Hiding in plain sight

Today is the first potential day of lambing, so although I’m still skirting fleeces, my mind is turning to thoughts of new lambs. A lot of work goes into preparations for the new arrivals, and nothing is as important as the level of nutrition for each and every ewe so that she and her upcoming lambs are as healthy as possible. And that brings me to today’s story.

One day last week, I was busy doing my typical daily feeding in the unbred ewe group. I lowered a bale of hay into one of the hay feeders and was looking the girls over as part of my usual monitoring of the flock (checking for injury, illness, etc.) when a moorit Romeldale ewe ran by. My brain suddenly registered “pregnant ewe!” We had divided the flock after shearing a couple of weeks ago and took the unbred ewes up to the old Storage Barn, so I knew that a pregnant ewe sighting was very unlikely. My second thought was that a very quick glance might have been misleading — my help was really good this year with accurately separating the flock! Each unbred ewe had been marked with a big X on her coat, indicating that she was to be separated out to spend spring at the Storage Barn, and our regular helper, Seth, had separated them out and taken them up for me.

Yet, I needed to check what my brain had registered, so I went hunting through the group of ewes, looking for any without the requisite X. Not finding any unmarked coat, I then checked the group for any moorit ewe who looked like she might be pregnant. This task was a bit more complicated, since it is much easier to see the lack of an X on the back of a coat than to look under the back legs of each sheep to search for a developing udder or to see whether the area under the tail is beginning to soften and get that pink look that comes with late pregnancy.

I had no choice, however. I knew that if there was a bred ewe among the group, she needed more nutrition than she was getting with the open ewes, so I slowly made my way and looked for a pregnant girl hiding in plain sight. Believe it or not, I eventually found her. She was actually there, even though I had honestly begun to question my sense of reality! As I circled around the group — watching the ewes watch me as they tried to figure out what I was up to — I suddenly spied Ossidy, a moorit Romeldale. She stood there with her rounded belly and developing udder, and she wondered what all of the fuss was about!

Ossidy is due with twins on March 9th

My mind was spinning. Why was Ossidy up here? Where had things broken down? Did she not scan with lambs during the ultrasound? Did I mistakenly list her as unbred on the master list used during shearing? Did they mistakenly mark her with the X despite her being on the bred ewe list? Or was her coat first used on an unbred ewe, found not to fit (after it was already marked) and then put on Ossidy without anyone noticing the X? There were so many ways an error could have been introduced. However it happened, since shearing Ossidy had been getting only enough nutrition for an unbred ewe. I quickly moved her down to the bred ewe group and hoped that her due date was far enough out that a couple of weeks of lower nutrition would end up being okay for her and her lamb(s).

When I checked my records, I found that Ossidy scanned with twins and is due around March 9. How she got that X for inclusion into the unbred ewe group, I’ll never know. Her last trimester began January 18th, which means that the biggest increase in nutrition was due a couple of weeks later, in early February. So although we were a little late, it all worked out pretty well. Since the ewes had been sheared, I increased the hay to the unbred ewe group in late January. In early February, I noticed Ossidy’s situation and moved her to get alfalfa hay with the bred ewes. Had this same thing happened to Nypsi, due this week, the situation could have been much, much worse. We dodged a bullet!

Ossidy is now in the general population of bred ewes in the Lambing Barn, nibbling on alfalfa hay, eating protein blocks, licking at a protein tub, and generally enjoying the unusual spring warmth while awaiting her due date with the rest of the group. I continue to go about my days, checking on the sheep and looking for anything amiss — any situation that needs my attention, no matter how unlikely or unusual. You just never know what you are going to find until it happens!


Skirting progress: Progress through the forty-nine fleeces sheared at the end of January has been slow but steady. I’ve almost finished the Romeldales and will shift to colored Romney later today (colored Romney is the last group to be skirted each shearing). I am hoping to post our fleeces to our list sometime late next week or early the week after (sometime between February 23 and March 1). Check back here for more updates!

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