Friday, April 20, 2007

Lucy Causes More Trouble...

Ah, Lucy! She started life with the name "Lucky" because her eartag number happened to be 13. Her mother was Lina, an old Lincoln/Finn/Karakul cross ewe I got from long-ago mentor Judy Love...the first person I ever knew who had sheep.

Lincoln = long, lustrous silky wool. Finn = multiple births (pure Finnsheep may have litters of as many as 7 lambs). Karakul = somewhat "primitive" Middle Eastern breed adapted to survival in harsh climates.

Adapted to survival. Lina, and Lucy in turn, have taken the matter of survival quite seriously. A fence between them and the best grass? No big deal. Those two caused more trouble than all the rest the flock together, and passed their crafty ways to their children. But I've respected, tolerated, and refrained from culling them because of their scrappy intelligence and excellent productivity. (Lina lost her life several years ago in a tragic accidental hanging incident.) "Lucky" was renamed "Lucy" by the end of her first year--short for "Lucifer." She was TROUBLE.

She was small, but bred early, and had a difficult first pregnancy due to her petite stature. She prolapsed badly--I had a lot of prolapses that year, which I attributed to a problem with the mineral supplement regimen (not enough calcium, esp. for a "teenage mom"). Since then, she's done well--though she rarely mothers all three of her usual triplets without resisting. When I was hand milking some of my sheep, she was one of my top producers, and is very easy to milk. She is now in her 9th year...quite an old lady, for a sheep, though I have two other ewes about to lamb who are in their 11th year...the number of years since my first lambing season.

Her udder has been huge for weeks, but lambs weren't due until about now. About a week ago, I noticed she was prolapsing again this year...the ligaments in her vagina were slack, allowing pressure from advanced pregnacy to force her partially inside out. This time I was better prepared, and quickly applied a "ewe spoon" ("prolapse retainer") to hold her insides where they were supposed to be, and a webbing "prolapse harness" to hold the retainer in place and prevent her from expelling it. Usually these devices can be loosened after a few days, once the ewe's condition stabilizes. Theoretically, they can deliver lambs right past all this equipment, but I'm skeptical.

This morning, I decided to remove the retainer. I put the harness back on, to hold things in place from the outside.

When I checked the sheep moments before leaving for work, she was showing classic signs of beng in labor. A good reason to incur an attendance point, since the prolapse at her age could foreshadow potential problems with delivery. Also, her history of having triplets and rejecting one meant it would be prudent to be on hand to see that they all got an even break at the start. So I removed the prolapse harness, then called in to work and took the day off.

Within 45 minutes of that phone call, the first lamb was born (while I ran in the house to get the digital camera). Soon, two more were born. The firstborn was up on its wobbly feet even before its siblings were born. The second lamb had its front legs tucked back under it, instead of coming out "two toes and a nose" in a normal presentation. But Lucy (Loosy?) managed to birth it as far as the ribs while I ran for the "lamb puller", and so a gentle tug was all the assistance I gave. Even that wasn't really needed. This was a small ewe lamb, and a bit weak, so I really encouraged her to work on it, and helped out with a towel a bit.

After the third lamb was born and Lucy started to pass the afterbirth, I milked out some colostrum and used a "tube feeder" to give each lamb 2 ounces, to be sure they got off to a good start. I also gave Lucy a bucket of water with dried stock molasses mixed in, as an extra boost. It's warm this afternoon, and she was panting a bit...rare in sheep.

Although the little (6 lbs.) ewe lamb was slow to stand on her own, she and her two larger brothers (7.5 and 8.7 lbs.) they are all three up and finding the udder. So far Lucy seems to love them all.....but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Such a beautiful day for being born! Tonight I'll try to post some of the photos I took. Meanwhile, you can find out more about some of the equipment "mentioned" above at Premier is THE source for equipment and information for sheep care, in my opinion.

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