Saturday, January 17, 2015

Well, That's NOT What I Expected!

I knew I heard “sheepy baby talk” the moment I walked into the barn.

There is a very special noise that mama sheep make as they bond with their new babies.  It’s fairly hard to describe, but once you hear it, you know it forever.  And, when you do hear it, you know that there are new babies somewhere in the barn.

Sure enough, there was one newborn with the penned ewe. “Roberta” was having a hard time keeping up with the flock, so she was on “stall rest” until she had her lambs. (which was happening right NOW).

But, I heard voices from elsewhere in the barn.  Where?  Here they are!  Doris-the yearling was busily cleaning two little lambs in the lower part of the barn.  Well, well, well.  I only expected a single from her! It looked like she had things under control, so I left her to her duties of ovine motherhood.

Another check of Roberta revealed that she had laid down to push…and well…couldn’t get back up again.  I got her back on her feet. But, it didn’t seem like all her efforts were having ANY effect.  Time to get the Boss for some muscular back-up.

My internal check revealed that there were two other babies inside.  They were very large and all tangled up.  Instead of being in the diving position, the first one’s front foot was turned back (without correction, he was never getting out).  Not wanting to wait his turn, #3’s feet were trying to get out, too.  With fairly little difficulty, they were re-positioned and delivered.  Good night! What a crew!  Over 30 pounds total!  Poor mama!  Nope, I didn’t expect that one, either…

After chores, as I penned the yearling and her lambs, one looked more than a little punk.  She was really little, so she didn’t have enough body mass to keep her warm.
doesn't everyone carry lambs inside their jackets
on their way to the kitchen?
She went to the house in my jacket and much to Tess’ annoyance, was settled in a plastic hopper by the woodstove.
Tess' disdain was palpable

A short while later, she returned to the barn, where she was accepted by her mother as if nothing had happened at all.  Can’t say I expected that reaction.  I was worried it wouldn’t go so smoothly.
Doris and her lambs are reunited

My afternoon check revealed that more babies were happening…right now!

Finally, after nearly two weeks of extra work and worry, it looked like Charlene was finally going to lamb.  My guess was triplets.  Maybe quads?  Since she hadn’t gotten up in over a week, this project was going to take a whole lot of effort on the part of the shepherds.

But, first…

Girlfriend is having HER babies. Girlfriend has always been one of my favorites.  She’s actually more like a goat than a sheep, in that she’s very friendly and personable.  She had the first one with little difficulty. 
It was a nice little ewe lamb.  There was obviously another one coming, but things seemed to slow down interminably…and she started baa-ing loudly. 

It was time for an “intervention”.  

Keeping an eye out for developments for Charlene, I attended to Girlfriend.  The next baby had these big, long legs and a fairly large head.  Once we got his shoulders through…he slid out easily.  But, wait!  There’s another one! The second set of triplets in less than twelve hours.  And…nope…didn’t expect THAT either!

With the triplets on the ground, we left Girlfriend to clean and bond, while we turned our attention to Charlene.  I really couldn’t see how this one was going to end well.  She’s been down for over a week, the stress of her condition was causing her wool to “break” (a sick/stressed sheep can lose its entire coat of wool…this will eventually grow back, but it’s more than a little distressing to have a naked sheep), she was not looking at all well.  Although she was contracting, she was making no effort to move either of her back legs, so delivery was going to be up to the Boss and me.

Working on our knees since she was still lying down, delivery was not an easy one, despite the fact that the babies were right there, just waiting to get out.  The first one was a nice size and seemed healthy.  Charlene showed absolutely no interest.  I went back for the next one. He was backwards.  I may have said a few choice words.  Okay, no maybe about it.  I did say a few choice words.  Since she was lying down, gravity was not working with us.  There was no way to reposition him…so…I said a prayer and pulled him out backwards as quickly as I could.  You really do NOT want to deliver a lamb this way.  Once the umbilical cord is broken, the lamb takes its first breath.  If its head is still in the mom, it gets a lung full of mucus and glop.  Amazingly, this didn’t happen.  Another exam revealed…there were no other lambs. As in…she was that huge and that incapacitated for TWINS.  And, I seriously didn’t expect THAT!

The twins had a combined weight of 24 pounds.  Big babies, but we have had bigger without incident.  Charlene was fairly unresponsive. No, make that totally unresponsive.  She never even nosed the babies.  We had both hoped that delivering the babies would cause her back leg movement to return.  We were wrong. She began to look weaker and weaker.

gathering up "my" babies

I took the twins to the house to warm by the stove. The Boss looked at me knowingly.  “Well, looks like ya got yourself some bottle babies…” I think he chuckled a little.

He headed out to finish up chores and I turned my attention to Girlfriend and her new family.  I tucked them in a jug with hay, food and water and headed out to feed the rest of the flock.

That’s when I heard it. BLAM!

What the?

For some reason, Girlfriend decided she didn’t want that ram lamb nursing her.  BLAM!  She rammed him into the barn wall.  He shook himself and stood up.  BLAM!  She butted him to the ground.

Now, just a daggone minute there, sheep!  I won’t be having this kind of stuff!  I pulled the baby to safety just as she tried to butt him again.

Well, now, I certainly didn’t expect that.  She’d lambed before.  I have one of her daughters. Maybe she just took care of girl babies. (I had a goat like that once) I’d just put him in the box with my other little guys. By the time you get one bottle baby...two bottle babies...what's another one? We headed to the house.

When I returned to the barn I heard more noises.  Lo and behold, Girlfriend was butting the other baby into the wall.  Sometimes a ewe will decide that one is enough.  And, apparently that is what Girlfriend did.  I removed the second lamb and all was right with the world.  The first baby is doing fine.  Girlfriend, however, just earned herself a one-way ticket to the stockyard.  She’s never raised more than one baby…and now I think I know why.  While it may sound harsh, there is just no place on the farm for a bad mother. Did you read this one?

Okay, so…it was a very long Friday.  We had ten lambs born…and four of those are living in the shop and are beginning to think I am their mother.
four lambs in a playpen with a heat lamp
welcome to our crazy life

It's a gross understatement to say...

Well, that’s NOT what I expected!


As a postscript to this very long story:  Charlene’s condition worsened, and she had to be put down on Saturday afternoon. In addition to that, one of the triplets succumbed in the early morning.  While most folks think farm life is beautiful and bucolic and things are always wonderful, (and most the time it is)  I’ll be real honest here---some days farmlife is just plain hard


  1. Rats. What do you think happened to Charlene?

    1. I wish I knew. It was almost as if some sort of paralysis set in. Maybe she injured herself in an undetected way in one of her many falls. I just don't know. That's the truly annoying part...the not knowing.
      On the other hand, we did get the lambs out alive and they are healthy, so the venture wasn't a complete loss. So...there's that. :)

  2. Awww, I did miss this one. I am so sorry about Charlene, but I know you are a good mama too. :) Farm life is sad and hard and triple fold to what people with dogs and cats go through. Not any harder, but tripled at least...(I still miss my kitty. I had her 19 years!) I am sure the babies are happy and healthy and they love their new mama, lol. :)

    1. Thanks, Bobbi!
      I really didn't think we'd have a happily ever after ending on this one. And, I have no idea what happened...and that's the worst part. But, the lambs are healthy and that's the most important thing, I guess.
      I'm sorry to hear about your kitty. That's a long time to have a pet and I can only imagine how hard it was to lose her. We had one for 15 years, and I still miss her, too. The new cat just isn't the same.
      I don't think the lambs love me at all...just the bottles I bring them. lol