FARM LIFE BLOG – NEW BABY LAMBS THIS MORNING
On our ranch & farm we raise lots of different types of animals. The beginning of Spring not only introduces new shoots (we have daffodils coming up already), but new babies to the farm.
This morning we were greeted to yet another beautiful surprise, twin baby girls (ewe) Navajo Churro sheep.
We blog on farm life and how to raise your own organic livestock for new farmers and homesteaders. Also, our site is used to show youngsters what life on a farm is like so they can learn where their food comes from and hopefully inspire young people to consider farming themselves.
So, let’s take a journey together and go over what you do from the moment you step foot in your barn and are greeted with wet just born lambs. These are the steps we took this morning. (Lots of pictures included.)
First, you want to inspect the situation and determine how long ago the lambs were born and understand where the mother is at in the delivery. Here you can tell the blood is very moist and also the lambs are still very wet and bloody. This means they were JUST born probably within the last 30 minutes and no later than an hour. The mother needs to discharge placenta so watch for that over the day. That is critical to her survival. Often mamas will eat the placenta as it is a way of protecting the young from predators. Predators can smell the blood and will draw them in. They will attack the young and kill them so animals have learned to do this in the wild. Additionally, the placenta is filled with major nutrients and helps in revitalization.
Second, you watch for what the mother is doing with the baby and also assess the baby. You want to make sure the following are taking place: Is the mother cleaning the baby? (like the picture above) Is the baby breathing? Is there anything caught in its lungs (you’d suction out the lungs if there were a serious rattle)? Can the baby get up and walk? Is the baby nursing? (If the baby is not nursing you want to assist in helping it nurse). If the baby is not nursing within the first hour there is a serious issue and please consult with what to do then. But, bottom line is that the babies need the colostrum in the milk of the mother which runs in the milk for the first 72 hours. This is what gives the baby lamb all of its immunities. Some sheep have lost the knowledge of how to nurse. So, watch this step VERY closely. We have chosen a breed of sheep, Navajo Churro, that are amazing mothers so we don’t ever have a ‘nursing’ problem.
We keep our ewes together in a larger birthing pen so they can birth together and calm each other. Mary, our other ewe, had her first babies two weeks ago. Patches really taught her how to be a momma. Now Patches just had her second delivery. The ewes teach each other. Snowflake and Lightening, who were born two weeks ago, are curious about the two new little things in their stall.
At this point in the evaluation, I proceed to get in the pens with everyone and say howdy. I check each baby to determine sex (we had twin girls), listen for breathing (rattling due to fluid in the lungs) and I inspect ambilical cords, etc.
Star, the second one born is still blood covered. The mother will lick them all over and clean them up. She is obviously still in the process of doing this with Star.
At this point I get out my medical bag and proceed to do the necessary first treatment of the babies. We run an organic farm, so we use the least amount of drugs necessary but also do the most amount of preventative possible to assure optimal health of our animals. Thus, I clamp the ambilical cord with a the red plastic clamp (you can also tie off with dental floss if you don’t have clamps). This makes sure no infection can go up through the ambilical cord into the body as this is a completely open access point into the body. I then apply iodine to the ambilical cord itself. This is done with both babies of course.
As a farmer/homesteader it is very important to understand if you have a Selenium (trace mineral) deficiency in your soil. Most of the eastern US does. You must suppliment. Selenium in grain is not enough of an additive to assure adaquate amounts. If your mamas are short Selenium they will have difficulty giving birth and your mortality will go up due to still born births. The babies, if Selenium short, will have stiff hind legs and have difficulty walking. Once you administer the BOSE (a combination of Selenium and Vitamin E) you should see marked improvement in your babies within two days. I administer .5CC BOSE to both babies and will then do a second shot of the same dosage in two weeks.
I then give each lamb two squirts of a sheep drench which gives them ample nutrients to start them off immune-strong.
At this point we continue to dry off the babies to help mama get the job done quickly. You do not want the babies to get chilled. We have delivered lambs and kids (goats) in -10 degree weather. So, what do you do to keep them from freezing? …. a hair dryer and remove the drafts from the building. You don’t need a heated barn but indeed, dry them off.
When you are in the stall with the mamas, make sure you are calm. We spend a great deal of time with all our animals and long before they give birth. It is important that the mothers feel comfortable with you in their stall with their young. Many farmers just ‘leave it all to nature’. And, while that does work sometimes, sometimes you need to intervene. This type of relationship we have with our animals (trust) is very important. You can tell here that Patches trusts Mike with her brand new baby.
At this point we have been in the pen about 30 to 45 minutes from initial assessment through to treatment/care to drying. Mike picks Star up and monitors her again for breathing and overall wellness while he continues to dry her off.
We then tend to Patches by giving her a complete check over. She is doing well in that she is cleaning her young and not in pain. We do not clean the blood off her, but rather let her do her mothering job. For some reason that appears to be an act of nature, this blood usually cleans up on its own. But, I will clean her up tomorrow if I need to and let her work on her babies so she can feed them, relax and remove the activity from the stall for the day. We will check on her regularly but will not be in the stall alot so she can rest and bond with them.
We leave the stall and watch until both babies are nursing. Yah! Success. Both newborn twins are nursing now and they are also starting to bond with their pen mates. Can you tell both ewes have the same sire? Amazing the color choice.
When you go back to the house remember to UPDATE YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS. You will want to record their birth day, time, who the mom and sire is, weight, shots, and any signs of issue you notice.
So we now have older twins (one boy which is the black one with the blaze down his face and one girl) and younger twins, black and white, both girls.
For those of you that are curious, they both have the same sire, Whiggy.
Well, what a wonderful morning. Thanks for taking the journey with us this morning as Mama Nature’s been at it again; this time bringing new life to our farm. Farm life is so much about birth and death, changing seasons and newness. This way of life is so amazing for children to be part of because they see that through strife – like yesterday’s flooding or a death of one of the animals — there is also life. And, with time, pain dissipates, goodness grows…and times move on. Farm life teaches us about real life.
We hope this was interesting for you and your kids.
God Bless! L. Davis