lambing season recap, you can read it here.

Each lambing season has its typical ups and downs, but Dorothy tops our list this year for the most special.

Dorothy
On a Thursday afternoon, Andy and I had made plans to go see a movie at the theater. All of the sheep looked fine so we left the kids in charge of checking the barn with instructions to text us if something came up.

Well, something did come up just as the opening credits started to roll. My phone lit up with this message: “Dorthie is starting to go into labor. No rush. I accidentally sent this text to Jill from [a friend’s farm] what do l do”.

My eyebrows raised as I showed Andy the text. I laughed silently at Noah’s faux pas in texting the wrong person. He just picked up the phone and texted the last person on Andy’s message list in his hurry. Been there.

But I wasn’t super worried about Dorothy with the kids. They had just been freshly trained on what to do the day before and have always proved themselves to be very capable with the animals. Plus Dorothy was a pro at this and never had any labor difficulties. But still, we weren’t there to oversee things.

“You better call him,” I whispered, handing the phone to Andy. So Andy dutifully missed the first ten minutes of the movie as he talked things through with Noah.

When he came back into the darkened theater and gave me the recap, we both decided to stay. They would be fine.

Noah: She just gave birth
Me: Good. One? Any problems?
Noah: No problems still one to come
Me: 👍🏻
Noah: First one is a ewe. The second one is out. It’s a ram.
Me: Great! No problems? Are you ok?
Noah: We’re ok no problems. They are cute 🥰
Me: Okay good job. Just keep an eye on them and when we get home we’ll get them in a pen.

All seemed to be well. We settled in. Then we got another text: “She has another one.”

Me: Triplets?
Noah: Yes but the inbillacul cord is stil attached. Can you call us

Andy quickly got up and exited the theater for the second time. When he came back, he reported that the cord had detached on its own and everyone was doing fine. The kids were actually enjoying themselves.

Noah: They are all looking good and healthy. How is the 🎥 Movie
Me: Really good. You guys ok still?
Noah: Never better lambs are doing well
Me: Good! Love you. You’re doing a good job. So proud of you.
Noah: Thank You 🐑

We have amazing kids.

Nancy
Nancy’s delivery was not so smooth. Nancy is Faith’s sheep, and we knew something was wrong when Noah came back to the house on Easter afternoon to report that there was a funny colored fluid in the straw. We went out to investigate ourselves and started to worry. Birthing fluid is not supposed to be milky brown. Our research showed us it could be miscarriage or stillborn.

We called the vet and she eventually came out to help. It turns out there were two things wrong. First, her cervix wasn’t dilated. That meant she had probably already tried to give birth and couldn’t, and her body was returning to its normal state. Second, the lamb was breach—turned completely backwards.

Over the next five hours, the vet gave Nancy some special drugs to relax her cervix, numb the pain, and stimulate the re-opening of the birth canal. Once things were wide enough for the vet to get her whole hand inside, there was still the problem of getting a lamb out backwards.

After much reaching and maneuvering, she pulled one leg out, then the other. Hoping the two legs belonged to the same lamb, she pulled. Hard. Nancy almost went down but managed to stay standing up, which greatly helped our (and her) chances.

And to everyone’s surprise, the lamb came out alive! Faith named our Easter miracle lamb Ned. (Let the Nancy Drew fans understand.)

Caroline
The award for the cutest lambs goes to Caroline, hands down. She delivered the tiniest ewe lambs with the most delicate of features and the sweetest baaa’s. But in between the first lamb and the second, things went sideways.

You never quite know how first-time moms are going to respond in their big moment, and Caroline’s behavior was something we have never seen before … and hope to never experience again. At first, she took right to her lamb and we breathed out. She appeared to be very diligent in licking off her lamb, even to the point of pulling the lamb’s whole ear and tail into her mouth.

“Wow, she’s so thorough,” we said and laughed.

And then Noah spotted a problem. The tip of the lamb’s tail was bloody and missing its wool. I scooched closer to examine it. “That’s weird… Was it like that when it came out?” I wondered. Nobody knew.

As we continued to watch, we saw what was happening. Caroline was chewing on her lamb’s tail! I watched her pull it into her mouth and start chewing. I stepped in immediately.

“Hey!” I yelled, but the lamb had gone behind her mother. I rushed around to the other side and found that Caroline had bitten the tip of the tail off completely. Horrified, we watched as blood steadily dripped down from this newborn’s now deformed tail. In a hurry, I grabbed the iodine and dipped her tail in it to minimize any risk of infection.

But as Faith and I crouched next to her, we realized we were both being splattered with blood and iodine as the lamb instinctively wagged its tail as it wobbled around.

“Honey!” I yelled to Andy across the barn.  “We need to band this tail NOW! She’s bleeding everywhere!”

Banding is our method of docking the otherwise too-long tail of our breed of sheep. Long tails can easily get crusted with manure, leading to infection and other problems. But we never wrap these special rubber bands around the lamb’s tail just after they’re born. That could cause undue stress in those critical first days.

But clearly, we had no choice on this occasion. We had to stop the bleeding, so Andy quickly snapped on the band. As we waited for the second lamb to come (which I eventually just pulled because Caroline couldn’t seem to figure out that she needed to keep pushing), I had to police her militantly to keep her from continuing to chew on her poor lamb’s tail.

It was so bizarre. Thankfully, after her second lamb came and she was moved into a smaller pen with her lambs, she calmed down and stopped cannibalizing her young.

Sheesh.

Wrap-up
Nancy is still recovering from her traumatic birth experience. She just hasn’t bounced back as well as we hoped, and we have some concerns for her ability to carry another lamb next year. But she is Faith’s sheep, not ours. We are in prayer for wisdom in this parent-shepherd decision.

Pearl is one of our most docile and affectionate sheep, but due to an injury last year, we discovered she is down to just one working teat for two lambs. Andy worked hard in the offseason to try to repair the damage from what was probably mastitis that we sadly missed, draining out the infected fluid and rubbing her udder with special lotion for many days. But it didn’t work, and now we have to decide what is next for her. Thankfully, her twin lambs seem to be getting enough milk for now.

But there is one more culling decision that has already been made. One day after we brought lambing season to a close, we found that Daisy had laid on her two-day-old ewe lamb and smothered it to death. We both tried to revive her via mouth-to-mouth, rubbing, chest compressions, and everything else we could think of, but it was too late. A perfectly healthy, growing lamb was lost. What a waste.

And it’s not Daisy’s first mistake: this is the second year in a row that Daisy has killed one of her lambs. Last year, she killed one of her twins in a similar incident. This will not happen again in our barn. Daisy will not be joining us for another lambing season.

But despite these few hard things, Andy and I both agree that this was our best lambing season yet. Now … what to do with all these lambs! 😆

Final lamb count
12 ewes
15 rams

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