Sunday, April 8th: As some of you have noted, it has been a bit of a longer break than “normal” since we last updated the status of lambing. With this posting I hope that we can close this chapter of life at Whitefish Bay Farm.
With the birth of Winkie’s Binky exactly a week ago, the barn was left without anymore pregnant ewes. The most immediate result for us was that I was no longer having to awake at 2 AM to check on the barn. Based upon the peaceful nature of the barn over the next few mornings, it was evident that the ewes and lambs were also glad to be enjoying more uninterrupted sleep. All of us, sheep, human and feline, have benefited from the extra rest. With the final birth out of the way we also needed to move to a post-lambing routine.
Besides the usual morning and evening feedings, the new moms need more attention than they otherwise would get. We are now giving them extra hay in late morning and before bedtime. While they are in separate mixing pens, each group drinks from manually filled water buckets. These buckets need to be checked at the extra feedings to make sure they are sufficiently full and clean. Feeding time is also a good time to “check bags”. It is important to make sure that each ewe is being evenly milked out by the lambs. A lopsided udder may mean that either a lamb is not nursing or the ewe is not letting the lamb nurse or is not producing milk on that side. Any of these situations may mean that the ewe could have mastitis, or a teat injury, or that one of her lambs is not well. To date, all of the udders are looking good and the lambs seem to be nursing well. Some are growing better than others, but this is to be expected. We are disappointed in the growth of a couple of lambs to date, but as a group they are doing well. This photo shows that moms and lambs prefer to eat at separate feeders if afforded the opportunity. (I must admit that I would just as soon not eat at a table with children crawling on top!) It also shows why this is a good time to check bags.
Tricia is still with us. Her recovery has been slow but it seems to be progressing. (For the first few days we honestly were not too hopeful that she was going to make it.) She is now finished with her course of antibiotics. The sutures that kept her uterus from popping out have now been removed. The biggest challenge has been to get her to eat. To begin with she had virtually no appetite. We feared that all of the antibiotics were also destroying the good bacterial flora in her rumen. For a few days she received a dose of probiotic (a paste with live, naturally occurring microorganisms, i.e. a fancy yogurt). The combination of probiotic and suture removal finally seemed to make Tricia’s appetite improve. We also sought out a source of high quality second crop hay for her, since we had none of our own from last haying season. She now has her own private organic, lush green hay, compliments of Gary, the diary farmer I used to work for. Ever so slowly Tricia is eating more each day. She still does not have the appetite one would expect of a ewe in early lactation. Nonetheless we are hopeful for her.
Tricia is at least producing milk. It is not in the normal quantity but it is enough to kept her two boys, Blimey and Boomer going. We are trying to convince them to also drink from supplemental bottles until mom’s milk supply kicks in. So far we are having mixed results with the bottles.
Two days ago we combined the first two mixing pens. This morning we took down the third and last mixing pen. Now all the ewes with lambs (excluding Tricia) are together in a single large pen which takes up nearly half of the barn. It is such a joy for the lambs to have the extra space. There are anxious moments when the fences come down and the lambs and moms “loose” each other. Within a couple of hours everything is settled and happy. All the extra play also wears a lamb down. A nap in the sun is always nice!
The two of us are trying to turn our attention to other matters. We are close to being ready to offer our fleeces for sale. Last year’s customers will be hearing from us very soon. Notices will also go out to others who have expressed an interest in purchasing a fleece or two. Thank you all, in advance, for your patience.
We have also been “tweaking” our website and blog. There have been some changes in both appearance and content. Most significantly, we have added a Mercantile page. We are now offering our mill spun yarn and roving for sale online. We still have a few corrections to make to the website, but we are getting there.
Thanks for being with us during lambing!