Drawn and quartered


Until further notice, I see these in my dreams.

Current status: run off my feet with lambs. I’m not sure yet how many will need me for the long haul. I’m feeding one and half from the four batch, and the littlest lamb from the three batch. He was getting lethargic and falling behind. One of the kids asked if we could try feeding him. I assured them that it wouldn’t work. It takes a day or two for the new ones to get the hang of the bottle and after a week with just mom, most won’t touch it unless they’ve been hungry for a long time. First try, Jr. was sucking back on the baby bottle like a pro. Now he’s the first to come crooked happy leaping when he sees me.

None of the five batch have taken to the bottle yet. One does ok. I’m trying everybody on little nibbles and swallows so nobody gets dehydrated and Lily gets help with the milk supply. Overfeeding means scours (diarrhea) which means dead if it isn’t fixed. It’s a juggling act with bottle fed lambs to give enough nourishment, but not too much.

Milk is mixed, measured, and delivered at mom milk temperatures. Amounts are tracked according to when each lamb was born. The finicky five group, still deciding who is going to give in and who refuses to budge for sub par, takes extra time to cajole. From preparing through to clean up, each feeding takes about 30 minutes. Times five feedings a day means a lot of time and a short leash for being away from the farm.

Lily with five lambs stresses me. Lambs always do best with the mother. Mothers do not always do best with so many lambs. My sheep advisor (200 plus ewes and 700ish lambs) recommends removing any lambs past three, period. Only the very exceptional ewe can take four, he says. He has a separate barn for all the bottle fed lambs. They can bleat their hearts out until they settle in at the orphanage and grow slowly.

In years past we tried lambs in plastic tubs in the house, the garage, tiny pens in the yard. It is just soooo much work and away from the mom, they don’t thrive. You kill yourself for scrawny, weak, and barely, maybe. When you finally put them in the pasture with everyone else, they run to their mother, and she knocks them down and refuses to have anything to do with them. As is already clear to real farmers everywhere, I am not psychologically designed for farming.

But what if we are asking too much of Lily to raise all those little lambs? She doesn’t seem stressed but am I missing something? Decision still pending. Sleep still disturbed. Lambs fill and empty me both. Meanwhile I am stretched. Tough teachers those little four pound weaklings.

5 Comments to Drawn and quartered

  1. Wow! It is almost like having triples plus babies to feed. Since I can’t help except in giving you encouragement, I will do the next best thing I know to do– pray. I am so glad you shared the process of raising little lambs. I am not a farm girl and so I thought the farm babies just grow up without much fuss or bother. Just remember prayers are coming from Montana for you and your little lambs. “This to shall Pass.”

  2. Leslie Lynch says:

    Let Lilly be until she makes herself clear otherwise. My experience with ewes (many, MANY years ago, and from the filter of a child’s eyes) was that if they are going to reject a lamb, they’re quite insistent. Meanwhile, keep doing what you’re doing – and hang in there! If we lost one, we’d take the skin and put it over a bum lamb and ‘fool’ the mother into accepting the imposter. Do you hear of that anymore? My memory is that it worked once in a while. (I, too, am too softhearted for the business of farming/ranching!)

    • Michelle says:

      Yes, people still do it. Our issue is that all the ewes we have are maxed out on lamb feeding capacity, so there’s no where to put them even if a swap did work. The next few days will decide a lot. So far, so good. :)

  3. Dale Sipple says:

    God bless you and the lambs! Wow!!