Friday, April 13, 2012

The Special Ones

I try to raise my sheep in a business-like manner, but it's hard not to get emotionally attached to some of them, especially the lambs, especially the orphans.  Over the years, I've had many special lambs and sheep. Not all have been bottle babies, but many have been.

I have to start with George. George is my pet wether. He was born on March 2, 2002. He was named after then-President George W. Bush.  When George was born, no ewe would claim him, so I ended up raising him on a bottle.  George celebrated his 10th birthday this year. He is showing signs of his age, but his appetite is strong and he maintains his "superior" attitude. George is the mascot for my (his) Sheep 101 web site.


I bottle fed six lambs in 2003. Three were from a ewe that died after a difficult delivery. The other three were from ewes that didn't have enough milk for their triplets or quads. I named the six after prominent Republicans:  Rice, Chaney, Rudy, Powell, Ridge, and Laura.  Rudy, the quad, established himself as the most special one of the group.

Rudy (back right corner)

Darby was also born in 2003, but she was not a bottle lamb, just an extra friendly lamb that quickly became a flock favorite. I kept Darby as a replacement. She ended up being a good producer, raising 15 lambs in 7 years. She died unexpectedly when she was 7 years old.  In some ways, it wasn't bad that she died when she did. I probably needed to cull her (due to age), and I didn't want to send her to the sale barn. Better a natural death.


Peter (2006) was everybody's favorite. I think he actually "purred" when you held him. Peter became a bottle baby after his mother prolapsed her uterus, following the traumatic delivery of triplets. She survived, but wasn't interested in raising a lamb after what she'd been through. Her other two lambs had died. One was born dead and she laid on the other one. I was happy that I was able to sell Peter as a breeding ram to a nice family getting started with Katahdins.


Scarlet was born in 2007.  From the day she was born, she's been naturally sweet and docile. She's still one of my favorite sheep. My niece named her. I was naming some of the lambs after western characters that year, and my niece thought Gone with the Wind was a western, so she named her after Scarlet O'Hara.  Scarlet was a twin lamb out of one of my better ewes, so I kept her as a replacement. Counting this year's twin red lambs, she's raised 10 lambs in five years.


Annie was also born in 2007. She was named after Annie Oakley.  Her mother, a 2 year old  black ewe, gave birth to twin ewe lambs. One was black and one was white (Annie).  Mom didn't like the white one. A bit of racism, eh!?  Well, I never got around to putting the ewe in the stanchion, so Annie ended up a bottle baby.  Annie was sweet like all bottle babies. I remember when I sold Annie. Standing there in the truck, she seemed like she was going to miss me. I knew I was going to miss her, at least for awhile. On the other hand, she went to a good home.


Reba, another favorite from 2007, has two connections to the county music singer Reba McEntire. Reba's dam's name was Fancy. Since Fancy is one of Reba McEntire's most popular songs, I named Fancy's daughter Reba.  Another Reba song is "I am a survivor" (from her sitcom).  Well, my Reba was definitely a survivor. She got very, very sick in 2010. I never knew what was wrong with her. I threw every drug at her, but nothing seem to help. Reba stopped producing milk, her lambs abandoned her, and she was wasting away to nothing. My brother was coming for a visit and I asked him to bring a gun, so he could put Reba down. For some reason, though, I couldn't let him do it. A little voice inside me said I shouldn't give up on Reba. The little voice was right. Soon after, Reba started to get better. She completely recovered and regained her strength and vigor in a few months.  She raised a nice set of lambs in 2011 and this year has a pair of crossbred twins on her.  She's raised nine lambs in 5 years. 

Reba, before lambing his year

Lance was born in 2009 when his 2-year old mother gave birth to quads. He didn't look like he belonged to the litter. He was very small, only about 4 lbs, and too weak to compete with his litter mates for milk. From the beginning, I raised him on a bottle, tubing him at first. He spent most of his early life in a bucket, actually the bottom part of a 50 gallon barrel. He wasn't the most vigorous lamb at the beginning of his life, but eventually he blossomed. In one of my many moments of weakness, I decided to keep him as a pet.  He's a feisty fellow now who doesn't like being told what to do.


Jasper was never normal.  He was born in 2010, a triplet out of an 11 year old ewe.  He was small, only weighing about 4 lbs., probably premature, and very weak. I recall having him in the house for at least a week.  He required a lot of tender loving care just to keep him alive, but I did.  I think he had something wrong with him (internally), but I don't know what.  He died when he was about 7 weeks old when I was out-of-town.


2010 was also the year that Ms. Piggy was born. She was a triplet lamb, born to a 2 year old ewe, who didn't have quite enough milk for her three red lambs. I left all the lambs on the ewe, but offered two of the lambs a supplemental bottle.  Ms. Piggy took advantage. Boy, did she take advantage. She ate like a pig; hence, the name Ms. Piggy. Because of her outstanding growth, her red color, and her scrapie genotype (RR), I decided to keep her as a replacement.  She's not been a disappointment. She raised a nice pair of twin ram lambs as a yearling and this year, has a ram and ewe lamb. She is very docile and has befriended my great nephew Alex, who also has red hair.

Ms. Piggy

This year, I made a big mistake with Mutt and Muttley, so named because of  their five breed composition.  From the beginning, I played with these lambs and made "pets" out of them. When children would come to visit my sheep, I would let Mutt and Muttley out of their pen so they could run and jump and show-off to the visitors. Mutt and Muttley were doing very well.  Good appetites, full of pep, and filling out nicely. But when they were 3 1/2 weeks old, both of them got sick, extremely sick, with various symptoms. I lost Muttley.  In 24 hours, he went from being a strong, lively lamb to dead one. I have saved Mutt, but she has still not turned the corner.

Mutt and Muttley

Mutt and Muttley were delivered via c-section. Their mother, a ewe I had never intended to keep, had developed severe infections in all four of her feet. I suspected septic pedal arthritis, but I do not know for certain the cause of her feet  problems. Over the course of several weeks, what started as a limp in one foot became a welfare issue, as she was standing far down on all four of her feet, until after standing for weeks, she finally went down.  She had also stopped eating. I knew that she was getting close to lambing and at risk for pregnancy toxemia, so I had the lambs delivered via c-section and had her euthanized. The lambs were beautiful.  I made them special.  My mistake.


I don't know if Mutt will ever again thrive, even survive. When I found Muttley dead, I teared up. I told myself it was only a silly lamb and that I had a whole barn full of lambs.  But he was special. I had made him special.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Each and every one of them are special as created by God, which distinct personalities and emotions. Don't feel bad. They are special whether or not you make them that way.