As mentioned in Friday’s blog, we ultrasounded our ewes nearly one week ago, giving us an idea of the lambing season to come. This information not only allows us to feed each of the ewes according to her needs, saving us money on feed in the long run. But it also helps as each ewe goes into labor, giving me a better idea of whether labor is actually finished or if I should stay in the barn looking for another lamb yet to come.
As I suspected earlier last week, Gabby did indeed miscarry the fetuses she carried. She is now retired and has moved into the “Granny” spot within our flock. We no longer expect to see lambs from her — only a nice fleece once each year. She has given us a number of beautiful lambs over her years of service, many of whom are now breeding here or at other farms across the nation. Her daughter Olive scanned with twins this year as a yearling, so I suspect she will follow in Gabby’s hoof-steps. I would not be at all surprised if she began to give us lovely, big triplets beginning in 2018. She is nothing if not Gabby’s daughter in so many ways!
Only half of our yearlings bred this year — in addition to Olive, Romeldales Ossidy and Osage, and Romney O’Chloe (who is the granddaughter of Zoe, our former flock matriarch, who passed away in 2014). The yearlings of our flock would be the adults most heavily hit by this year’s parasites. As such, they were also the flock members least likely to ovulate this breeding season. The fact that these particular girls bred in spite of this year’s conditions says a lot regarding their stamina and endurance — and their parasite resistance, even in these overwhelming conditions. For me, these are the girls to watch.
There were quite a number of adults in our Romeldale flock that are generally known for producing triplets but are open or carrying only singles this year. This group includes Hope (open), and Koko, Lolita, and Ilaina (each with a single). The fact that they are carrying so few lambs in comparison to their norm will give these girls a year in which to gain some weight and get into better condition for future years. I don’t begrudge these girls having a bit of a break!
Not surprisingly, both January and Ivy scanned with “at least three” fetuses each. Ivy gave us quads this past spring, although only two survived (Posey and Pistil, both still with our flock). I have come to know that Ivy will not nurse more than twins, so if she delivers three or four lambs, I hope we can keep them all alive by providing supplemental bottles to the entire group. When lambs end up underfed, it’s a death sentence in our cold Iowa winters.
January generally seems to scan with fewer lambs than she eventually produces. This year she scanned with three, but I was warned to watch for four. We know that all of her lambs will be white, but the number and sex of her lambs will have to wait until delivery. Unlike Ivy, January has no trouble keeping track of all of her babies and making sure that each and every one is well fed. She comes from a very fertile line of ewes who produce large quantities of milk for their multiples. In spite of this, if she delivers quads, I will likely supplement her lambs, too, since four lambs is above and beyond what we expect from any one ewe. I would much prefer to provide supplemental bottles than to find frozen lambs in the straw during a late-night barn check.
The first lambs of the season should be Maisie’s Romney twins due February 15th (but could come as early as the 13th). They should soon be followed by twins from Romeldales Nypsi (due Feb. 17th +/- 4 days) and Molly (due Feb. 20th +/- 4 days). I hope that we will have at least one very dark moorit ram lamb this year from one of our Romeldale ewes, and either of these girls have that possibility.
The last lambs of this lambing season will likely belong to Midnight (a single due Mar. 23rd +/- 4 days), Natasha (twins due Mar. 24th +/- 4 days) or, most likely, Phoebe (a single due Mar. 27th +/- 4 days). While it’s more common to have a single ewe due a week or so after the rest, it’s somewhat of a blessing to have a small group of ewes due this late in the season. They will make a small play-group of their own, moving from lambing jugs to mixing pen and eventually into the flock together as a unit. It isn’t surprising that this type of unit creates bonds that often last a lifetime, as in the case of Romneys Kali and Kabernet, both born the same day. Their mothers’ lambing jugs sat side-by-side, and I watched as the two lambs discovered each other through the common panel and played with each other through that shared barrier. It is a six-year friendship that began within hours of their births.
Although there are still weeks to go before the first lambs arrive, that time passes very quickly. With first the holidays and then shearing in late January, the time will be gone and those first lambs will be here before we know it — and another flock year will have begun.