This is not normally the time of year for dramatic growth in our lambs. Most of them have reached about 80 pounds, and beyond that point, their growth begins to slow a bit. In addition, the hot and humid weather of an Iowa midsummer tends to keep them from grazing except at sunup and dusk, when the temperatures are a bit cooler. I don’t usually anticipate — and I don’t tend to see — a lot of changes in our lambs over the mid- to late-summer months.
Yet I have been pleasantly surprised that our tiniest lamb, Sweet Pea, is growing! It took a long time to get her into the first true sheep coat (sized at 28″ from back of neck to tail), and even then we had to snug it up with two pins to get it to fit. If I remember correctly, we shifted her into that coat near the beginning of June, mostly because it is made of a lighter fabric than our baby lamb coats. I didn’t want her going into hot summer days wearing the much heavier coat.
Even with using the two pins, that first coat tended to shift over to one side, tangling her up in leg straps nearly every day for weeks afterwards. Sweet Pea came to know that I would help her out on my visits to the pasture — and she became happy to cooperate, not only because it was much easier to walk after I fixed her coat, but also because she came to love the bits of graham cracker that always followed each adjustment. After weeks of this, Sweet Pea began to look more closely at me when I arrived in the pasture. If I carried graham crackers, she was happy to approach me; but if I came empty-handed, she left me behind and ran off to play with friends!
Those early interactions have made her eager to see me when I enter the field. No matter where she might be when I first appear, within a few minutes, Sweet Pea is standing in front of me, seemingly asking, “Did you bring me any crackers?” If I hold up my small bundle or crinkle the wrapper, she’ll start to lick her lips, knowing that a treat is coming. A couple of weeks ago while we were on our trip east, our farm sitter removed the pins in Sweet Pea’s coat. Our little lamb was suddenly fitting into the coat that only weeks before hung to the ground, even when pinned!
Even more surprising was my observation yesterday, when I was visiting the Timber where the lambs are grazing. Sweet Pea was happily nibbling on the remnants of a protein block that we had kept in the field. As I walked nearer, she came forward to see whether this would be a “cracker day” — and as I looked at her, I realized that she is beginning to outgrow her size 28 coat! Her little behind is now sticking out beyond the coat by at least an inch, which means that some day in the very near future, she will have to switch up to a size 30. Wow!
Admittedly, a size 30 coat is not a huge one for this time of year. The coats on the boys in the photo are 4″ longer (size 34) — but this is Sweet Pea that we’re discussing. With all of her early-life issues, I’m impressed that she is actually gaining on her flockmates! Good job, Sweet Pea!