Lambing at Cottonwood Farm occurred during the February snowstorm when it was very cold and wet. We lost a few lambs because of the cold and if we were unable to catch mum in time to get her into the barn where it was dry. When sheep lamb, they have the first lamb which they turn to clean. The second lamb usually comes from five to twenty minutes later. If the second lamb arrives too quickly, the sheep will leave the first to turn and clean the second. This leaves the first lamb vulnerable to predators (ravens are the worst at recognizing opportunity) and often, when it is cold the first lamb does not get the attention it needs to be nudged into life. If it becomes too cold the sheep will abandon it because it likely will not survive.
This is what happened to Betty. Although we were able to get her and mum and brother into the barn, Betty was very cold and no amount of coaxing would make mum pay attention to her. So, into a warm shower she went followed by a warm up in front of the fire. From a limp little body with barely a heartbeat, Betty struggled back to life and accepted some colostrum (first milk) from a bottle. The colostrum was provided by one of the local cows about to calf and is essential for the antibodies it contains.
Our new ram is Elvis, a black Romney so all our lambs are black this year (one of the few advantages in a snowstorm). He gets to stand by and watch these little dramas for which he is largely responsible. Another ewe produced one of our four sets of triplets in the barn. Lisa Marie was the smallest of these triplets and, although they were all pretty tough little lambs and appeared to be doing well, she was the one of the three most likely to fail. In the ‘good things to know’ department, sheep only have two docking stations. A sheep rarely raises three lambs without a lot of help. The smallest lamb usually gets pushed aside and eventually fails so is removed and bottle fed. So after 24 hours Lisa Marie was removed from her mum (the hardest thing I ever have to do) to provide company for Betty.
Lisa Marie and Betty now live with us and are being raised by my daughter, Deb who is their new mum. Sadly, they will never integrate with their flock but always think they are human and wonder why they are no longer allowed to lie by the fire or on the couch. We have walked them through the flock and Lisa Marie’s mum recognizes her cry and runs over to check her out – but will not let her nurse because she does not smell right. Betty does not even know she is a sheep.
Lisa Marie on Grandpa John’s chair
A month after rescue, they were eating my rosebushes, the heads of my daffodils, any flower stem or stalk that stuck its head above ground – and they were still being fed milk four times a day around the clock. Weaning happened slowly and at 8 weeks. At three months, they are fat and healthy and have full range of the property; but they still do not do anything useful, like mow the lawn.
Betty and Lisa Marie at 3 months.
Four others of our lambs are being raised on Windsor farm by Brittany in a flock of foundlings from all over the islands.
This is a new version of an old rhyme revised by granddaughter Emily and myself.
Deborah had two little lambs
Their fleece was black a soot,
And everywhere that Deborah went
The lambs were underfoot.
They followed her around the house
and all around the yard.
They ate the heads off daffodils
and finished off the chard.
They scared the cat into the bush
and chased the dogs around a tree.
But we all loved them anyway,
Our Betty and Lisa Marie.
Walkies means everyone goes