05 June 2009

At last, Cherub’s lamb!

Cherub was expected to lamb back in February, based on our observations of activity in the pasture last fall. Apparently, though, the activity we witnessed wasn’t as productive as one might’ve hoped and Cherub needed to let the ram have a few test runs before finally settling into pregnancy. February passed with no lambs … then March … then April and May. Cherub was clearly pregnant … but where were the lambs?

My dad always looks at the presents under the tree on Christmas day and says “Oh, they are too pretty to open! We should just put them away until next year.” (This elicits the predictable cries of protest from the rest of the family, but it makes me laugh every time!) Anyway, The Boy started saying that Cherub had obviously decided to just save her lambs for next year … either that or she was planning to deliver a market lamb, ready for the butcher from the get-go!

In the end, Cherub finally had enough of pregnancy, and a single ewe lamb was standing all alone out in the pasture when The Boy went out to top up the hay feeder the other night. Cherub wasn’t particularly interested in her offspring – the sight of a pitchfork full of hay was way more interesting than a bleating soggy newborn.

This is the first lamb we’ve had born with an orange fleece: she wasn’t actually orange, just stained orange from the birthing fluids. I suspect that is a sign of meconium staining, similar to what happens in humans, an indication of some stress just before birth, although I’m not quite sure and the quick research I’ve done hasn’t told me much. Regardless, we got the little girl dried off with a towel and convinced her mama to go into the barn by offering her alfalfa pellets (food is a very reliable bribe for Cherub!).

In the barn, Cherub still seemed to be in some pain, even two hours after lambing and passing the afterbirth, which is unusual … as is having a single in the second year, we were really expecting twins. We kept a close watch on them both: Cherub wasn’t really thrilled about letting the baby nurse, and we weren’t positive that there wasn’t a dead twin inside, but after another couple of hours went by the bleeding stopped and Cherub was letting the lamb nurse, and being her usual self.

We are keeping them in the barn for a bit longer than usual, as I’m not quite convinced that Cherub won’t abandon her baby nor am I completely sure that she has recovered entirely … I’ve read of other shepherds finding out several days later that a dead twin wasn’t delivered. That’s a situation I really don’t want to find myself in, but at least with her in the barn, if anything is wrong, we have a decent chance of noticing and of getting it dealt with properly.

I think we might need to name this little one Endurance – she was very persistent and was not at all put off by her mother’s kicking and fussing. She’d struggle up to her feet, stagger to her mama, and butt her nose against fleece, legs, sides, and udder until she found what she was after, and a kick or a shove from Cherub did nothing more than convince the lamb to try again. What a trooper.

Oh, she’s clearly Jack’s baby too – she has that adorable little Southdown grin, and the really long tail. We’ll dock that in the next few days (we don’t dock medium or short tails, but this one’s pretty much guaranteed to get mucky enough to be a risk for fly strike), and see how she does.

One more lamb, yay!


  1. Anonymous10:15 am

    Glad it worked out well.
    This year we had a ewe who gave birth to her second lamb (dead) 20 days after the first one. She showed no signs of having more than one lamb. We helped pull the dead lamb out (it was half born one morning when I went to feed the sheep), gave her a shot of penicillin and kept her in the pen for a few days. No problems with her or her surviving lamb!
    Tough critters, those Icelandics.


  2. Wow, 20 days is a long time to wait for the rest of a delivery! I've been keeping an eye on Cherub ... I guess I'll keep a close watch for longer than I had originally planned!

    She and the baby are out on the grass now and doing well ... I will have to get to shearing soon, and should be able to get a better look at her then once all that wool is off.

  3. Anonymous9:27 pm

    I sheared 4 days after the first birth and didn't notice anything. A close watch is indeed called for. Although after this event I'm not sure what I'd look for...
    no sign of distress, no bleeding.
    Perhaps only one lamb for second lambing or one lamb after having had two previous years...


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