Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thirty-three lambs

There are 33 lambs on the ground now. My favorite ewe, Darby (#309), greeted me with twin lambs, a ram and a ewe, yesterday morning. Neither lamb has big ears like one of her lambs from last year, who I dubbed "Ears" for obvious reasons.

One of my original ewes (#90, from the Grantsville Stockyards) gave birth to triplets yesterday. She is nine years old. She's had a sore leg (perhaps arthritis), so the delivery had to be a big relief for her. I was hoping she'd only have a single lamb, so it would be easier on her. But these Katahdins are so darn productive.

Twin ram lambs born outsideAt the beginning of lambing, it was mostly ewe lambs being born. Then came the boy run. Yesterday's drop was mixed, 3:2, ewes to rams. Overall, there are 17 ewe lambs and 16 ram lambs. No singles. There are two black lambs and two brown/red lambs. The rest are white. Many have colored markings and spots. A couple of the ram lambs have single brown legs.

One of the ewes that had triplets last week developed mastitis, only the second case of clinical mastitis in seven years of raising Katahdins. She smothered one of her lambs. I took her other two lambs away for a couple of days so I could treat her. I tubed and/or bottle-fed the lambs, who I dubbed "Summer" and "Dirk" after characters in the Clive Cussler novel that I'm currently reading (Trojan Odyssey).

The ewe came back to milk yesterday and I put her lambs back in with her. At first, she was reluctant to let them nurse, but after a short time, she welcomed them back as her own. So far, she and the lambs are doing fine. I've got my fingers crossed that she'll be okay and able to raise her lambs. Bottle feeding is too much work!

My big Weeks ewe (#426) had twin ram lambs for the second year in a row. The biggest lamb was 14.2 lbs. That's BIG for a Katahdin lamb. I named him Thor after the Norse god of thunder. He should make a good stud ram. There's a 50:50 chance that he's RR.

ThorMy oldest black ewe (#22) gave birth to triplets while I was at work: two rams and a ewe. My dad put them in a jug. This is #22's second set of triplets since she had a c-section in 2006. One of the rams is jet black, not a spot of white on him. The other ram lamb is red with a white blaze on his forehead. He's a chunky lamb.

The ewe lamb has a fawn colored face and a brown body. I may keep her. They are a beautiful set of babies. #22 is a wonderful mother with lots of milk. She's in a pen with a 3-year old ewe (#526) who is raising triplets for the second year in a row.

My 10-year old ewe, #11, had twin ewe lambs out in the field. She's not much too look at any more, but she's been a productive ewe. During the early part of her gestation, she had gone off feed. I suspected she had a tooth abscess. I treated her and kept her with the ewe lambs until shortly before lambing.

#11 has raised twin lambs every year. She's never required any assistance or intervention -- my kind of ewe! I have two of her daughters in my flock. Darby is one of them. In my flock, I value easy care, prolificacy, mothering ability, milking ability, and longevity. It's a bonus -- but not requirement -- that the ewe look "good."

Black lambI've got one pen with two ewes (#'s 513 and 624, half sisters) and their four ewe lambs. They -- the ewes and the lambs -- can't decide who goes with who. I've seen all four lambs nurse both ewes. Both ewes allow any of the four lambs to nurse. I haven't eartagged the lambs yet because I'm still trying to figure out who goes with who. It's an unusual situation that may never resolve itself. But at least all the lambs are being taken care of. Katahdins are such good mothers.

McComb is enjoying the lambing season. It's a race to pick up the afterbirth before he finds it and eats it. There's something about dogs and afterbirth! I compost the afterbirth, along with any lambs that I lose. My compost "recipe" includes straw, hay, manure, and leaves. It's nothing fancy, but it works. McComb doesn't bother anything in the compost bin. Eventually, the compost is spread on the fields. Then, it's like a "treasure hunt" for McComb, as he finds leftover bones to play with and chew on.

So far, 15 mature ewes have lambed. There are 14 more to go. They should finish by the end of the month. The ewe lambs, now young yearlings (n=11, I sold 4 yesterday) should start lambing around April 1. Many are already bagging up. Some of these lambs will be Ears's first progeny.

Lamb behind gateLambing has gone well so far. No ewe has required any assistance. The only problem has been the ewe with mastitis and this seems to have resolved itself -- at least for now.

The key to a successful lambing is proper nutrition -- not too much feed, nor too little. Balanced rations are necessary -- feeding the right kind of hay and grain and making sure mineral needs are being met. It's also important to cull the problem ewes so problems do not repeat themselves or pass onto the next generation. It helps to have a little luck, too. Some years are better than others.

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