Cutting the Apron Strings


A barnyard of not-so- happy campers. On Wednesday, we separated the lambs from their moms, leading the little ones along with their nanny, Crackerjack, to the Carriage Barn paddock while the moms were shut in the dairy. 

It's really tough getting lambs to flock properly. They don't want to leave their moms. And they have no leaders, since they have always followed their moms. Whenever we've wanted to call the lambs, we simply call the mothers. (The only lambs to come when called are the bottle lambs, and they've already figured out that we're not bringing them any more bottles.) Trying to lure 27 confused and reluctant lambs across a field with grain pans to their nice new home in the  carriage barn was a challenge. They spent the first 24 hours crying at the gate, wanting back to the dairy. Of course, it poured all day and all night and there was no persuading them to come into the barn for shelter. Even Crackerjack could not console them.

The ewes in the dairy answering their lambs' calls only adds to the unhappy chaos. I swear, you can hear my sheep all over the valley. My poor neighbors . . . 

In the middle of the first night we heard the coyotes marauding near the farm. I'm sure the pack of wailing lambs near a gate drew their attention. We drove down with flashlights and left many lights on in the barnyard. No sign of coyotes when we arrived. I spent the rest of the night camped at the studio with the windows open, just in case.

Yesterday, the lambsters were more interested in me when I arrived at breakfast time. Many of them were grazing intently and only a handful were standing pathetically at the gate (and they were willing to follow me to the carriage barn when they saw the grain bucket). 

For the first time, all 27 came inside the carriage barn, which is airy and dry.  It's also right along the road, so the lambs will now have many visitors. Less focused on the absence of the ewes, they finally took stock of their new surroundings. 
Feeders? Check. 
Llama? Check. 
Water buckets? Check.
Grass? Check.
They seemed somewhat pacified. Yesterday was quieter, with only occasional calls to the mothers who are still shut in the dairy barn. 
Why shut them in? It's really important to control the ewe's access to pasture and water while we dry them off. We've been cutting their access to rich feed gradually over the last two weeks, but their udders are still a bit swollen. I know they are wishing for their lambs to come nurse, but they will gradually begin to feel better as their milk production subsides. In the meantime, they're in the barn, with the fans running to keep them comfortable (and to help drown out the sound of their calling lambs).

Buttercup and Charlotte are grandmothers to many lambs in this group. Since it's always helpful to have an older sheep with a group of newly weaned lambs to serve as a rudder, I've sent them along with the youngsters. 

Unfortunately, Charlotte, who is one of the eldest in the flock, is not fairing very well. She struggled with the hike in the rain between the two barns and has been standing stiffly in the corner all day. No interest in grain. Would only eat hay when I fed her by hand. I popped a few aspirin into her mouth, holding it shut until she swallowed. Seemed to ease her soreness, but her arthritis is very bad. At one point she left the barn and then couldn't manage the step up through the door way to get back inside. I found her standing in the mud just outside the door in the rain. Poor dear.

I helped her make the step over the threshold and gave her more aspirin and hay. It doesn't look good, I'm afraid. Having helped her through another winter, I'm not sure she's up for another summer season. Grazing is out of the question, since she can barely walk. I'm willing to keep her in the yard on hay and grain with Buttercup all summer, as long as she's comfortable. But she doesn't look happy at all. 

I've called the vet to come this afternoon, and we'll see. Poor old girl.

I know I've been on blog hiatus and wish I had more upbeat news to share. But we're in a transition at the moment and the state of flux brings challenges. It's like this with the lambs every year at this time and within a few days, they will all be grazing the hillside peacefully with Crackerjack on watch.

Sunshine would help matters tremendously. It's been more than 2 weeks since Norm has made hay – there just hasn't been a decent window of dry weather. First cutting still in the field at the 4th of July, means there's less time for second cutting to grow. Hay may be hard to come by this winter. This will impact everyone with livestock.

On a positive note, the sun is shining, for the moment. Maybe the sheep will enjoy a sunny morning on the pasture.