News from the Farm | January 19, 2015

There are few seasons on the farm that we meet with such jittery anticipation as lambing season.  For the next few weeks there will be a flurry of “getting ready” tasks as we approach the February date when the first lambs are born. Fences must be set up for the hugely pregnant moms, greenhouses constructed for housing the tiny new lambs and their mothers, supplies purchased for any lambing emergencies. There are 85 ewes this year that will be giving birth in a one month time period to over 120 babies which can get really chaotic if you are not prepared! We have been raising this many sheep and lambs for over 20 years but still feel taken by surprise each year as they begin.

One of the hardest things is “psyching” ourselves up for the sleepless nights ahead. Despite the fact that 90% of the lambs will be born without any fanfare there are potential issues that can arise and we must be there any time, day or night, to help out. We do lamb checks every two to three hours during the night and as frequently throughout the day. Rainy nights and the full moon will definitely bring on a barrage of lambs – a well documented fact known by shepherds throughout the ages – so we have extra recruits on those nights.  The most common births are twins (which works out nicely as an ewe has two teats) however, many moms give birth to triplets. This can create an interesting scenario of one lamb needing extra help in fending off the others to get milk.  Often we end up raising these “bummer” lambs as they will not thrive if left on their own. This requires warming up milk four to five times per day (and night) in the first week and carefully feeding them from a rubber nipple attached to a bottle.  Last year we ended up with 14 sets of triplets, feeding 10 bummer lambs for several months!  We have seen quadruplets several times in the last few years. In one case, the mother fed them throughout their entire young lives. Luckily for us these nights and tasks are shared by several of us so no one gets too exhausted.

Despite the crazy nature of the lambing month we feel fortunate to be a part of this cycle of life. Birth is one of the last great miracles that we get to witness daily during the coming month. No two births are the same and somehow it never loses its fascination with surprises in colors and numbers.

We have a special date set for an open farm day on Sunday, March 22 for any of you who would like to see the lambs first hand. We will tour the farm and have many lambs to hold and feed.  We are dovetailing this date with another event being held at our local Guinda Grange Hall –the Sheep to Shawl event.  This free admission all day program will feature shearing, spinning, weaving, knitting all taught from local talent and is especially kid friendly.  Please see the facebook page Sheep to Shawl for more information.

–Dru Rivers