It had been days since the last lambing and Kaylee wasn’t showing any signs of labor so I stopped watching her like a hawk and decided I’d have to be patient and she would have her lamb(s) when she was good and ready. When I walked out to the back of the pasture to check the flock today I was mostly checking on the lambs and not expecting to find any changes with Kaylee.
I was in for a surprise! Kaylee was already well into labor when I spotted her, with the lambs nose and front hooves sticking out. I’m not sure how long she had been in active labor at this point, but she continued for at least thirty minutes while I was watching. It is amazing and somewhat terrifying how long they can walk around with a lamb’s face sticking out of their rear ends. Every time I catch a ewe at this stage and it is a prolonged labor I am certain that the lamb isn’t going to make it. They don’t take their first breath until after they are fully born- until then they get their oxygen through the umbilical cord- and even though I *know* this, when I see the still little face poking out, unbreathing, I always think the lamb must be dead. Thankfully, my fears have always been misplaced.
This lamb took a particularly long time being born because he was GIANT. We have had several really large lambs this year which is surprising because the stud ram we used isn’t particularly large. I haven’t actually had a chance to weigh him yet, but I’m assuming he is at least 9lb which is really large for a Shetland lamb, even a single.
This little guy, now named Nigel, isn’t just big- he is also strong and feisty! His feet had barely touched ground before he was up and nursing- much faster than the average lamb in my opinion. The combination of his healthy vigor at birth and the fleeces of both his mom and dad make this fella a great option for breeding when he is older. Unfortunately, he is too closely related to most of the ewes in my flock (mom, Kaylee, is sister, daughter or aunt to most of the other breeding ewes) to keep him as a stud for my flock. Instead, I’m going to offer him up for sale. If he doesn’t sell I would be happy to keep him as a wether- i think his fleece will be nice enough to justify keeping him as a “fiber boy”- but it would be a shape not to let him share is genes with another flock!
I am pretty sure we are done with lambing for the season (though Etta could conceivably surprise us with a late lamb). Here is what we ended up with:
Stud Ram: Honor Flock Toffee from Underhill Farm IN S38604
April 18th—twin ewes (Elizabeth) –Nora (solid dk brown) & Nola (white)
April 23rd—single ewe (Lana) – 6lb –Nina (moorit gulmoget)
April 23rd—single ewe (Liisu)—8lb –Nuku (moorit gulmoget)
April 24th—twin ewes (Kelly) –6lb & 6.5lb –Nellie & Natalie (fawn katmoget)
April 25th—twin rams (Lily)-5lb & 9lb Nimoy and Nosferatu (solid black)
April 29th—single ram (Kaylee)- Nigel (solid dark brown)
I’m really happy with how everything turned out; not only did everyone have smooth, safe deliveries with healthy lambs but we ended up with mostly girls which is ideal. With the exception of Nina (who belongs to Lana’s owner, Natalie) I think I’ll keep all of the girls as part of my flock and, in the future, part of my breeding program. Now I just need to decide which of the boys I want to keep, if any, and if I want to keep them as wethers or possibly keep one as a future stud ram. I’m considering keeping one of Lily’s ram lambs as a stud since a) I would like to get more of her blood line in my flock and b) the only ewe he will be related to for next year’s breeding is his mom, Lily, and it would be easy to separate her for breeding season. All the other adult ewes are from a totally different genetic line so it would be a good way to introduce some new genes and mix things up a bit. The only problem is that I’m not sure I want to use an exceptionally small ram or an exceptionally large ram for breeding. My flock already tends towards stockiness and I don’t want to increase the size in future generations. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem wise to use a ram who was undersized and wobbly at birth….Decisions, decisions!
We’ve had rain more or less constantly since yesterday afternoon, so the ewes have been keeping the lambs tucked away in the barn most of the time. In between showers, though, they venture out into the sun to play.
Nimoy is still spending more time on his own and not at his mother’s side than I’d like, but he seems to be getting enough to eat (he is pooping/peeing and doesn’t have sunken in sides). I’ve tried giving him a bottle of formula but he doesn’t like it and I’ve mostly just managed to squirt it all over myself with very little making it inside the lamb. I figure if he were really hungry he’d be more interested, or at least fight me less about it, so I’m taking it as a good sign. It may just be that he is small and independent and perfectly healthy, but I’ll continue to keep a close eye on him.
I thought Lily would be one of the first to lamb. She started looking huge before anyone else and her udder came in early and has looked painfully full for weeks. Every day I think “today is the day.”
Today she was acting a little bit off– finding weird places to nap separate from the rest of the flock– but she is always somewhat independent and it was a hot day so everyone was seeking out shady spots to nap.
I didn’t think much of it– she has fooled me too many times already! And to be honest, I was a bit distracted this afternoon catching Etta, hauling her across the pasture and then shearing her. We both were of the opinion that it was far too hot and we are both far too pregnant for that sort of effort, but it had to be done. After finishing with Etta I came inside for a dinner of leftover pizza and a shower. I was also supposed to have a virgin pina colada that I’d been looking forward to all afternoon- but my blender died. Anyway….after that I went back out to check on the ladies in the maternity yard, including a newly shorn Etta, and the few pregnant girls left out with the rest of the flock (Lily and Kaylee). But Lily wasn’t with the flock.
Sheep- even jet black ones- are very easy to spot at night if you have a good flashlight because their eyes reflect the light. I soon found her at the far back end of the pasture in their favorite spot under the bushes. As I got closer my flashlight beam reflected off of not one but three sets of eyes, two much closer to the ground!
The twins must have been born not long ago because they were barely cleaned off yet. Sometime between 7pm when I finished shearing Etta and went inside and 9:30 when I went back out to check the flock.
After 6 girls in a row we finally have two little boys. I would have liked girls from Lily because I’d really like to get more of her genetics in the flock, but even if we just keep these two as wethers I think that their fleeces will make it worthwhile. I may even keep one as an intact ram to use for breeding the part of the flock that he isn’t related to. I think that they are both solid black (its hard to tell when they aren’t fully clean and dry yet). The big one is named Nosferatu (Nosie) and the little one is Nimoy.
In the past when we have had twins they have always been similar in size but this time one of them is nearly double the size of the other! The larger one is 9lb which makes him the largest lamb we’ve had so far, I think, and the smaller is 5lb which may make him the smallest we’ve had (though we’ve had several at 5.5lb). And of course together the extreme size difference makes them look even more exaggerated.
I’m a little bit worried about the small one, Nimoy, because he is so little and is a little wobbly, but he was on his feet when I found him and doesn’t have any trouble walking around. It took him a while to figure out how to nurse but to be fair, Lily’s udder is kind of unusual shaped and the teats are tucked behind her legs in a way that the lambs have to really search for them, or she has to lift her leg out of the way. She also kept deciding he needed more cleaning off anytime he got close. Finally I grabbed hold of Lily and made her stand still while I literally put the teat in Nimoy’s mouth. Thankfully once he had experienced nursing he caught on quickly and it wasn’t long before he was able to find the teat by himself and get a nice long drink. I do have a bottle on hand if he ends up needing supplementing, but hopefully it won’t come to that!
Now that Lily has lambed the only two ewes left are Kaylee and Etta. Kaylee is definitely pregnant but Etta may not be. I have a hard time guessing when Kaylee is due– she and her sister Kelly both carry their lambs very well and don’t get giant or uncomfortable looking, even when carrying average sized twins. She has a round belly and a well developed udder so she could lamb tonight– or next week. If Etta is pregnant at all I suspect she won’t lamb for a while, unless she is carrying a small single, because she isn’t round in the belly and her udder is small. I didn’t actually plan to breed Etta this year anyway so I’d be perfectly happy if she ends up not lambing.
I noticed that all the photos of Kelly’s lambs that I posted in the previous post were a bit messy so I when I went back out to check on the new family just now I got some more photos that show the girls (yes- two more girls!) off a bit better!
When I first went out, they were hanging out with Liisu and her lamb. Unfortunately, Liisu has decided that she must protect her lamb from the scary humans at all costs and won’t let me get close enough to grab the lamb and move her to the maternity ward (i.e. the fenced in area by the barn). This makes it harder for me to check on Liisu’s baby and impossible to socialize her, which is a real shame because the baby seems friendly.
Kelly’s lambs haven’t figured out running quite yet, though, so I was able to scoop them up and carry them back to the barn with mom following after. Now they have joined Lana and Nina in the barnyard.
Both girls are about 6lb which is a nice healthy size for Shetland lambs, especially twins. They feel a bit more delicate to me than yesterday’s singletons which isn’t a bad thing. My sheep tend to be very stocky and I wouldn’t mind having a few girls who are a bit more graceful.
As I thought when they were first born, they are almost completely identical. Just like their mom, aunt and half sister. We are going to have to get them colored ear tags or something in order to tell them apart!
After having the maternity ward to themselves most of the day, I think that Lana and Nina are happy to have some company. Thankfully Nina’s markings are almost completely opposite from Kelly’s lambs so there is no confusing which lamb belongs to which mom!
While Natalie and her boys were visiting to meet the lambs born yesterday (in particular Lana’s daughter, Nina, who belongs to them) we noticed that Kelly was acting like she was in early labor. She was staying by herself and hiding in the bushes, standing up and laying down a lot, and glancing back at her sides and rear like she was thinking “what is going on back there!?”.
This sort of behavior can go on a while before the lambs are actually born so we played with Lana and Liisu’s lambs for a while and then took a strawberry pound cake break. When we went back out to check on Kelly things were starting to progress.
Not wanting to disturb Kelly while she was laboring we watched from a distance but thankfully I had remembered to put the zoom lens on my camera we were able to sneak a peek without being in her way.
Before long another little girl was born and we got to watch as Kelly cleaned her up and the little lamb took her first shaky steps.
We thought that she must only have the one lamb this year since she didn’t look huge and was taking so much time cleaning off the baby but soon after the lamb was dry and had its first meal we noticed that something else was happening. In no time we saw two tiny hoofs and a little nose sticking out and several big pushes later another lamb had been born!
Since we were already sitting quietly and watching we had a great view of the entire process, which I recorded on video. The video is pretty long but I’m posting it in its entirety since it is unusual that I actually catch a sheep in labor, much less with a good angle for filming!