Saturday, 18 March 2017

Lambing 2017 Day 10 - Monday

Sunday night, as usual, I went to bed, setting my alarm for 3.30 and determined to wake up this time.  In fact, I awoke at 3.15 on Monday morning, so set off to the barn.  All seemed fairly well – there was only Missy to check on now.  But, while the two gimmers[1] were busy contentedly chewing the hay, Missy was looking a little solemn, and not chewing at all.  I stood and watched her for a while, to make sure nothing was wrong, and my patience was rewarded, for when she moved a little, I could see a large membrane bag hanging from her. 

I hastily went to the lambing shed, and readied a pen for her, and, closing off the path there, returned to the barn.  Missy was still standing in the same place, quite close to the gate of her pen.  I opened the gate, and instructed her to step through and make her way to the labour ward.  My intention was that she could then labour under my attention, and I would not have to summon assistance, unless the labour did not progress, which would likely be a couple of hours later.  However, as Missy tentatively stepped towards the gap, the gimmers, seeing the gate was open, and being naturally young and foolish, and rather more agile than their pregnant aunts, decided to bellow and chase Missy around the pen.  Clearly, I was going to need assistance.

I went into the farmhouse, and gingerly knocked on the bedroom door of Sir and Mrs Farmer.  Mrs Farmer answered, and I informed her that Missy was in labour.  Mrs Farmer came down, and we got Missy into the labour ward.  I then obtained coffee (it was a chilly night) and we waited for her to get on with it, and generally sat and chatted.  We had done well this lambing season, for it the first mid-night labour we had had – and it was easier to bear knowing this was the last sheep to labour.

Missy pushed quite efficiently for a while, but it soon became clear that there was not much progressive.  Eventually, at about 4.30, we checked, and an ominously large foot could be felt, but her cervix was still quite tight.  She needed a bit longer to open up a bit before anything could be delivered.  We carried on chatting, and, at last, the foot began to show, and she began pushing in earnest.  However, given the size of the lamb, and the fact that it had seemed to have got stuck, at 5.30, it was decided to summon Sir, as this was going to be a substantial pull.  Pulling a large lamb is very tiring work – one has to pull very hard indeed on the ropes, which hurts your hands, and is hard work.  But one must not pull too hard, and damage the lamb or the mother, and one must pull steadily in the right direction.  At the end of such a pull, a lamb will often be born in distress, or even stillborn.  Sir would be able to provide the strong pull while I held the sheep, and Mrs Farmer watched on.

Mrs Farmer went in to summon Sir, and as she went, Missy lay down, with her back to me (sheep have an uncanny ability to labour so that you are unable to see their rear end).  This time, she pushed and bellowed, considerably. I took a look when she got up, and there was a huge lamb hanging half out of her!  I quickly leapt[2] over the hurdle, and pulled the lamb, which came out quite easily.  It was a very large boy.  I sprayed the navel, and cleared its mouth of mucus, then stepped back as Missy took on licking him.  All was fine!

I rushed back to the house, where Mrs Farmer was preparing a further bucket of water, and broke the news to her, so she could halt Sir (who, in fact, had only got as far as the bathroom).  Mrs Farmer and I then supervised Missy a bit longer, before checking to make sure there were no further lambs.  It was now six am. and getting light.  I retired and set my alarm for 9am, and got up and had a luxurious bath.  The last lamb had been born!

[1] A gimmer (pronouns with a hard g, like glimmer without the l) is a sheep between its first and second shearing.  The gimmers were two sheep born the previous year.  Although old enough to lamb, sheep lamb better at the their second birthday, when they are completely fully grown.
[2] When I first went lambing, I used to be able to leap over the hurdles there, but in the twenty odd years since my visit, although the hurdles look as if they are the same height, they are clearly much higher, as it takes a lot of effort to swing one’s legs over now.

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