Our lambing season got off to a depressing start, with the first lamb born dying within hours. Afterwards I was kicking myself, as I thought of different "what if I had…" options, and blame myself for it.
Working through it afterwards, I think that the lamb was born ok and alive, but chilled quickly with badly timed cold heavy rain at dawn. I suspect that once it shut down because of cold, the mother moved away and opportunistic crows moved in and killed it.
By the time I found it the lamb was already dead, but I think that if I'd been on the scene earlier I might have been able to warm it up, and at the very least keep the crows at bay.
The mother wasn't particularly bothered by it all, didn't show much ongoing concern, and recovered quickly. Last year we had mothers who grieved for days for their lamb. This one was out and about that day, and its possible she wasn't all that attentive to the lamb. But I wasn't there early enough to know for sure.
So I was thrilled yesterday with the next birth. This time it was twins, and most exciting of all, the mother was caring equally for both of them. This is a new experience for us. With the twins we had last year, we had the mothers decide she would only support one, and reject the other.
The first one chose the smaller, weaker lamb to be her favourite, and turned away the bigger, stronger one. It was exhausting to watch, as the poor chap trailed after her bleating. Every time she paused he would catch up, and when he tried to suckle she would turn and walk off again. Over the day he became weaker. That time I thought it best to give them some time, but a fox decided the issue for us.
With the next pair we intervened, but it all went wrong. The mother confounded us by rejecting both lambs, and we ended up hand-raising them. They were lovely, but spent too much time with us. Now they are adults they are a bit too familiar, and they get up to naughty things. For example, the smarter one of the hand-reared pair knows how to push through our properly-built, tight wire fences. While the rest of the sheep pick over the low stubble in the main paddock, the smarter Lambie steps through the fence and gorges himself on uncropped grass in forbidden areas like the fruit orchard. If I see him at it, I shout "Oy!", and he hurls themselves with a twang at the fence and pops through, then ambles away unconcernedly, with a "What? Me? I've done nothing." aura.
For problem new families, we should have a small moveable pen. The idea is you pen the mother in a 4 x 4 metre pen with the lamb(s) for a day and they are forced to bond. And added technique is to employ and old dog to sit outside the pen and watch them. The mothering instincts really kick in then, and the perceived threat of the dog is enough to get them to bond. I have enough sheep mesh panels to do this.
But this particular new family doesn't need that sort of help, which is great.