While the whole world seems to face an apocalypse live on the farm just continues as usual. Even though we try to follow the governments advise of social distancing, non of my daily life has obviously changed so far. After three weeks we are finally through with lambing. The two sheep left without any babys are probably not going to have any after all. Besides them we are left with 21 mother sheep and 41 lambs including our 7 bottle lambs.
Even tough we haven't lost any lambs while delivery we kept trying to be around as soon as any of the ewes showed signs of labour. Surprisingly many of them (at least for me as a first-timer) needed assistance or rather seemed to be better of with a bit of help. Sometimes the lambs where just too big so we helped a bit by pulling, but other times they actually got really stuck as they happened to be in the wrong position or just too many of them wanted to come out at the same time. In those 'serious' cases we usually did teamwork, me or someone else would try to hold the sheep and Angela would try to rearrange the lambs so they could come out one at a time without getting stuck.
In Lillys case (she is the sheep in the little clip) I could help out a bit myself. As she was working quite hard without any progress happening we decided to check whether her lambs are in the right position. I can tell you, it's not quite as easy as it sounds to tell a hoof and a nose apart when you just have your hands to feel and everything is slimy and slippery... Anyway they were all in the right position, just a little big so some help with pushing them out was all it needed.
Especially with the older ewes, or when they had triplets some of the mothers unfortunately haven't had enough milk to support all thier lambs. This way we ended up with our three first bottle lambs; Emma, Oscar and Sarah. All three of them were Triplets and would either not get enough milk or wouldn't let thier siblings suck. Rather than letting a lamb fall behind we had to pull them off thier mothers and started bottle-feeding them.
Quite a different, and more dramatic sorry has our fourth bottle lamb - Fritz (not my idea...) - to tell. His mother has been playing around with us for nearly a week. She always looked like she'd burst any minute, having a belly like a zeppelin. When she finally did us the favour of delivering her fist lamb got stuck in the wrong position so Angela had to help with that one already. After that nothing happened for quite a while and when we saw the first bits of the afterbirth or placenta appearing we sought everything was over and she might have just been super fat. But as we continued hanging around doing our regular chores we suddenly saw one single back foot appearing next to the placenta. With quite some effort and a lot of help and struggling the little lamb finally made his way out of his mother. But due to his bad positioning his navel cord must have ripped way to early so even though he was alive, he was still on the edge of death. Only by stimulating we could make him try to breath or rather gasp for air. As soon as we'd stop stimulating him by rubbing his tummy he would stop to breath. Other than the gasping for breath his body was dead and didn't show any sings of reflexes. So we kept stimulating him and started rubbing him dry while the hope of getting him trough faded with every second passing. Suddenly, after a couple of minutes that felt like hours to me one of his legs twitched and he continued to gasp on his own. Some time later his other legs started to shuffle a little too and hope kept rising again. I was so torn inside, on one side it seemed like a miracle and I was so happy to see this little body finally move, but on the other side I didn't want to have to high hopes as I knew we might as well still lose him. But with every minute passing the doubts kept disappearing and pure joy took over. I must have had the widest grin on my face when he finally lifted his head and tried to call out for his mom. In the meantime his mother must have unfortunately decided that her lamb wouldn't make it anyway and declared it for dead. Only when placing the lamb (that was still not able to move) right in front of her she would start licking it off. But just until she found something more interesting - like for example a blade of straw - than she would abandon him again right away. So anyway to try one last thing we lay him together with his first born brother underneath the heatlamp hoping that his brothers smell might stick to him and tricks his mother. The next time we went down to the barn again we unfortunately found him next to the heatlamp nearly frozen to death. So for the second time during his short life little Fritz was fighting to stay alive. In order to warm him up again Angela had to tubefeed him some Milk and we wrapped him in Jackets and hot water bottles and took him inside. The whole rest of the evening I spend on the couch holding onto this tiny little shivering lamb hoping that he would make it. Finally, after a couple of hours and a good movie he seemed to defreeze, stopped shivering and fell asleep. From there on a big cardboard box in the warm basement was his new home for next days and nights. It's un necessary to say, that his mom didn't take him back, so that makes our fourth bottle baby. He was super interesting to watch developing. We do assume that due to his rough delivery and his freezing right after he had a little brain damage and was compared to the other lambs way more unsteady on his feet. Whereas usually the lambs were able to run around the pans within minutes it took Fritz nearly half a week to even walk properly. Anyway after a couple of days in the basement we integrated him into our little flock of bottle lambs and even tough it took them all a little while to accept each other he became part of them. He still is different, there is no point of denying it and he might be a little retarded, but he still is super cute if he wants to and I cant help it but love him. Sometimes, when I do my chores around the sheep barn he still follows me where ever I go and when ever I close a gate between us he sounds like his little world is falling apart. In other moments tough, for example at two a clock at night when you try to feed him his clumsienes just drives you mad...
The last thee bottle babys are all lambs of an older ewe. She has been our 'problem child' since a couple of weeks as she just decided that she wouldn't eat anymore. In the end we kinda kept her alive by feeding her energy drink out of the syringe and injecting her the most important nutrients. Even though she was able to deliver three healthy lambs without any major complication, she hasn't had any milk for them. In the end we had to make the tough decisionto put her down, as she still wouldn't eat and kept loosing condition. But at least her three lambs are well and healthy. After a couple of days we could integrate them into our little botte flock, which makes 7 in total.
So if I thought feeding four bottle lambs would be a challenge, feeding 7 seems to be impossible from time to time. I tried all different kind of stategies and in the end nothing helps but trying
to seperate and hope that the ones waiting wont hurt themselves while trying to climb fences.
Even though it is a whole lot of work caring for them it defenitly is a super great and sweet experience. I just cant help it but have to stop and cuddle them everytime I see them. And believe me, it is getting close to impossible to oversee them. Once they hear you at the gate or sometimes even when you leave the house they all come running towards us, crying out loud for attention and milk. From time to time it is hard to remember that they should be sheep and rather run with all the other lambs than following us, but it seems that they are starting to integrate and race along with the mop.