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!
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!
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!