The sheep have taken over our lives. Each trip out of the house is for supplies for lambing, each conversation is about ewes, each washing machine load contains something smelling of the bergerie. The sheep have kidnapped my husband and are holding him to ransom up in the sheep barn, only letting him out between midnight and 7am. Well, they do let him out for mealtimes too, but only if he promises them double hay rations.
We now have over 240 lambs and the sheep barn resembles a big bead tray divided into different sized compartments. Some of the ewes are grouped together; others have private quarters which they share with their lambs. These ewes have been separated either because they reject their own offspring or because they don’t have enough milk. The lambs in these pens need special treatment.
The “special treatment” can come in bottle form with milk taken from another ewe or filled with artificial milk. Despite the fact that it is time consuming and labour intensive, many lambs are saved in this way. Those ewes who take pleasure in head butting their lambs soon find themselves in my husband’s iron grip. He pins them down several times a day so that the lamb can feed without fear of being knocked away from the dinner table. From time to time a bond will form between the ewe and her lamb and they will then be ready to join the mother and baby group in the main pen.
If the ewe still refuses to accept her lamb then they will stay under surveillance until the lamb learns how to steal from its own mother or from any other available, unsuspecting teat. Artificial milk is only used as a last resort in the beginning as it cannot replace the colostrum that is found in the mother’s milk in the first 24 hours. The lambs that do not receive the real thing have a precarious start to life, but luckily most of them will make it through to Lambing for Beginners Part III.