Lamb Concern (Updated)

After the amazement of Dot’s delivery last night, the reality of the situation is setting in — and it’s not looking great.

First off, the male (black) lamb is much smaller than his (white) sister. As noted yesterday, I thought the male had been born dead. But he did manage to get up and walk…and, multiple times, get through the fence into the chicken area. So did the white lamb.

This happened, in large part, because Dot wasn’t very much interested in either lamb. She didn’t call to them, or urge them to nurse, or anything else. It didn’t seem like she was rejecting them (we’ve seen that and know what it looks like), but more like she was just plain tired. She seemed content to simply lay on the floor and chew her cud, while the lambs wandered off. I turned off the lights, hoping that with darkness they’d be less adventure-prone.

Didn’t help. I had to search all over for them this morning, and neither was near Dot. But at least, I thought, they’re strong enough to walk. I had Homeschooled Farm Girl help me move Dot and both twins into the now-empty goat kidding pen. I figured that would help the three of them bond more effectively, especially since we had to be gone for much of the day and couldn’t keep close tabs on them.

I tried to get the little black lamb to nurse. He definitely seemed interested, but once the teat was in his mouth he would just sit there. No suckle. He got a little bit, but then Dot started moving. The bigger lamb was much more active, and much better at suckling. She took quite a bit.

After doing some other chores, and helping to get the kids ready for church, I made another stop in the barn to help get the lambs tanked up. The little black one was just so small and weak, he wouldn’t even suckle. We had to leave, so I didn’t have the chance to do more for him. I will try to get something into him with a dropper this evening, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we lose him.

Big sister, by contrast, again nursed well — at least when I held Dot in place. But Dot was starting to act irritated at both of them, almost like she wanted to reject them. It became a huge struggle to keep Dot from walking away when I put either of them on a teat. I’m hoping they work it out today while we’re gone, but I’m mentally preparing myself to bottle feed them all the way. Especially since, in an email exchange with our breeder, we learned that these old ewes often don’t produce nearly as much milk as they did when younger.

I’ll close this “downer” update with something more amusing: while I was out of the barn this morning, and Dot was busy eating hay, both lambs somehow found their way into the corner of the pen, where a barn cat has been raising three little kittens. When I came back, the mother cat was away, but all five babies were curled up together in a big inter-species pile! One of those priceless scenes I really wish I’d had a camera to capture. The kittens even cried when I took the lambs away. Maybe they’ll be back there when we return home this morning…

Or maybe the barn cat will adopt the little black lamb! That would solve everything. And put us in a record book somewhere.

We got home, to a mixed scene. The black lamb, unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), had expired sometime during the day. The white lamb was doing well, but Dot did seem to have rejected her. I managed to hold Dot steady long enough for the lamb to get a good meal; one advantage of Dot’s advanced age is that she no longer has the strength to fight me and escape the way she used to. Her udder seemed quite large and full, so milk production doesn’t seem to be a problem.

I’m not crazy about going out to hold Dot for nursing several times a day, and we may end up bottle feeding eventually. But for now, the lamb needs the colostrum. And we’ll do whatever’s necessary to help her along.

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