Looking towards the end of lambing

The final days of this year’s lambing are upon us, with the drop pen holding six ewes with due dates that span the next week. The last girl scheduled to lamb is Phoebe (carrying a single) with a due date of March 27th, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that lambing will be finished on the 27th — or that Phoebe will be the last to deliver! Every due date is based on the marking of the ewe by the ram during breeding and confirmed by ultrasound in December, but the date they deliver is actually determined by the lambs within. When they are ready to come, hormones surge and labor begins.

Among this last group are sisters Midnight (with a single) and Natasha (twins), both daughters of Hattie. Koko (single) was due last Thursday, and she’s so late as to be on the outer edge of the window for the Romeldales (+4 days). But she definitely looks as if she will deliver her lamb today — four days late. McKinley (twins) was originally put into the drop pen for a March 7th due date, but she was obviously marked again at the end of the breeding season and I missed it. Based on her 17-day cycle length, I am now looking for her lambs on Friday (+2 days). CVM Ilaina (single) is due Saturday the 25th but could go a few days earlier or later. If later, she could compete with Phoebe for the last ewe to deliver in 2017 — a dubious claim to fame!

Our new lambs enjoy the sunny day outside

As I await these last lambs, my focus begins to shift to caring for the lambs that have already arrived. We currently have thirty-four live lambs in our barn, and that makes the waiting for the last few a bit more fun as I watch these young ones investigate their new environment. Like the young of many species, everything seems to go into their mouths for exploration, so it’s important to keep the area clean for both the coming lambs and those already here. It isn’t unusual for one lamb to find an old corn husk in the bedding and then spend five minutes trying to chew it up. When that lamb drops it, the next lamb coming along picks it up and does the same, chewing and chewing before deciding that it isn’t worth the effort. That husk gets dropped over and over, only to be picked up by the next lamb that comes along — or sometimes stolen right out of a lamb’s mouth by another who finds it interesting!

Lambs check out the hay feeder and the small alfalfa leaves left at the bottom

Another shift for these new flock members is feeding. For many weeks I’ve been filling the lamb’s creep area with both grain and leafy alfalfa hay. Up to this point, very little of it has been eaten daily. This is now changing, with the oldest lambs five weeks old today. I’m finding that I need to refill the hay in the creep area every day, and although our grain feeders hold quite a bit of grain, I’m having to refill them every other day. The older lambs are beginning to drink less milk from their mothers and are filling up more often with the goodies I leave in the creep area. This will become even more true as they reach the five- to six-week-old mark!

The next few weeks will be a transition, moving from the period we know as “lambing” to one that is much easier and less labor intensive, where we simply provide food and shelter and watch the lambs grow. Of course we monitor both lamb and fleece growth as the weeks pass, but that period of spending nights in the barn or getting up every couple of hours to check on possible labor is nearly at an end. And I am SO ready!

 

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3 Comments

  • Elisabeth says:

    Amen to the end of another lambing season!! 1 left to go here but she’s not due till 4/2. Until then I’ll pretend I’m done! Hear Hear to the end of another lambing year!

  • Jane M says:

    I have three questions! First, was the weather cold enough to kill your parasites or is that something you will find out later? And second was Molly the only ewe to have the special ram lambs you were looking for? My deeply ignorant study of the lamb photos says, maybe. And last what about the early/late lamb growth question… I guess it is too early to tell on that. Anyway I love reading about the lambs. And everything else…!

    • Dee says:

      Hi, Jane! I’ll try to answer briefly here, but I’m sure there will be more to come in future blogs! It is unlikely that this winter’s weather was enough to put much of a dent in the parasite levels on our fields. As a result, we are now in the process of making plans for how to keep our flock safe this spring and summer. More details to come once we have our plans finalized, but an added complication may be the currently predicted drought for this summer – definitely helpful for killing those parasites, but not great for feeding sheep! Stay tuned for more!

      As for my special ram lambs, I actually have a variety of choices this year – a truly unbelievable variety, to be honest, after so many years of coming up empty! Once we finish lambing, I’m sure you will hear more about these boys, too, but know that this year, I have many options!

      Your final question about growth has been posed a bit too early yet. We will have our first weigh-in of the oldest lambs in the next week or so, so data collection has not yet begun. Besides the weather, I also tried to apply some newly acquired information on the importance of colistrum on later lamb growth. Stay tuned for more on this as the data begins to roll in!

      Sorry I can’t tell you much more yet, but it won’t be long now! I hope to begin reporting on some of this – particularly the ram lambs – once all of this year’s lambs are on the ground – perhaps as early as next week!

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