We’ve had our flock for nearly sixteen years now. After that much time, it isn’t often that something comes along that hasn’t already happened before. Oh, occasionally I will make some type of genetic improvement in the flock, and in that way see years of work come to fruition. Yet the unexpected surprises are few and far between anymore — but we had a big one happen just yesterday.
In our typical fall breeding season, the adult ewes get bred first and then the ram will cover the ewe lambs in his group. It is generally difficult for the ram to pick up the scent of a ewe lamb in heat when there are adults cycling in the same area. The adults put out so many pheromones that they essentially swamp the faint scent of the cycling ewe lambs. For that reason, we typically have most or all of our adults deliver first in the spring, and only at the end of lambing do some of last year’s babies (who are now yearlings 0r so) deliver lambs of their own. Surprisingly, last fall we had a number of ewe lambs bred very early in the season — and why this happened is anyone’s guess.
Because these young gals bred so early, I figured that the ram would need to mark them again later in the breeding season. Surprisingly, most of them bred on their first marking. Although they’re still youngsters in the world of sheep, they are obviously physically mature enough to lamb.
When we locked the first group of ewes into the drop pen where they will deliver their lambs, Ossidy was among them. I was honestly surprised, since she won’t turn a year old until the end of the month. Her mother, Millie, was also in the group. Since that entire group of five ewes were all due within a two- to three-day window, it was my hope that Ossidy would have the opportunity to see another ewe deliver before her turn came. Watching a delivery helps the young ewes understand what is happening to them when their time finally comes. I thought it might be even better if Ossidy saw her mother, Millie, delivering — that way she would have an even closer connection to the process as it happened.
It was not to be, however. When the snowstorm came in on Saturday night, I knew that at least one of our ewes would deliver as the snow fell — and that one turned out to be Ossidy. Although I watched our camera monitor through the night, not much was happening, even though Millie, Lolita, and Ossidy all seemed ready to go into labor. On Sunday morning, Rick and I walked into the barn to feed the ewes, when I heard the familiar sound of a newborn lamb. Ossidy had delivered her lamb first!
Never before on our farm has a ewe lamb been the first of the season to deliver! Ossidy had delivered her 13.1 pound ram lamb all on her own without assistance. (The ram lamb was later named Peabody, since this is our P year.) When we arrived in the barn, she was busy cleaning him off and encouraging him to stand. And considering that she had never seen a lamb being born, I was amazed at how well her hormones had guided her!
Ossidy is an amazingly attentive mother, and Peabody is doing well in her care. They will spend the next few days in a small pen, getting to know each other and learning each others’ scent and voice. It’s a quiet time during which they can get used to being a family unit before being reunited with other flock members. Lambing 2016 has officially begun at Peeper Hollow Farm, and it started with a pleasant surprise!
Skirting Fleeces: I’m still skirting fleeces without any idea of exactly when I will finish, now that lambs are arriving. I have just finished the Romeldale/CVM fleeces and am on to the colored Romneys! I’m hoping to be done by the end of the month, but I’ll keep you posted.