Lambing season wrap-up 2021
It's too early to say our lambing season is over. There's at least one more to come.
But it's mostly finished.
I was worried about the younger ewe's. They were impregnated before they were 12 months old. First timers that are too young can have problems with the birth, and they are sometimes not good mums and lead to abandoned lambs and bottle-feeding. All-in-all, better to avoid it even though some old hands churn their lambs out like that.
But the ram's breakout two months earlier than I had planned threw everything out of whack....and here we are.
This season the first two births were large, stillborn lambs to first time mums. Good season, plenty of food, and the large lambs were too big to be born easily. The delayed birth saw the lambs suffocate. It was a bad omen, I thought, but since then we've had smooth sailing.
But at the end of the season we've had two more.
One I picked up in the paddock after I had rounded up everyone else. He was in a bad way, bloated, but also with stiff legs, and not breathing well.. I rushed back to the house, burst in with the almost dead lamb and we got some oil into his stomach via a syringe. I massaged him, and got the belch and deflation that was needed.
But he was still poorly. He started to recover, then declined again. Again his legs went stiff, and his jaw locked and he started frothing and on his side his breath laboured. We tried a few different things, including propping him up so he could keep breathing. This went on until 10 o'clock, and I eventually decided he had tetanus. Not usually fixable in a lamb, not at 10 o'clock at night, that's for sure. Not fixable, suffering a lot. There's only one answer to that.
And yesterday one last stillborn lamb. Again, we found this after locking up all the other sheep. We always do a drive-around looking for exactly this...a newborn lamb and mum hiding away from everyone else in a blind corner. But oddly, the ewe was looking directly at me and calling.
I parked a distance away and walked over. Nice, clean looking lamb, but lying flat on its side. Closer, mum called at me, but also stamped a warning and lowered her head, sometimes a pre-charge move. But I went in closer and she stepped back and I knelt down to check her lamb. She stood by and watched me.
It looked ok, freshly washed, but its eye was half open, and the pupil and lids didn't move. Couldn't see any breathing. I went to look at the other eye, so put my hand under to lift it up....this side was like a fresh-born lamb, covered in mucus and afterbirth. It had not stood up. It had been born, and didn't get off the ground. May have been dead at birth, or shortly after, despite the mum attending to it carefully.
She needed time to grieve, so I carried the lamb to the secure paddock, with her anxiously running around me, then put the lamb down and left her to it.
The next morning when I let all the sheep out, she stayed behind, with her dead lamb. I put a small amount of feed nearby so she wouldn't have to go far to load up. She watched me moving around, but again, seemed to be calling to me. Nothing else I could do, and again, I left her. Heartbreaking.
By the end of the day the crows had started making opportunistic attacks on the carcase, as mum wandered away for longer periods. I collected the lamb while mum was temporarily with the other sheep getting a feed. I could hear her calling her lamb later that night, but by morning she was quiet, and today you wouldn't know anything had happened.
The other lambs are great. Most are nearly six weeks old and they are boisterous, energetic, beefy little tackers. Two later births are half their size but they play and headbutt the bigger lambs as if they are all equal. Our one bottle-fed lamb is now fully integrated with the rest of the flock. She still gets one small feed from the bottle but is almost weened.
Post-script: One more lamb arrived this morning. Unfortunately stillborn. A gigantic lamb, needed my help to finish being delivered. It wasn't stuck in a complicated way, but it needed a leg eased forward to progress and that delay killed it.