On Thursday, we were still a bit downhearted at the still-birth the day before. The mother was still in the lambing pen, and we decided to keep her there so that we could more easily administer some injections to her – she needed these for three days, as her birth had been pretty invasive. She was very quiet and sad, and I felt rather sorry for her. We were still keeping the lamb and the afterbirth in case we might need to foster another lamb onto her – if another sheep had no milk, or produced triplets for example.
I have seen a few sheep fostered in my time. It is always important to remember that the sheep’s most keen sense is smell. It is by smell she identifies her lambs. When a lamb attempts to suckle a sheep, she sniffs at its bottom, to make sure that it is hers, and any interloper will be pushed away. So fostering a lamb onto another sheep is not an easy thing to do, and it is only ever done when absolutely necessary. I have been present for a few fosterings – one night, a sheep had triplets, which is never a good thing – a sheep can only satisfactorily nurse two lambs, and one will, inevitably, fail to thrive. In the next pen, another sheep had given birth to a dead breech lamb. The smallest triplet was taken, and wrapped up in the afterbirth, and its legs were tied, so it could not stand, and appeared more newly-born. The new mother sniffed at it, and wondered at this loudly bleating lamb at her feet. Tentatively, she licked, and was soon licking away at the little lamb. We were very pleased to see she allowed it to suckle. We kept quite an eye on it but all was well.
Four or five years back, another sheep had given birth to a dead lamb. The lamb had been skimmed, and the skin was kept until a foster opportunity presented itself. Eventually, the skin, by now none too fragrant, was tied onto a lamb which was fostered onto the bereaved mother. It wore the skin for two days, and it was a relief to all of us when it was finally removed.
Late on Thursday night, another sheep had a vaginal prolapse, which is not a good thing, and she had to have a pessary fitted to hold things in. Three prolapses in one year is particularly unfortunate – these were all older ewes, and this generally results in the words CULL being written across their lambing cards.
On Friday, there was another delivery of a large ewe lamb – with a bit of assistance – bring the total to ten lambs (one still-born) from eight ewes. And, as I write this on Wednesday, the seven remaining ewes look bigger than ever, and their bottoms and udders are pinker than ever. Even the appearance of Tall Lamber on Saturday has not frightened them into labour. I return having been glad I was there at the busy stage, and fearful for when the lambs would arrive – hopefully while help is still at hand.