Dilemma Was Busy

How else to explain what happened yesterday? After putting up last evening’s blog post, putting things away in my office and the house, and getting ready for bed…I couldn’t fight the sense that I should put my boots back on and take one last look at all the new animals in the barn. Being a farmer is oftentimes not unlike being a parent: you feel many of the same anxieties and worries that accompany being entrusted with new little lives that are utterly dependant and unable to fend for themselves.

My first stop was the upstairs portion of the barn, where the chicks and goslings are being brooded. My primary anxiety about them concerned the heat lamps; it was going to be a chilly night, and if anything happened to one of the big 250W infrared bulbs we could easily lose a large number of birds by morning. (Don’t ask me how I know.) But everything was perfect with the birds: they were spread out like a solid blanket under the heat lamps, twittering softly as they slept. The waterer was almost empty, so I made a mental note to fill it first thing in the morning. In the meantime, I didn’t want to disturb their sleep.

From there, I lifted the trap door and made my way down the stairs to the sheep area. It was pitch black, so I shone a flashlight all around. Much to my surprise, I spotted two more brand new little lambs, still dripping wet. They were standing unevenly on their feet, near Bianca, who still had afterbirth coming out of her rear end. Scooter, for his part, was standing just on the other side of the fence and watching them protectively.

I’ll have to check, but I’m almost certain that three ewes delivering five lambs on a single day is a new record for us — and especially impressive given that we had only one breeding ram in with the flock. I’ve long thought Dilemma was a beautiful animal, but this new feat has proven his stud abilities definitively.

Given all the new little lambs underfoot, I thought it prudent to leave the lights on in the downstairs portion of the barn overnight. This morning, I managed to get some pictures of Bianca’s new arrivals (which are one male and one female):

Ever wonder how the mother ewes can tell which lambs are their own, when so many lambs of roughly the same size and color are running around? Especially at night? The answer is smell. Each lamb produces a distinctive scent near its hindquarters, and the ewes identify their own lambs that way. Bianca demonstrates the correct technique here:

And as a lamb latches on to nurse, you’ll often see the ewe sniffing the lamb’s rear end to make sure this is one of her own. If it isn’t, she’ll twist away and then butt the lamb with her head.

I could sit on the barn steps and watch these animals for hours. But now it’s time to wrap this up and get back to work.

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