Monday, April 19, 2010

Off with a Whimper

Ordinarily, we at Maggie's Farm meet lambing season with a sense of anticipation. We look forward to new lambs romping about, new colors, personalities and waggy-tailed nursing and charminng high-pitched bleats.

A pasture full of pregnant ewes can feel like a stack of unopened Christmas presents.

This year, however, we wavered. More sheep = more hay = more money down the farm drain. More sheep means more questions come mid-season when we may (likely will) "disperse" the flock. Our hesitation is evident in the not-yet-sheared state of our ewes, the projects not-yet-completed, the focus on other things.

Well, dulled enthusiasm or not, lambing season doesn't wait.

Henny Penny, our big polled ewe started with hers a little earlier than expected-- those unmistakeable contractions rippling across her broad flanks. Now, Penny's a pro, having produced two sets of twins already, so I didn't worry much. I hustled her into the barn, watched and waited, watched, waited, and when it was bedtime for the kids, I left her a while. Dan came home and we did a barn check at 9 at 9:30, at 10:30, at 11. (Penny was in the early stages of labor. Nothing was amiss).

At 11:30, Dan went down again and found a dead lamb in the stall with Penny. She had licked it clean, but its nose and throat were full of amniotic fluid, a sign that it had been breach (came out back legs first) and had taken its first fateful gulp while still inside. We rubbed the lamb dry anyway, and forced the fluids from her mouth. But of course it was too late.

You'd think shepherds get used to such things, death being so close a companion on a farm, but one never quite does. Each little life is encouraged, coaxed forward, agonized over. Also, we've been pretty lucky here on Maggie's Farm, and aside from one preemie (our first year) and one other breach (our second) we've had strong healthy, lucky lambs four years running. This year, our luck ran out.

I should have stayed up with Dan to watch for the lamb's twin or placenta and see the thing through. But I had to be up at 4 for work the next morning, and so I was sleeping when Dan pulled the second lamb-- also breach and much smaller than the first-- dead, from Penny's womb.

A horrible start to lambing season.

Penny called for her babes for a few days, but she has given up now. Lucky to live in her present of hay flakes, spring sunshine and sunflower seeds, she doesn't think that far back. Our three remaining pregnant ewes (Daisy, Copper and Leela) are taking their time this year, all with big bellies and pendulous udders. All due anytime after the 17th.

I am hoping the rest of the season will go smoothly, joyously, a lambing season as it should be.


Alicia Gregoire said...

That is such a sad start. Hopefully the rest will deliver smoothly.

Chai Chai said...

I'm so sorry. Hopefully the other three can bring you healthy bouncing lambs and a happy barnyard.

Christy said...

I hope the rest of lambing season goes better! I have one goat due in a few weeks.

lisa said...

aw, thats too bad. It is also the reason I am not sure I have the heart for it all. I wish you and the rest of your lambing season well.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear for Henny Penny ... and you! I am sending thoughts for all good little lambs to get their sweet heads in the proper direction from here on out! Blessing to you! In joy, Jense

Anonymous said...

Nice blog you got here... Just droppin' by to say hi!