Monday, May 28, 2018

2018 lambing

2018 was an interesting year for lambing. It started with 35 ewes. Two ewes, including one yearling, aborted; first time that has ever happened. One ewe died before lambing; first time that has ever happened. It was a tragic loss, as the ewe push her intestines through her vagina. One of the yearlings didn't lamb. That has only happened one other time. Only one of the five yearlings is raising twin lambs. In the past several years, almost all the yearlings have raised twins

There are sixty-seven lambs, a few more males than females. About half the mature ewes gave birth to triplets. One ewe raised quads. Several ewes had milk problems, resulting in eight orphans. The orphans have been weaned and are doing fine. The rest of the lambs are ready for weaning. The first CDT injections have been given. The orphans just received their third vaccination.

Spring was very slow coming. There were snow storms in March. It has been very, very wet. First there was no grass. Now there is an over-abundance of grass. The main group of lambs has been treated twice for coccidiosis, due to the wet conditions. The new ram pen is very muddy. It's not going to work.

501 continues to be a top producer.
Ms. Piggy and her daughter both raised triplets.
Spring was slow to come; now there's tons of grass!
The blind ewe is raising another set of triplets.
The orphan lambs (n=8) are doing well.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Yesterday, BLD 378 gave birth to four lambs. It was the first set of quads since the 2016 lambing season, when Ms. Piggy had four. 378 has been raising triplet lambs, good quality ones, for several years. She was born a quad, so it must be in the genes.

So far, 378 has enough milk for her four lambs. I'd really like to let her raise them. I'm willing to feed her to do it. They are three rams and a ewe. They weighed 7.5, 7.8, 7.6, and 7.3 lbs., pretty equal sized. They are also all RR, that that matters so much anymore. Eddie is the sire.

First set of quads since 2016

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

So far

Thirty-nine lambs so far.  Equal numbers of male and female. Some difficulties so far. Triplets have been problematic. The quads seem to be doing fine. 24 hours old. The first lambs were born on March 8. Seven ewes gave birth on March 15. 

One of the first born (Boris)
Two ewes with triplets have mastitis. I treated both, using Pipestone's recommendations (Nuflor + Penicillin + Dexamethasone). They are producing some milk. I'm bottle feeding them (Pipestone milk replacer, of course). Three drink aggressively. One drinks some. One doesn't drink any. One lacks spunk, so I've been tube feeding him. I'm trying to get the lambs started on a bucket.

Ms. Piggy had triplets for the umpteenth time; two red ewes and a white ram lamb. She doesn't like the ram lamb. I've been supplementing him. Got to keep him strong, so he can compete with his sisters. He sneaks in his feedings, when Ms. Piggy's not paying attention. I'm still hopeful. He hasn't drank much the last few feedings.

I feed young lambs 4x day, ~every 6 hours.
424 was a disappointment. In the middle of the night, she delivered a live lamb, but lost two during the birthing process. If only I had been there. The live lamb seemed a little compromised at first, but seems to be fine now. The biggest heartbreak was 322, whose three lambs died in utero, after the poor ewe's intestines passed out through her vagina before she could give birth.

The other lamb loss was one from 337's litter of three; she has two big lambs to raise. She always has big lambs; her dead lamb was obviously distressed when it was born. I probably could have saved it if I had been there. But I can't be out there every minute of the day. Nonetheless, I kick myself for every lamb that is found dead.

Ms. Piggy had triplets again.
I didn't think I overfed this year, but the proof is in the pudding. All feed is limit-fed, but the hay quality has been very good, maybe too good. Only 0.5 to 0.75 lb. of barley per head per day in late gestation -- so that shouldn't be the issue. Some of the ewes are in too good condition. The thinner ones have not had any lambing issues. Such a balance between not getting ewes over-conditioned, yet having them lamb in good condition, so they can milk well. I'm thinking that in the future I might need to separate ewes into production groups for feeding.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Tragic End

When you have a small flock, your sheep are members of your animal family. You raise them from babies. You get to know them. You add their children to your flock. It's hard to lose one of the "family," especially in such a tragic way.

322 had an angelic face when she was a lamb.
BLD 322 was fine when I checked her last night around 8 p.m. When I went out to feed bottle lambs at 2 p.m., I counted the ewes in the barn, and one was missing. I found 322 dead on the side of the hill. Her guts were outside her body. She must have gone into labor and a perforation in her vaginal wall caused her intestines to go out her vagina. Death was probably quick. Death was also quick for the three lambs she was carrying. It would have been her first set of triplets.

322 when she was 2 years old.
What caused her intestines to pass outside her body is unknown. Such is not a common problem in sheep, but is not rare either. But in her case, it is perplexing, as all of her births have been unassisted. She wasn't that old, was in her prime. It's hard to know how her vagina got torn.  She was carrying three big lambs. Maybe one of them was the culprit.  She was in good body condition; maybe, that was a contributing factor. It was a  tragic end for this ewe and her lambs.

322 when she was 3 years old
BLD 322 was a really good ewe. Born in 2013, she was 31% Lacuane x 69% Katahdin. She raised four sets of twins. Never had a problem. Always lambed unassisted.  Milked like a Holstein. Her twin lambs were almost among the biggest. I have two of her daughters in the flock. Her lambs always looked so good, I wanted to keep them every year.  322 was probably the best ewe produced by my "experiment" with the Lacaune ram. She will be missed.

RIP 322. March 19, 2018

Sunday, March 11, 2018

First Born: 2018

The first lambs of 2018 arrived earlier than expected:  March 8, 2018. It was the day the barns were cleaned. They birth was uneventful (maybe not for the ewe). The lambs were born out in the field, while the equipment was busy removing manure from the hoop house. Boone was aiding in cleaning the lambs. The dam was 319. She had a split set of twins, the ewe bigger than the ram. The sire is Hawkeye.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Another Sad Loss

In two years, 523 gave birth to six lambs. She raised five, five nice lambs. I had her euthanized on July 24. Something happened inside of her. It probably started before she lambed. It got worse after she lambed. Her left side got very large. I wondered if she tore something inside or had a hernia. I'll never know. By the time, she was put down, her enlarged side had practically swallowed her udder.

2017 triplets
But she raised her lambs. They did well. Two boys and a girl. Her 4th lamb had died at birth. During lactation, she had a little trouble maneuvering her out-of-shape body, but otherwise she ate well and acted normal. She was always a very sweet sheep. Friendly, but not annoying. She was destined to be a very productive ewe. So sad that I had to end her life. But she couldn't be expected to live like that. She couldn't be re-bred. There was no other choice. I didn't want to send her to the sale barn or local butcher.

2016 Twin Ewe Lambs
523 was only 2 years old. She was 31% Lacaune x 69% Katahdin. Her dam had died five days after she gave birth to 523 and her sister. I suspect she had a third lamb inside of her. I raised her twin ewe lambs on a bottle. They were big, leggy lambs, with rat tails. They grew well and grew into large ewes.  523 raised twin ewe lambs as a yearling. I kept both of them. In turn, they both had twins this year.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Meet Sofie

While McComb, the dog, can never be "replaced." He was too special. McComb, the livestock guardian dog, has a replacement. Her name is Sofie, so named for the capitol of Bulgaria. Sofia is a Karakachan, a mountain breed that originated in Bulgaria. Karakachans used to be border army watchdogs. Now, they are mostly livestock guardians. Sofie is about 12 weeks old.

Sofie:  first day


It is frustrating when a sheep dies, especially a mature one. It is frustrating when you don't know why it dies. It is frustrating when it dies quickly, but has symptoms long enough to give you hope, then make you second guess what you did.

I am frustrated that I lost a ewe today.  I do not know why she died. Two days ago, I noticed she was sitting with her lambs away from the rest of the flock. She looked a little off. She didn't eat that night, so I started treating her. Her only symptom was off-feed.

By the next morning, she still wasn't eating and was very lethargic, no longer nursing her lambs. I penned her with another ewe and continued treatment. She worsened overnight. She continued to decline throughout the day and was dead approximately 48 hours after I first noticed her.

48 hours before her death

I'm also sad. 480 was a good ewe. She was only 3 years old. I had nicknamed her "Aeroflot." She had big and level ears, like an airplane. Aeroflot (Аэрофлот) is the Russian national airlines. She was a crossbred ewe, out of one of my Katahdin Mules (337). She was 79% Katahdin x 12.5% Hampshire/Suffolk x 8.5% Dorper.

I really hated to lose this ewe. 480 raised a nice set of twin lambs as a yearling. She gave birth to triplets as a 2 year old, but one was born dead. This year, she was raising her third set of twins. They were sired by Eddie. Her lambs are ~40 days old and should be okay without their mom. 480 was a good mom. A good ewe with a great disposition. Never a problem.

With her lambs last year

It's often said, "Where there are livestock, there are deadstock."  Death is a part of raising animals. But it doesn't mean I have to like it. I didn't like it today, especially with this ewe. Sometimes, I wonder why I raise livestock. There is too much heartache (sometimes).

RIP 480 (Aeroflot).