Monday, March 10, 2008

Comings and goings....

Whoever decided that weekends were a time of rest and relaxation never had a farm I guess. This past weekend was a mix of good and bad. Saturday morning Laura came down and we tagged and banded the latest batch of lambs (four for her and two for me). Laura's friend was planning to come by and see the lambs and work his dog in the round pen, so I used Twist to get the flock up and pull out to katahdin wethers and two karakul ewes, all last year's lambs. We then worked our youngsters in the round pen. It never hurts to go back to the basics on occasion, and the close quarters of a round pen can be a help in correcting or reinforcing certain behaviors. I even worked on shedding with Lark, but the space was a bit too tight to be able to really encourage her to come through fast and flank all the way behind me. Still, she did a good job.

Once Laura's friend arrived and had a lamb viewing (the lambs are very popular here--we have visitors we almost never otherwise see who are coming out of the woodwork for the lambs). He worked his dog in the round pen a couple of times. Then he asked if we wanted to come out to his place and work his calves.

It was cold and very windy and I had been out all day, so I almost declined the invitation because it would have been nice just to go inside and warm up. But I didn't, and I'm very glad I didn't. Twist (my open dog) worked the calves very nicely. She also worked the main cattle herd. Imagine my surprise when I walk out to those cattle and Twist and I find ourselves face-to-face with a very curly Hereford bull! Fortunately he wasn't inclined toward nastiness, so I didn't have to run for my life (I've done that before--NOT fun!). The older cattle were a lot more work. I think it would make sense to break them into smaller groups for dogbreaking just so the dog would stand a chance of getting them all to move in the same direction without constantly having to "put out individual fires."

The calves (500-800#) were a blast! They like to run and buck and were very easy to work with the dogs, even the youngsters, who tended to do some not so brilliant work. I was quite pleased with the way Lark worked them, and Pip was a bit of a star too (making up for his bad behavior in the round pen earlier in the day). Phoebe, on the other hand, who had looked positively brilliant in the round pen earlier in the day, apprarently decided that calves were a great source of fun. Who cares of five or six of them split off the sides? I still have three in front of me, and I'm bringing them at a good clip! Then there were the flyby grips and other "yeeha" behavior. She wasn't awful, but she was clearly out to have a bit of fun!

I was happy enough with Lark that I plan to enter her in an upcoming cattle trial. It will be a full open course, which is a bit much of a drive for her, but cattle don't require perfection of line the way a sheep trial course does, so I think she'll be able to manage.

Lamb Update
Last Wednesday, two of Laura's hair sheep lambed. Both had twins, one ram and one ewe each. The spottie ewe (who I call Spottie just for easy reference) had a little white ram lamb and a gorgeous grey-brown ewe lamb> Jimmy absolutely adores that little ewe lamb. I think he'd steal her from Laura if he could! Latifah had a little red ewe lamb with a white patch on each side and a little red and white ram lamb that is patterned almost exactly like a Boer goat. I'd have to call him Bo I think (short for Boer).

On Thursday, my Sarah had a little black ewe lamb. She's a pretty little thing, but she does sort of blend in with all the other little black karakul lambs out there.

We had a two-day respite, and then yesterday morning Old Girl went into labor. She was probably in labor longer than she should have been, and when the lamb finally presented, it was breech, with hind legs folded, coming out hocks first. The little lamb had a back pastern that was bent the wrong way, and the hock on that leg seemed to have stretched ligaments. Shortly after, Old Girl gave birth to a stillborn ewe lamb. We worked hard to revive her, but I suspect she was long dead before she was born. It's a shame, because I was really hoping for a ewe lamb out of Old Girl as this is the last year she'll be bred (she's 13). The other unfortunate thing was that we had several people visiting to see lambs, so they got an unexpected lesson in the down side of farming and raising livestock--loss of life. We were all so busy trying to revive the ewe lamb (Jimmy went to positively heroic measures) and help the little ram lamb that the visitors were somewhat neglected.

Here's Old Girl:

Back to the little ram lamb. His bum leg made it difficult for him to stand. Add to that the problem that Old Girl has milk only on one side, and we had a job on our hands (we think now it's possible that her hind-leg lameness was an indication of something going on with her udder on that side). I milked some colostrum out of her good side, and we got the lamb to nurse it. Then we spent the rest of yesterday alternating holding him up to her teat to nurse and feeding him "instant" colostrum I had on hand for emergencies. Jimmy was up with him a good part of the night and finally came to me at 4:20 a.m. to say he thought the lamb was a bit cold and should we bring him in? I told him that unless he wanted to raise a bottle lamb it was best if we left him with mama to make do as best he could. Jimmy replied "Well, you'll be up at 6 to check him anyway, right?" Um, sure, I didn't go to bed till midnight because Jimmy decided at the last minute that perhaps the splint we had put on the lamb to help steady the leg was actually interfering with his movement in the straw of the jug, and I had sat down for 10 minutes all weekend (literally), so of course I was going to crawl out of bed in the cold and dark to check that lamb!

I did go feed him at 8 and he was doing fine, despite Jimmy's fear that he was going to freeze to death. As of this morning, he is getting up on his own and moving around a bit better. He's standing normally on the turned-under foot, and if his hock can just get a bit stronger, I think he'll be able to walk normally. We're supplementing him with a bottle, and Jimmy is in charge of helping him nurse off his mama. Poor Old Girl has to be the most patient ewe in the world. She has put up with us poking and prodding her, milking her, pushing her around so we can get her in a good position to help the lamb nurse, bottle feeding the lamb, etc., and still she remains a good attentive mom. That's why she'll get to live out her life right here.

Here's the little fellow, sporting a dog sweater, at about 24 hours old.

When I went to feed the main flock this morning, I noted that Hazel (not wanting to miss a meal apparently) came up from the woods at the back of the pasture. As soon as she was done eating, she left everyone else and went back down to the woods. So I took Twist and headed her off (she decided to try to return to the flock when she saw us coming) and caught her. The nice thing about halter trained sheep is that if you can get a halter on them, you can easily lead them where you want them to go! So I brought her up and put her in the jug next to Old Girl. When I finished putting out hay, I checked her and she was down on her side straining and I thought it a bit odd since there was no evidence that her water had broke on anything. When next I checked her she was back up and just pretty much hanging out. About half an hour later I checked and she was pawing the ground. So I went to check on another ewe who's been hiding in the woods, but she had rejoined the flock. So I peeked back in on Hazel and her water had broken. I went back in the house and rechecked her in about 2o minutes to find two ewe lambs already cleaned of their sacks and standing! I got a couple of towels and helped dry them off since she had her work cut out trying to dry two off at once. She must have just popped them out practically together! One is a little red lamb (very similar in color to a tunis lamb) with a white face. The other is a very dark brown, almost black, but definitely not black when compared to the black lambs. I suspect she'll end up looking like Josias or Chocolate Chip.

So the tragedy of yesterday was somewhat mitigated by the appearance of two gorgeous little karakul ewe lambs today.

1 comment:

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

I kept getting that error also; finally was able to get almost all my pics up and it started again...

Will come back and look for pics tomorrow :)