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Monday, April 25, 2011

Lulu the overprotective mother


It’s a good thing we had a break from the ice pellets, snow flurries and gale-force winds Tuesday because that was the afternoon Lulu decided to have her lambs. Outside.
I was looking for the horse and found her, standing with Donkey, on a hill of hay beyond the feeders. Wobbling around beneath their legs were three little black-and-white lambs. Mama Lulu was busy trying to coax her babes out from under the huge Belgian. Fearless, she repeatedly head butted Misty’s legs in an attempt to get the massive horse to move. As I approached, the horse and Donkey moved toward me and the sheep family was reunited. But I had to get them in the barn.
First I scooped up the lambs – all three of them. Lulu started screaming at me. Then I started backing up toward the barn, and her job was to follow. Usually this technique works pretty well. But normally the curious horse is not there, getting in the way and blocking the ewe’s view of her lambs. Lulu scurried back to the spot where she had given birth. She ran around in circles, calling for her lambs. I pushed Misty out of the way and went back to Lulu. She saw the lambs in my arms, commented and followed me for a moment, then something distracted her and she ran back to the birthing spot again.
I decided to try something else. I went into the barn with the lambs and deposited two of them in the pen. I took the third one back outside as bait. The lamb’s cries summoned the mother, who suddenly charged at me, head butting my leg. Ow! I almost dropped the lamb. I backed up as fast as I could, tripping over muddy tractor ruts. Lulu charged me again. “Hey! I’m trying to help you!” She was intent on getting that lamb out of my arms. Finally we were in the barn. I opened the gate, put the third lamb in the pen, and the other lambs started crying. Lulu heard them and ran toward their call. I shoved her fluffy butt into the pen with my boot and slammed the gate shut behind her. She grumbled and knickered at her lambs, touching each one on the top of the head with her nose, to count them.
“One, two, three. Huey, Dewey and Louie. They’re all there, mama.”
I set up the pen with hay, fresh water and a bowl of sweetfeed for the lactating ewe. It didn’t take her long to get used to the idea of being locked up. She had a nice, dry pen with room service.
Sheep only have two teats so naturally you tend to worry when there are more than two lambs born. I went back outside a few hours later and all three were up and feeding. Their hips were rounded (if the tummy is empty their hips hollow out) and they seemed to be content. I thought I should give them each 50mls of milk replacer anyway, just to top them up.
I leaned over the gate and reached as far into the pen as I could. I couldn’t reach a lamb. They looked at me, sniffed my gloves, but stayed just out of reach. The ewe turned to look at me. She squared herself toward me, and backed up a couple steps. Uh-oh. I could sense another head butt coming on. I straightened up and looked at her. She stamped her foot in warning.
Then I remembered the shepherd’s crook. I had seen the Farmer pick up lambs this way. I dipped the hook into the pen, wiggled it under a belly and scooped the lamb up.
“Haha. Got your lamb,” I told mama. She grumbled at me, and pushed her nose through the gate to sniff at the bottle of milk I was feeding her young.
Oh well, better an overprotective mother than one with no maternal instincts at all.

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