Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Project "Lamb Mama" Continues

A month ago today, the Boss and I worked incredibly hard to help birth out twin lambs.  You may have read about it in How I Became a Sheep Mother.

It seemed appropriate to take a little look at how “Baab” and “Baa-bette” have progressed since then. Short story...they are THRIVING!

In the past month, I have fed each of them 137 times.  (It should have been 138, but the Boss took a turn.) Believe me…I appreciate our ewes! Every one of those trips meant that I mixed up some milk replacer (lamb formula) before donning my coveralls, coat, gloves, boots and headband and walking out to the barn.  On my return, the entire winter wardrobe had to be discarded (and sometimes dried by the woodstove) and the baby bottles rinsed.

The first week, they were given a bottle every 4 hours. That’s 6 times a day…and…all night, too!  Since the second week, the bottles have become bigger and they only get fed 4 times a day. Thankfully, the schedule can be arranged so that their last feeding of the day is 10pm and the first one is at 5am, and I actually get to sleep again. Believe me…now, I really appreciate the mothering effort put forth by our ewes!

Next week, they will graduate to 3 times a day.  I can guarantee that they will NOT like that change of plans. By the time they are eight weeks old, they will be weaned completely from their bottles. They have been eating grain and hay in small amounts since they were about a week old, so they are assured of good nutrition even after the weaning.

at the beginning of the project
Generally, bottle lambs don’t do very well.  The growth rate of bottle lambs is often poor at best, because they often have many other issues to overcome.  But, these guys are making me look like an amazing lamb mama.  As of 2/11, “Baab” weighed in at 29.4#, while “Baa-bette” is slightly smaller at 27.8#.  In order to have some reference of desirable weights…the naturally born, dam raised lambs born the same day weigh just a little over 30# each.  A lamb’s weight should be about one pound for every day of its life…until it’s about 3 months old and then weight gain slows considerably.

I may have stumbled on to a good model for any future lamb projects. Instead of bringing them in the house…or setting up my “lamb hospital” in the shop, these little guys have stayed in the barn the whole time.  They were penned for a little more than a week so they could get used to the whole bottle lamb routine.  The creep pen is outfitted with a couple of heat lamps that provide a little break from the frigid overnight temperatures. By living in the barn they have constant access to hay and water, as well.  So, they haven’t suffered in any way.

Here is a video of them eating their lunch on Sunday afternoon (2/10/13).  

Notice how rambunctious they are! This only becomes more energetic as they grow. Again, I truly appreciate the ewes.  When lambs are quite hungry, they will actually knock their mother off her feet as they butt the udder for the milk! Yee-ouch! 

"Baa-b" coming when he was called
These two are more than a little amusing when they notice me from a distance and come screaming along, looking for something to eat.  Sometimes it almost seems like they are smiling.

While I know that there is somebody somewhere who would question the economics and sanity of my efforts…but, we couldn’t just let the little things die.  The added expense of milk replacer will indeed eat into the bottom line when we go to harvest, but we are still ahead at this point.  Each and every lamb is quite valuable to us and we try to be a good steward of what we have been given. As for my sanity…that is another matter...

We are more than a little pleased with the results of Project Lamb Mama so far.

    Here's to a farm success story!  

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