Monday, November 8, 2010

Lambing in the Rain

I always worry about our newest lambs when it rains.  Generally, our ewes take wonderful care of their lambs - a little rain doesn't phase them.  However, the older ewes that we're lambing out this fall have had some challenges.

When we arrive at the ranch each morning, our first chore is to walk through the ewes and lambs and check for problems.  I look for lambs that appear thin or cold, especially after a rainy and windy day like we had Sunday.  If a ewe isn't producing enough milk or has forgotten a lamb, we'll intervene.  If possible, we supplement the ewe's milk production by bottle-feeding the lamb (or lambs) in the pasture.  Sometimes, however, a lamb has become so chilled that we have to intervene more forcefully.

This morning, we discovered a lamb that was barely alive.  He was so cold (mostly from lack of milk) that he had no suckling response.  We caught his mother and tried to milk her, only to discover that she was hardly producing any milk at all (the root of the lamb's problems).  We were able to get about 10 ml of colustrum from her, which we fed to the lamb using a stomach tube.  I then wrapped the lamb in my coat and left it the sunlight while we did the rest of our chores.  We brought the lamb home and gave him milk replacer, again using the stomach tube because he was too weak to suck.  We left him wrapped in a towel next to the woodstove.

When we returned from our next set of chores, he was warm and hungry - and he'd remembered how to suck!  We fed him sheep's milk that we'd frozen during the summer, which he devoured quickly.  As I write this, he's napping on the hearth next to the fire - waiting for the next feeding at 10 p.m.

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