Pin It Crippen Creek Chronicles: March 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lambing Season

The lambing season began about 3 weeks ago here at Crippen Creek Farm and Kitty and I have been getting quite the education ever since.

I started my morning chores as usual, feeding the chickens and checking the pregnant ewes to see if any of them were going into labor when I heard the distinctive bleating of a baby lamb, "" As I walked through the sheep pasture, I first noticed a still-born baby lamb and then followed the sound of the bleating "" If there is a more plaintive wail than this sound, I don't know what it is. This sweet little lamb became separated from the flock and was actually outside the pasture fence.

I reunited it with its mother but was surprised to see that she seemed disinterested in her offspring. This soon became a community event as Kitty, our guests and our neighbor Andrew Emlen got involved in the bonding process. It's very convenient having the breeder be your neighbor. I guess the idea that it takes a village to raise a child applies to the four-legged variety as well.

Most of that day was spent trying to force a bond between mother and child. We had to forcibly hold the mother(Abrila) still so that the baby(Abba) could nurse. After several attempts at this throughout the day, we decided to pen Abrila and Abba up in very close quarters so that when Abrila stood to eat, the baby could nurse. This seemed to be working well so after a few days we released them to the open pastures thinking the bonding had taken. Not so! Everytime baby (Abba) tried to nurse, mom would just walk away. OK, back to the close quarters drill for more forced bonding. Three more days...release....but no go.

A little help from some friends

Abrila seemed very reluctant to be a mother. We realized that forced feeding or bottle feeding for the next several weeks simply was not going to be a sustainable venture. Then the phone rang. It was Andrew with a bright idea of grafting Abba to one of his ewes (that had just lost twins in a complicated birth). We coated Abba with afterbirth from one of the dead lambs and then turned him over to the bewildered mother, Megan. Megan just happens to be Abba's grandmother. She immediately began to sniff him, lick him and treat him as her very own. Andrew reports that the foster relationship is going well and that Abba can return to Crippen Creek after he is weaned in several weeks.

A reluctant mother

Another attempt at bonding

Grandma Megan to the rescue

A couple days later, it was Andrew's turn to call us for some assistance in birthing a lamb. Actually, it is unusual for this breed (Black Welsh Mountain Sheep) to need human intervention in lambing but from time to time it does become necessary. So Kitty and I and one of our guests headed over to Alcyon Farm to help contain the pregnant ewe while Andrew delivered the lamb. Don't worry if you are a guest at Crippen only have to get involved in the farming if you want to.

Over 2 hours in labor and not making much progress

It's a special privilege to witness and assist a birth

Mother and baby are doing fine

Now back to Crippen Creek Farm. As Kitty and I were headed out to Portland yesterday, we noticed one of the ewes was missing. So we headed into the pasture to find our missing ewe huddled down in a hut with twin lambs that she had birthed during the night. All seemed to be well until later in the day we noticed that one of the lambs was walking kind of funny. She was walking on the knuckles of her rear legs instead of on the hooves. So today Andrew and I put splints on her and are just hoping for the best. One more pregnant ewe to go here. Wish us luck.

Mama is concerned that Farm Boy is a little too close to her babies