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A Lambing Journal - Day 4

What a day - eventful, long, exhausting, discouraging, encouraging - you name it.  We ended up losing all but one of the lambs that were born in the last two days - the cold, wet and windy weather was just too much for them. When something like this happens, I always second guess myself - should I have moved them into a barn somewhere?  Should I have left them in a paddock with less feed and where the new lambs were secure rather than move them to fresh feed?  Should I breed for a later lambing date?  We try to get lambs on the ground beginning in February so that the ewes (and the lambs) can benefit from the rapid grass growth that begins in late February or early March.  Usually it works fairly well, but not when we get the kind of weather we had last night.

As far as eventful goes, the rain and wind turned to snow at about 10:15 this morning - as Taff and I were moving a handful of yearling ewes to better shelter.  It snowed like crazy for about 2 hours and then quit.  Snow is an event in Auburn, and we were out in it!

On an encouraging note, Mo and Taff (our two oldest border collies) were amazing today.  They moved the ewes back to the Thompson Ranch, where the Thompson family graciously gave us access to a barn and to a sheltered pasture.  The dogs brought the ewes through 4 gates, across two creeks, and onto fresh feed.  They then helped move the yearlings and the rams to more sheltered paddocks.  Mo wasn't done - he had to move 85 sheep and goats into a new paddock at Sierra College, too.  When I picked my daughter Lara up tonight, she said the dogs looked as tired as I did.

While the loss of lambs is discouraging, I'm also thankful tonight.  I'm grateful to my wife, Sami, for caring for all of the lambs that ended up at home last night.  She did everything humanly possible to keep them going.  I'm grateful to the Thompsons for letting us use their barn and pasture.  I'm amazed and grateful that we have such tremendous dogs.

I'm probably rambling - three hours of sleep in the last 36 will do that to a person.  The next two nights are predicted to be bitterly cold (for California) and potentially snowy, so I'll be checking the sheep every 3-4 hours around the clock.  I guess I'll get to sleep all night once it warms up!


  1. No lambs at the midnight check, but there were 2 new lambs at 4 a.m. One was out of a Border Cheviot ewe, and it was up and dried off. Border and North Country Cheviots are known for having lambs that get up and go quickly, and this ewe is no exception. The second lamb was from a Dorper ewe, and it was still somewhat wet. Taff and I put her in a dry stall with lots of straw. She seemed to be a good mother and the pair should be fine.

    It's 27 degrees and clear, which is easier for the lambs to handle than 37 degrees with rain and wind. We heard coyotes yipping on the hill, as did our guard dogs (Buck and Boise) - they're definitely on the job tonight.


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