If you were to ask me how many lambs have been born thus far, I would just tell you a lot because there are so many that I’ve given up on trying to count. I have taken on the responsibility of running the maternity ward because who wouldn’t want to be around a bunch of baby lambs. This is the upside. The downside is their mothers. Human moms walk on cloud nine compared to lamb mothers.
We have three types of moms, selfish and dumb, just lovely, and bat-sugar crazy. When the lambs are born, we pick them up and bring them down to the maternity ward where they are set up in cubicles. The mothers usually follow because why would you let your children out of your sight. But I say “usually” due to that some moms are definitely not the moms that are “just lovely”. It is at this stage that we know they are either selfish and dumb or bat-sugar crazy. Some moms, once out of the pen, say to heck with their children. They can see and hear that their lambs are cold and wet and alone in the middle of the aisle waiting to be mothered but instead they get selfish and dumb. These ones leave the lambs roaring and go eat the meal out of the silage that none of the other ewes can reach. These ones, once you finally herd them out of the sheep shed, run around in a circle leaving her lambs to fend for themselves. These ones are my favorite…not. It was my job to bring a set of twins down to the cubicles the other day and I was all by myself. I must have spent half an hour trying to get the ewe into the cubicles.
While these moms are so much fun, the bat-sugar crazy ones are even better. When they get out of the pen, they think that instead of following their lambs, they are going to go back into the pen. Instead of trying to find an actual opening they just run and jump straight into bars. It’s just not a great situation. Not only did the mom jump head first into metal bars for no reason but I and her children had to watch it too, it’s just sad. Once concussed and finally in their cubicle they then make it a mission to make your job impossible. When you first get the lambs and mom into the cubicle, there is a checklist of things you have to do. This includes dipping the lambs umbilical cords in iodine, giving an oral dose of medication used to prevent E. coli, wiping off the teats with antibacterial wipes, checking each teat for milk, and getting each lamb to nurse so we know that they got colostrum (first milk filled with antibodies). The bat-sugar crazy moms make this checklist hard. They either do this annoying thing where they do a nose dive sprint around the cubicle knocking everyone and everything over, they barricade their lambs against the wall completely blocking you from the lambs, or they head-butt you. Then when its meal time, they don’t wait for you to come around, they hop the gate and go get it themselves. I was going cubicle to cubicle bringing each ewe meal when I got to one cubicle and there was no ewe. I turned around to find it eating out of my other bucket of meal. That was fun trying to get her back in.
As these two types of moms keep things interesting, I love when a ewe is just lovely. They follow you and their lambs down to the cubicles with no issues. When you start your checklist, they let you do it and just quietly clean their lambs. They even move their leg out and hold still when you’re trying to get their lamb to nurse. These are the moms that help you regain your patience.
As much fun as lambing is, it requires a lot of patience. There was one particular day that I swear they all made a pact to drive me nuts. The moms were stubborn, the lambs were stubborn, it was a mess. At the end of the day I was trying so hard to get a lamb to nurse but the mom moved every time the lamb got hold of the teat. I had to sit up and take a couple deep breathes. I actually said out loud to myself, “You can’t yell at the ewe because they don’t speak English and have no clue what you’re saying”. Sometimes you have to take a break and come back to it. You have to let them do their thing and just try your best to work around it. It’s at these frustrating times that try your patience that you have to remember all the good stuff. Remember how cute the lambs are when they nurse on their own for the first time. You can hear them suckling away and they wag their little tails. Remember how mesmerizing they are when they first start to play. They kick their feet out and use mom as a jungle-gym. Remember how much fun they are when they get moved into the communal pen with four or five other ewes and their lambs. They run around in the straw and take up the feeding trough as a good place to sleep. The lambs are so innocent, cute, and funny that it makes it all worth it. All the hard work, long hours, tiredness, and frustration is all worth seeing their fuzzy faces every morning.