First Lambs – with Assist of the Shepherds

Our first possible lamb date was April 1st.  April Fool’s Day.  Hmm.  Next year, I may plan that a bit differently…

Rudy keeps his eye on us.

Not just another day…

We awoke to a beautiful, sunny, warm morning on the farm.  Daughter Amanda and her husband Kisu were in Minnesota for a spring visit.  The plan for the day was to do a bit of spring sightseeing but that changed when I checked on the ewes.  On my morning rounds through the barnyard, Shetland ewe Jellybean was showing early signs of labor.  This calm ewe – the sweet, petite Jellybean, has had one set of twins whose birth was trouble-free.  I gathered my lambing bucket and camera and took a seat near to the ewe; my goal was to ensure another successful birth.  Amanda and Kisu also sat down to watch; the Shepherd was busy putting the finishing touches on the lambing jugs.

Once Jellybean was in active labor, it didn’t take too long for a lamb’s nose and mouth to appear.  Hmm.  I should be seeing some hooves also.  According to the books and the births I witnessed last year, the front hooves should present along with the nose of the lamb.  As Jellybean pushed, little progress was made; in fact, the lamb slipped back inside a few times when she stopped to rest.  I admit, I was nervous about having to “go in” to assist; I also didn’t want to rush in too soon.  But I also knew that I could lose a lamb or even the ewe if I didn’t help when needed.  At that point Jellybean was in no distress, so I was trying to be patient, thinking it was better to let the birth progress.  I did push the lamb back in once.  I had read that the maneuver might help the lamb to reposition.  As I put my gloved hand inside, I was surprised at how small the ewe’s pelvis was.  Pretty tight.  Not much more room for a pair of hands.  The poor girl baahed and pushed against the pressure of my hand.  My heart ached for her!  After about 15 minutes more she was back to the where she started, with just a lamb’s nose poking out.  I really can’t remember the time — I think it was about two hours from the start of early labor — at that point Jellybean began to baah louder.  That was my cue.  Time for the Shepherdess to assist!

Help, Please!

I called the Shepherd to hold and soothe Jellybean at her head while I worked at the back end.  Kisu had excused himself earlier, preferring not to witness the event.  Amanda assisted by pouring OB lube on my gloves and preparing to document the event with her Nikon.

The Sheep Whisperer aka The Shepherd

I took a deep breath and let it out – s l o w l y.  Think, Terri.  I needed to check for the front legs and bring them out.  I slipped my left hand in – I could not feel a leg.  I slipped the right hand in and was able to gently fold and bring the left leg out .  Victory – one leg and a nose!  But I could not get at her right leg.  The lamb was tilted at a 45 degree angle – imagine the nose pointed to the “4” on the clock when it should be pointed at the “6.”  The lamb’s right shoulder and leg were tucked down inside her pelvis, toward her bladder.  I just could not get my hand twisted into the correct position to grab the leg.  But I could tuck a finger under the right “armpit” and get my hands around the body of the lamb.  While the Shepherd soothed the ewe, I gently pulled with her contractions and pushes.  After a few more contractions, she gave birth to a beautiful white ewe lamb with a brown spot on her hind leg.  (So she is genetically brown with a huge white spot.)  Amanda furiously snapped pics while the birth took place.  And the Shepherd did a wonderful job keeping Jellybean calm.  She immediately started licking off her lamb and I suctioned out the lamb’s nose and mouth – just in case she inhaled any amniotic fluid.  Within a few minutes the lamb was standing on her legs and looking for the teat.  We all sighed with relief!

We named the lamb Phyllis, after the Shepherd’s mother, who recently passed away.  She was strong and spunky and found the teat very quickly.  Jellybean rested a bit and started pushing again.  It was as I thought, she had another lamb in there.  This time, I was relieved to see two hooves and a nose appear.  After just a few minutes, a black krunet ram was born.  He has very shiny, curly fiber with sugar lips and frosting in his ears and private parts.  He is Ag black so will turn gray.  He also found the teat quickly; all was well.  I dipped and stripped, but forgot to weigh them both.  After I got alfalfa hay, molasses water and let the rest of the flock greet the lambs, I went into the house and collapsed on the bed.  The Three Stooges were on TV.  It was April Fool’s Day, after all.  We came up with the name of Curly for the ram lamb.

Shetland ewe Jellybean cleans off ewe lamb Phyllis

2010 Shetland Lambs Phyllis and Curly (LRO Jellybean X RA Baab)

Today, Jellybean and lambs are doing well.

Amanda and Kisu have flown back home and North Country Cheviot Molly had a single Bluefaced Leicester X ram (Mulesheep) lamb on Saturday who weighed 11.25 pounds at birth.  I am watching him – his mouth is warm, he stretches when he stands up and his tummy is filling out, but he has a bit of congestion in his nose.  I can tell that Molly and he have bonded but she is a ewe that becomes very quiet when people come near.  She just stands still and looks at me.  I want to see him nurse more!  This would be one of those times that a barn cam would come in handy.

BFL X NC Cheviot ram lamb 2010

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tim Schnorr on 04/05/2010 at 12:10 PM

    Wow, What a great reading sis. I felt as though i was there. Your website is very interesting and informative I have to add. I know Blaise and Tyler will be very willing to help out in July when i get back and we come up for a visit. BTW the “Long Suffering Husband” aka The Sheep Whisperer aka The Shepherd Looked like he was very helpful with the new babies and Amanda took some great pictures. I’m glad they where able to witness this event well parts of it at least.

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    • Thanks Tim! It is always fun when you visit so we look forward to it. Long Suffering Husband refers to himself as the sheep and llama whisperer. He always plays “good shepherd” – soothing and calming them, while I perform the “bad shepherd” duties on the animals! Take care and stay safe, little brother! Love you!

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  2. Excellent job, Terry! I love the photo of your husband holding and calming Jellybean. I know how terrifying it is to have to ‘go in’. You’re a pro now! Congratulations on the twins…

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  3. It was 2 1/2 hrs before you went in.

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  4. Good job, and congratulations! Looks like the ewe lamb was getting stressed just like my white lamb was, based on the meconium.

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  5. Yup, Nancy’s right, you’re a pro now Terri! Congrats on the healthy babies. I remember the first time I had a ewe present just a head, it was after some initial complications and I wound up bringing her into the vet at 12:30 a.m. for delivery of healthy twins. I wish I had a husband who would calm the sheep like that. Good luck with the rest of your lambs.

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  6. Posted by Lorraine on 04/05/2010 at 10:46 PM

    Mom would be very happy to know that she is not the black sheep of the family. I just loved this post.

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  7. Way to go, Terri & George! How excellent to have your daughter there with a good camera (never happens). She and Kisu will have a more interesting memory of that visit.

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