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Thursday, May 30, 2013

sheep secrets

I went out into the barn after work and there was a brand new lamb standing there looking at me. Where the heck did you come from? I asked it. Then his mother came sauntering around the corner, licking her lips from the salt in the feeder. I guess she was the one in the lambing room who didn’t give birth and we finally gave up on, thinking she mustn’t be pregnant. I guess she had a secret. The other lambs are several weeks old now; I guess Rambo just took a break before he conceived this one.

Which brings me to another question. Which lambs are Rambo’s and which are Philip’s? The Farmer put a chalk halter on each ram so they would mark the ewes they caught, but I think the results were inconclusive. Neither halter fit properly and the only things that got chalked were the rams’ kneecaps.

We should be able to look at the lambs and tell which ram was the sire by their colouring. Rambo is a pure white Rideau and Philip is a black-faced Suffolk. But all but two of my lambs have some sort of colour. I can’t imagine Rambo, our senior ram, only fathered two lambs. The majority of lambs have some sort of black markings, so they are obviously Philip’s. But what about the beige lambs? They have me confused. I read that it’s possible for some animals to be impregnated by two different studs. So I’m wondering if those little beige ones had two daddies. I told the Farmer my theory. He thinks I’m nuts. Another secret the sheep are keeping, I guess.

Then there’s the ewe lambs. I prefer to keep them away from the rams until they are a good year old because I find if they are too young the birth is too hard for them. So I tell them, “if the rams ask you to dance, just say no. Go sit in the corner and tell them you have two left feet…”

Again, the Farmer thinks I’m nuts. He says they are plenty old enough at nine months to mate with the rams. So they were in the herd with the rest of the ewes last December when the rams were taken out of lock-up. But for some reason, they didn’t go into season, and they didn’t attract the rams. It’s the first time that has happened on this farm. 148 days later, they did not have udders and they did not give birth. They are the fattest sheep on the farm now, because all they do is eat. They aren’t feeding any young. They have secrets too.

The Farmer calls the ewe lambs The Seven Sisters. They are all big, fluffy Suffolk sheep. These girls waddle around all day, eating and sleeping and chasing each other, like a bunch of irresponsible teenagers. When I go out to the barnyard and call my bottle baby over for a feeding, they crowd around me and sniff at the milk. I tell them it’s ok to dance with the rams now. They look me right in the eye as if they understand.

These sheep will be among our biggest and healthiest ewes next year. It will be a great start to our next generation. The Suffolk ram seems to throw big lambs (see; I’m learning the lingo) that are hardy and strong.

We think lambing season is over for another year. But we could be wrong. Sometimes the animals know things we don’t know.

Chicken Milkface is still thriving, on his two daily bottles of milk replacer, but I think he is also eating grass now because I saw a few blades sticking out his mouth. That’s a good sign, because he can’t just live on formula the rest of his life.

We’ve been lucky; so far I haven’t seen one coyote on the property and we haven’t lost a lamb, as far as I can tell. It has been a good season. Next on the agenda: give everyone their shots and haircuts. And then we’re pretty much ‘on holiday’ until the winter again.

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