March: In like a lamb?

Pansy, posing

We are waiting for lambs, any day, here on Wing and a Prayer Farm.  I put most of the depicted ewes into a breeding group with Balrog, our Shetland ram, last October 8th and from the countdown of sighted breeding to possible birth dates, last Friday, February 25th was the potential beginning of the watch.  I, as always, eagerly anticipate this time of year and also tend to let my enthusiasm and anxiety get the better of me.  Less sleep adds to the mix and I’m likely to think I see a lamb being birthed at the slightest sign.  As in, I swear I saw the beginning of something last Friday and put Maggie on my “watch list” for lambs any minute. Six days later, still no lambs.  Maybe today?

Maggie the Matriarch -this year marks her fourth pregnancy.

Charlotte and I have been repeatedly moving her into and out of the lambing jug that we have in our barn. It is a 4′ x 4′ space off of the main sheep stall that has a warming lamp rigged up for keeping the little ones from chilling during this cold part of the year here in Southern Vermont.  Of course, Murphy’s Law would have it that the temps had been mild, in the 40s, all prior to last week.  And today we are having a snowstorm, more seasonably suited to this time of year, but less friendly to lambing.  Well, we are ready with that cozy jug as soon as one of the ewes decides to go first!  Who will it be?

(Saint) Lily

This morning Lily was yanking my chain as I was letting everyone out to graze/eat hay for the day and she stayed behind.  She followed me back into the barn and waited for me to open the lamb jug door.  So I did.  She went right in, making low, guttural noises.  That is typical for when the ewes begin labor.  Imagine my excitement thinking that I was prepared for this moment and wouldn’t have to worry about her dropping lambs in the cold pasture(as she’d done last year with twins Winky & Dobby!)  Well, not long after I set her up in the jug, plugging the heat lamp in and fetching fresh water, she started to follow me around the sheep’s stall and insisted I let her out to the pasture.  Fine, then out you go!  But I am noticing she is hanging around the barn and chooses to eat in the stall vs. out in the pastures like some of the others.  This will be Lily’s fourth pregnancy.  She has had the sweetest tempered lambs, 5 of them thus far, and four are still with us.


What a time Ruva has given us over the past 3 and a half years.  She was born of Maggie & “Greenleaf” Austin in 2008 and when she was a wee bairn, she had a horrible affliction.  Her vision seemed all but gone, her neck broken, her legs injured.  She couldn’t hold herself up, she was turned into herself like a “C”…it came on so suddenly and none of the other sheep were suffering.  We brought her to the vet where she was treated as though she suffered from Meningeal worm, a parasite that creates similar symptoms.  We brought her home and continued treating her – thought she was a goner but slowly she came around and though we’re really never sure what it was, after she came back she developed to be the strongest and largest of our sheep.  For a month I was giving her Vitamin B supplements and massaging essential oils, particularly Frankincense, into her forehead so I sometimes wonder that is the reason why she has a little too much attitude.  This is Ruva’s third pregnancy, having given us sweet Yogi, Obaamaa and Daisy the prior two years.

No Nonsense Nikki

Here we have Nikki, a two-year old and daughter of Lily.  This is her first pregnancy and so I will be watching her closely to make sure she delivers and begins nursing without a hitch.  She is very friendly and doesn’t mind me handling her at all, which makes assisting her easier.  It is likely she will just have one lamb, as Shetland tend to twin in subsequent pregnancies.  That would make it much easier for her to learn about motherhood, but even if she were to twin, she is a strong and sweet ewe and has a healthy history.

Pansy -practically perfect

It is also Pansy’s first pregnancy.  She is twin to Nikki, Lily’s daughter.  She has the same healthy history as Nikki and seems to be growing very well.  She and Nikki are partners in crime, and I think because of that partnership, they’ve neither suffered from malnourishment.  Whenever the hay or grain comes out, they’re first in line.  I can’t wait to see what her little one(s) will look like!

Winky, adding to the teen-pregnancy statistics in Bennington County

Lastly we have Winky.  I’m not sure, but I think she is pregnant.  It is our practice at our farm to breed the ewes when they are two years or older, not before.  Winky is not quite one yet, but managed to escape often last fall which yielded, I think, in a teen-pregnancy.  She is the one that gave me the slip every other day when Balrog and the rest of the breeding group were assembled in their own private pasture.  She would seek them out and on one particular day, as I toured a pre-school group, she and Balrog publicly displayed affection that I’d wished they hadn’t.  Oh well.  We can only hope that if she is pregs, she will deliver and nurse without troubles.  She is/has been very healthy, though her twin, Dobby, sadly had to be put down last year.  If she has a little boy, I’m tempted to name him “Dobby 2” in Dobby’s honor.

And there you have it, the line-up of “Lambing 2012.” Though today’s weather may have us thinking that March is coming in like a lion, I am begging to differ otherwise.  I hope that for the sake of my nerves and the ewes’ health, lambs are happening soon!