When I went out to the sheep this morning, I noticed that one of them (Maybelle) did not join the flock in rushing to the hay feeder. She was hanging out by herself, near the pasture shelter, just watching the activity. In recent days, I’d observed her spending a lot of time laying down and straggling behind the rest of the flock. Also, her udder was noticeably enlarged. Given that Maybelle is always our earliest lamber, and now she was clearly displaying the “loner” behavior associated with labor, it was time to take action—especially since the weather had turned overcast and chilly. Maybelle’s unexpectedly early (cold weather) deliveries have led to three lost lambs over the years, and the last thing we needed was a repeat.
Maybelle has two problems: (1) she is the only “polled” (hornless) sheep in our flock. All the others have nice horns, making them relatively easy to catch and lead around. (2) She’s by far the wildest and flightiest in the flock, making her the hardest to even approach. In the past, I’ve chased her around the pasture for 15 or more minutes before I could trap or exhaust her. Fortunately, her advanced pregnancy would mean a short chase this morning — but I wondered how, once I had her, I’d be able to move her from the pasture to the barn.
With a bit of sadness, I ran and retrieved Tessa’s collar from my office. After a small adjustment, it fit Maybelle perfectly. (Note, in the photo below, the rabies tag is still in place. Maybelle is probably the only sheep in the county with such a tag.) However, even with the collar, Maybelle dug in her hooves and refused to move. My solution was to pull on her collar with one hand while grabbing her rump with the other—while Scooter barked in her face. At last, Maybelle began moving. A few minutes later, though I was covered in mud, Maybelle was in the small stall in the back of the barn. (The same one which Queen Anne’s Lace the Goat used for kidding, and which I got her and the kids moved out of just in time this weekend.) I got her some fresh hay and water, turned on a light, and left her alone for the rest of the morning.
When I took a break for lunch, I stopped by the barn before going to the house. Maybelle had delivered two beautiful ewe lambs! Both were still wet, and the afterbirth was still emerging from Maybelle’s rear, but the lambs were up and looking lively. Maybelle was busily licking them off, and I saw one start to nurse before I left. Once the children are ready from a break in the school day, I’m sure they’ll be out to the barn to admire the new lambs. Otherwise, though, the plan is to leave the three of them in peace for the day as they get settled in.
Maybelle is amazing: this is now five years in a row she has twinned (every single ancestor of hers, on both sides of the pedigree, was also a twin…so I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that she’s a reliable twinner).
She comes from a very milky line, and we’ve always wanted to milk her, but with having twins every year…they end up talking all the milk. Plus, when you add her flightiness and lack of horns, even getting her into the stanchion takes more effort than the milk is worth. But her fleeces always provide beautiful wool, and her lambs are always the biggest at butchering time. So who needs her milk, anyway?