Saturday, January 29, 2011
I knew there was a reason why I hated that ewe. I recognized her obnoxious bellow as the loudest of the herd. She always waited until you were right up close to her, filling her water bucket or feeder, and then she would just holler, right in your ear. But there is another reason to dislike this sheep. She is a lamb squasher.
It’s all coming back to me now. Last year she had two lambs. One was very weak and I had to feed it a few times a day with a bottle until it could feed itself. Then came the fateful morning when I went out to feed my lamb and found her squashed, flat as a pancake in the middle of the pen. That stupid ewe had squashed her.
This year the ewe only had one lamb – a big, healthy male. If she lay down on him, he would probably be able to wriggle out from underneath her.
But we put another ewe with her little twins in the pen with the squasher. Eenie and Meenie had been doing quite well, despite their diminutive stature. Until that fat ewe lay down on the smallest of them.
Why does the ewe do this? She has plenty of room in her pen. She is not overly large or unable to locate the lambs under her girth. Perhaps she feels that she doesn’t want to care for more than one lamb and so she purposely squashes the other. Or maybe she routinely eliminates the runt of the litter to allow more milk for the strong lambs. Of course, in this case it wasn’t even her lamb so that’s hardly fair.
I googled the problem but have yet to find an answer. I find this particular “survival of the fittest” behaviour quite despicable.
It was interesting watching the cow, Ginger, when her calf was weak and unable to eat. She spent hours trying to nudge the calf to her feet. After more than a day with little success, however, Ginger began to show her frustration. Instead of standing still so that the calf could find the milk, Ginger would slowly turn in circles to avoid contact. It was as though she had rejected the sick calf.
Thankfully, after receiving that milk drenching and selenium injection, the calf’s suckling instinct returned, it had more energy and was able to latch on to its mother. They were able to bond and appear to be doing well now.
Mocha had her calf a few days later and we ushered the two of them into the lambing area to be warm – with Young Angus the bull hot on our heels. He pawed at the door to the lambing room and bawled. He is very interested in his two new sons.
Mocha’s calf had no problem nursing. That was a relief.
And now it is Big Betty’s turn. (Or, as the Farmer has named, her, Ugly Betty). I don’t think we will be able to fit her into a lambing pen, but we might be able to find a sheltered space in the middle of the barn to protect her new calf from the cold when it is born. It just might be a bit of a rodeo getting her in there.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 3:16 PM