Rick and I spent the last few days visiting our granddaughter Emily – oh, and her mom and dad (our son) – in North Carolina. I flew home late today knowing that I still needed to pick the dogs up from the kennel and make it home in time for our bottle lamb Quaker’s bottle at about 7 p.m. When I left last week, I had weaned her down to two bottles per day with our farm helper Seth feeding her the morning bottle when he fed the rest of the sheep on his way to work construction. Our good friends Emilly and Josh Brodeur of Brodeur Family Farms picked up the evening bottles for us, so both bottles were covered for the entire five days of my absence.
Honestly, I really like feeding the bottles myself, but there was no way I was missing the opportunity to see our granddaughter in North Carolina, so I had Josh, Emily and Seth each come to see how I prepared the bottles and how I fed them out. I knew that she would drink less milk during my absence than she would if I were here, since this was also true when Rick fed her bottles – she never drinks quite as much for anyone else as she does for me. Yet, I really hoped that she would relax and give them a try – I hated the thought of my bottle lamb thirsty and wondering where I was.
This evening, I got home just in time to get the dogs settled and make up bottles for the next 24 hours. The weekend before I left, she was drinking about 1 1/2 bottles per feeding three times a day. When I shifted her to two bottles early last week, she was drinking nearly two full bottles each time, so I left instructions for them to always take two full bottles out with them for Quaker at each feeding. I knew that this is a time when the available creep feed also begins to look enticing, so I didn’t expect her to drink more than two bottles at a time – but I was really hoping that she would take the two – at least from someone!
Unfortunately, I heard from all three of my bottle feeders that she never drank more than about a bottle and a half from any of them at any feeding. As I prepared the bottles tonight, I wondered whether I should simply make three bottles – one and a half for tonight and another one and a half for tomorrow morning – but I made two for each and headed outside. As soon as she heard me talking to the ewes outside, I could hear her start to call me from within the barn. When I got to the entry to the sheep pen, Quaker couldn’t contain her excitement, jumping into the air as I tried to step over the panels to enter (I didn’t want her to run out by mistake – she was way too excited!).
We quickly settled down at one of the hay feeders in my usual routine: I held the bottle on its side between my knees and she grabbed the nipple as I tipped it up to start the milk flowing. The rhythmic sucking began as many of my old sheep friends came to welcome me back home – it was good to see them all! It wasn’t long before Quaker was done with her milk for the evening, downing both of the bottles that I had brought out; they had been filled to the top, so each held well over 18 ounces! I guess she did miss me!
It is good to be back – and as much as I will miss Emily, our son and daughter-in-law, I look forward to catching up with all of the farm’s other residents when I make my rounds of chores tomorrow morning. For now, though, it is simply good to relax and watch the sun set in the west, hearing the ewes call their lambs to settle down for the night.