Thursday, 20 December 2012

New arrivals, and the rugby tackle

It was the morning of the day.....

.....and the start of this season's lambs, and the start of little ones calling to their mum and their mum talking back, and the start of one's heart doing funny things as one watches the little ones, and the start of the worry about what to do for the best....for this ewe seems clueless as to what she is supposed to do. Last year she had her first lamb but it was still-born. This year she was alright with the first, licked and slurped it clean, talked and fussed about him, (it's a boy), did 'good mum' stuff. But later on, much later on, out came another one, which, I think, has fazed her. She started cleaning it off (not sure what sex it is at the moment as I have forgotten to look), then seemed to switch off from the task half way through, so it is not anywhere near as clean or pristine as the first born. Perhaps she ran out of effort. Perhaps she thought "Crikey, two! How the hell am I going to cope with two!"

And how the hell was I supposed to react when I saw her do a sharp head butt to that second born. Again and again she did that. But the little one kept going up to her for a nuzzle, only to be thwacked away again. 

I didn't do anything. Just stood and watched. If I had involved myself she would have utterly abandoned that little one. So what we did was penned her in a small enclosure, and let her get on with it for the night, 'Let nature take its course' being our thinking. 

The trouble is with youngsters who don't have a mum is that they are forever seeking someone to nurture them, this is the experience we have had with lambs who are bottle fed and chicks who are hand reared. With the mum-less lambs, out in the field they are without an anchor, drifting about, asking other mum's if they can have a sip of milk, and always being head butted away, often very roughly. Nature can be cruel when it wants to be. Oh it is sssssooooo cute when they see me with a bottle of milk and they come racing towards me for their drink, but it is not so cute when I have to push them away again, telling them they have to go back out into the field to learn to somehow be with the other sheep but without the anchoring, sheltering, support of a mum to watch over them as they do their learning. Their little faces at the gate is, well, quite heart wrenching. 

But it is even worse if we were to coddle the little ones, keeping them inside, protecting them, but in the long run doing them no good whatsoever. I have seen a lamb who has had this done to her. Now fully grown, she does not know what type of animal she is, has tried mating with a lama, and is as confused as anything about how she should act. She is always alone, tries to run with the other animals but is awkward with them, and my heart aches for her. She was raised as a pet, was fussed over by everyone because she was so cute,  and was even allowed indoors. Then she grew up, becoming bigger, not so cute, and a nuisance, as she continually sort out from the family the attention and affection she had when she was a delightfully pretty little lamb. Better really, for her, if she had been put into the freezer. 

So we have decided to let nature take its course with these two lambs. We hope that the sheep gets her act together, but at the moment she looks as if she is brain dead. I hope she sorts herself out. I picked up both lambs this evening to move them back into their enclosure for the night. One had a full-ish tum, the other not so much so. But they must be getting some nourishment from their mum because they are not dehydrated as yet. She seems to be still rejecting the second, but sometimes seems let it have a drink of milk, judging by the wiggling of its tale when it is under her udders. Our other ewes have been bright and on the ball when their youngsters have arrived. I am wondering if this ewe has been bottle fed. I am wondering if she lacks the ability to fully bond because she did not have a mum to teach her how to do things. 

But we shall probably help these lambs along by bottle feeding them if necessary. But if we do, then we shall not let this ewe have any other lambs. She will have to go into the freezer. Tough love, that is what it is. Maybe she will get her act together. I hope so. She is a nice girl.

Meanwhile, as the lambs were being born, this arrived....

......together with these piles.....

......whoopeeee....the chestnut wood for the ceilings! Jean Pierre, that most stirling trooper of a builder, has already got the supporting wood up in the cave ( said as 'carve') area. This is going to be the storage area for freezers, hams, cheeses, mincers, mixers, and anything else related to the storage and preparation of food. Where you see the blacked out window, well that is going to be a door into the Middle Barn, which in turn will open out onto the veg plot. 

....and I didn't laugh, not at all did I laugh, when Hubs / Head Shepherd did a full rugby tackle on one of the sheep who was tangled up in a long, nasty looking, blackberry twig / branch. Milling amongst the others, this being the end of the day when supper was being given to all, even to Elise (our young heifer) who had taken herself off into the Tall Barn completely by herself bless her, we noticed this sheep stressing about having this blackberry twig entwined around her. Lester grabbed her. She bucked. He clung on. She bucked again, not appreciating the efforts to help her out. He swore. Not much. But he did. (It had been a long day). He reversed his position towards her rear. She slipped away from under him but before she could get away, with an elegance I never knew he had, he did this dive on her, straight into the mud, but capture her he did. Upon asking him if he liked being a farmer man, Hubs said sternly, "no", but his eyes had a crinkle to them. 

Off to a party tonight. Now got to find something to wear other than my farm clothes. And no boots, no thick homemade socks, no long-johns, and definitely no thick handknitted floppy cardi!


John Going Gently said...

when the babies arrive.... even the smallest of ones.... I never sleep!
sleepless nights for you then vera!

you will be played by felicity kendel in the movie!

rusty duck said...

Oh poor Lester. In the mud again..

Living on a sheep farm for a while, the shepherd had what I can only describe as a plastic udder (attached to a bucket, not to him..). 'Orphan' lambs were corralled with it and could get milk from the teats.

Not as effective as a mummy sheep, obviously, but kept human contact to a minimum.

Jean said...

A marvellous story, as always.
The plight of baby animals always has me in pieces. I do hope your number two lamb thrives and her mum gets her act together. I would be hopeless at letting nature take its course.

I hope too that you enjoyed your party.

Vera said...

John, I am stressed, but trying not to be. Those little lambs are so tiny and it is hard to stand back and not go and pick them up and cuddle them and try to make their world a wonderful place to live in. Their mum has to do that!

Jessica, yep, mud again! He hates mud, which is due to his non-muddy childhood in South Africa, where apparently there was no mud.
The plastic udder is a good idea, but we only have one possible orphan lamb, whereas the shepherd would have had several, all of which could keep each other company. It is the loneliness of a single orphan lamb which is so heartbreaking.

Jean, the mum seems to be hanging on in there with the two of them at the moment. And yes, the party was a good one!

Lorna said...

Know what you mean re those pet lambs. Always impossible to get a good photo of pets too as they just want to clamber all over you and get too close

Horst in Edmonton said...

I sure do hope that second little lamb softens the mothers heart and is accepted by her. Vera, you and Hubby, have a wonderful Christmas with all your wonderful animals. Now have a great time at that Party, and don't drink and drive.

Vera said...

Horst, the two lambs are doing fine at the moment. Hope you have a lovely Christmas too. Party was great!