Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Latest Lamb Pics

Here are the latest lamb pics:

Una (Inga x Lykill), polled white ewe lamb, age 8 days:

Unity (Teasle x Tut), horned moorit mouflon ewe lamb, age 14 days:

Umber (Rhonwen x Tut), horned moorit solid ram lamb with "flashing marks," age 14 days:

(Paris x Tut), horned black gray ram lamb, age 9 days:

(Parix x Tut), horned moorit gray ram lamb, age 9 days:

Ursus (Phoebe x Nicholai), horned white ram lamb, age 10 days:

Ursula (Phoebe x Nicholai), horned white ewe lamb, age 10 days:

Ulric (Peri x Nicholai), horned white ram lamb, age 3 days:

Ulrica (Peri x Nicholai), horned white ewe lamb, age 3 days::

Ulani (Moriah x Nicholai), horned black solid spotted ewe lamb, age 10 days:

Utopia (Pandora x Nicholai), horned white ewe lamb, age 14 days:

Udara (Halsa x Freyr), polled black mouflon spotted ewe lamb, age 9 days:

Ulyssia (Poppy x Nicholai), horned white ewe lamb, age 14 days:

Ulysses (Poppy x Nicholai), horned moorit solid ram lamb, age 14 days:

Uldor (Petra x Preston), polled white ram lamb, age 6 days:

Uldis (Petra x Preston), polled white ram lamb, age 6 days:

Ujala (Ida x Preston), polled black solid ewe lamb, age 6 days:

Ujana (Ida x Preston), polled white ewe lamb, age 6 days:

Uruk-Hai (Trouble x Tut), horned moorit solid spotted ram lamb, age 5 days:

Ulla (Bylgja x Valur), polled black badgerfaced ewe lamb, age 5 days:

Urban (Paisley x Taj), horned white ram lamb, age 4 days:

Urbana (Paisley x Taj), horned white ewe lamb, age 4 days:

Ultra (Salem x Tut), horned black solid ewe lamb, age 4 days:

Ultreia (Salem x Tut), horned black solid ewe lamb, age 4 days:

Udela (Savannah x Taj), horned white ewe lamb, age 3 days:

Udena (Savannah x Taj), horned white ewe lamb, age 3 days:

There are two more new lambs whose picture I haven't gotten yet, and at least 5 more ewes who are due to give birth soon.

Monday, April 28, 2008

April Showers

It's been raining and raining and raining here off and on all week. The horse paddock is a treacherous swamp of slippery clay. The sheep paddock has become a running river bottom. The back pasture, where the ewes with lambs are, has standing water all over, even though it is on a fairly steep slope.

Hundreds of earthworms migrate, red and wriggly, across the top of the mud, or lie, pale and drowned, in the bottoms of rain-filled feed troughs.

I do the chores carrying an umbrella, wearing sweat pants hiked up to my knees to prevent the bottoms from getting soaked, my feet bare and muddy inside my green rubber clogs.

It's peaceful sleeping in the barn during the rainstorms. Something about it makes the sheep get quiet and contemplative. They lie, chewing rhythmically, enjoying the cool, damp air. Madrigal, my tortoiseshell barn cat goes prowling out in the rain, then comes in to snuggle inside my sleeping bag with me to dry off.

I wake regularly every couple of hours all night, every night, for about 3 weeks now, checking to see if any of the ewes are in labor. My mind has started to lose the distinction between night and day in that way. I feel that I could nap at any time of the day or night, and equally, I could be awake and alert anytime also.

I do worry about the lambs in the rain, although fortunately the temperatures have been mild and pleasant. But for a lamb---especially a very young one---who gets separated from the warmth and nourishment of his mother during a rainy windy night, the borderline between healthy and hypothermia is pretty narrow.

So throughout the night and day I keep my ears open for the sounds of lambs crying in distress. If it persists for long enough, I get up and go find the lost baby and return him to his mother. Fortunately, all the older lambs are quite sturdy and stout by now and I don't worry about them. It's just the little ones who still have so little body mass with which to retain their heat.

Each morning, I make the rounds of the wet pasture, making sure each ewe has the right number of babies with her, and that all the babies look lively and well. So far so good. I guess a Virginia spring rainfall is nothing compared to whatever harsh weather these sheep evolved with for 1,100 years in Iceland.

If the old adage is correct, we should have a bloom-filled May, because April certainly has provided more than its share of showers. And even with the extra inconvenience, mess, and worry brought by so much wet weather, I think about the devastating effects of last year's drought, and I don't complain a bit.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lipizzaner Ram?

Have you ever seen the famous Lipizzaner Stallions perform?

I think my ram Preston has been secretly studying their Airs Above the Ground. He was practicing his Courbette today, trying to reach some tasty maple leaves.

Click here to see how talented he is.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Do You Think They're Trying to Tell Me Something?

After what I wrote yesterday, about shower and clean clothes being a sure way to get your sheep to give birth, I had 5 lambs born in the space of 10 hours.

Maybe I should shower more often!

After Bylgja had her lamb in the evening, poor big-as-a-house Paisley puffed and panted nonstop all through the night until finally going into labor around 3:00 a.m. She had 2 very large white lambs, one boy and one girl. The boy, in particular, is enormous, close to 10 lbs. These are the first lambs we've had from my white ram Taj, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing how these lambs fill out.

Paisley had not finished giving birth when Salem also went into labor, but she considerately waited until Paisley was done and I'd gotten her lambs settled before going into the final stage of labor.

When I bought Salem, she was way too small to breed, so she didn't have any lambs last spring. So even though she's 2 years old now, this is her first lambing. She spent the whole night watching Bylgja and Paisley lambing, as if she knew her turn was coming and wanted to know what was going to happen.

Around 6:00 a.m. she had two black ewe lambs---finally, some more girls by my excellent ram Tut. He'd given us mostly ram lambs so far. At least one of these new girls will be staying here with my flock.

Now I'm exhausted, after getting only 3 hours of sleep, but at least all the new lambs are safe and well so far.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Sure-Fired Way...

A sure-fired way to get your sheep to give birth is...

Take a shower, put on clean clothes, and get ready to eat a nice meal with your husband!

I was all clean and refreshed, dressed in clothes that actually didn't smell like sheep, and the oven timer said 6 minutes to go before the wonderful-smelling casserole would be done. So, naturally, I picked that moment to go out and do a quick check of all the sheep in the lambing pens to make sure that none of them were lambing at the moment. Poor Paisley is as wide as a house and has been panting and grunting all day, so it can't be long now for her.

She was still uncomfortable when I went out, but not in labor yet. No one else was in labor yet. Everyone had been fed and watered. I was ready to have a nice supper!

I stepped out of the barn, and as I headed for the gate I happened to glance back into the "Ewes in Waiting" paddock where all the pregnant-but-probably-not-due-today ewes are. There was little Bylgja lying by the fence, having a contraction!

And furthermore, there was Savannah staring mournfully at me from the thicket of weeds ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE! Now, maybe on some farms, sheep getting out of the fences is a fairly common event, but not on our farm. We have 4-foot high fences with 2" x 4" wire mesh, tightly strung on stout wooden posts. Our gates have good latches, and they were all latched.

I have no idea how she got out, or how long she had been out. There's no gap she could have squeezed out of, no place she could have crawled under. For all I know, she could have flown, or teleported, or had the other sheep give her a boost! She is a Leadersheep, after all. They can figure things out!

There she was, sad and mournful amid the thick green grass, not only because she was separated from the flock, which is never a good thing for a prey animal, but also because it had been a warm day and there was no water available to her.

Ken came out just then to tell me that supper was ready, and I got him to help me lure Savannah back into her paddock. Then we lured Bylgja into the barn and shut her in a lambing pen. I watched her for a few minutes, but she didn't have another contraction, so I figured I was safe to go eat dinner.

After eating quickly, I hurried back out in time to see Bylgja straining with a contraction, and there was a nose and one toe showing. She's a first time mom, so I didn't have faith that she would be able to deliver a one-leg-back-presentation lamb without assistance, so I climbed in there and with a bit of struggle, helped her get it out.

The poor little black badgerfaced ewe lamb was so limp when it finally slid free, I thought it was dead. But I wiped its mouth and nose, then picked it up by its hind feet and swung it to shake any fluid from its lungs. In a second, it gave a gasp, and came to life.

Now mother and daughter are in the barn working on figuring out the nursing thing. And me... well, suffice to say I'm no longer quite as clean and refreshed as I was.

After all, what's an outfit without a little placenta and 7% iodine on it, anyway. Right?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Little Bit of Trouble

This morning, my brown polled ewe Ida had her lambs: twin girls, one black and one white.

Then tonight, true to her habit of doing the unexpected, the infamous Trouble the Runaway Lamb, whose adventures I've recounted several times before on this blog, had her lamb---neither on the due date I figured based on when I saw her bred nor on the due date I figured as one cycle past that when she didn't lamb on her expected due date, but somewhere halfway in between.

Being Trouble, of course she needed assistance with the birth. She's a first time mom and the lamb was coming out with one leg back, so I was glad to be on hand to help. Of course, Trouble is completely NOT tame, so I had to hold her by the horn with one hand while trying to pull the lamb out of the other end of her with my other hand. Meanwhile, she was charging around the lambing pen, crashing through my lambing kit and trampling its contents into the bedding.

When the lamb came out, of course Trouble had to add one more twist by having a boldly spotted lamb even though she'd been bred to a solid ram. So now we know for sure that both Trouble and Tut carry the spotting gene.

The lamb is a ram, all white behind with a large chocolate-colored "hood" marking on his head and shoulders. He's got Leadersheep written all over him, from his long, fine bone structure to the classic Leadersheep spotting pattern. Certainly his mother is extremely leaderlike in her personality, but this lamb looks even more so than her. We'll have to see if he gets any of his father's good meat build as he fills out.

Either way, he's definitely going to be flashy when he grows up.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Another Senter Foal is Born

My stallion Senter Stage has been doing very well with his training. He's started doing small jumps already, and the trainer is planning to send him to his first show perhaps in a couple of months. She's decided to compete him in eventing, so that he'll be able to do dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country jumping.

I'm pleased as I can be with that decision, since eventing was my favorite of the equestrian sports back when I was a younger, more athletic rider. With Senter's ancestry, he's a natural at dressage. His trainer and his rider predict that if he continues to progress as he has been, he'll be able to skip 1st and 2nd level and go straight to 3rd.

Senter has also started his breeding season, and has bred several mares. So there will be a whole new batch of foals to look forward to next spring.

Meanwhile, this year's foals continue to be born. Here's a photo of Char's foal by Senter, born April 17. I think we're going to name him "Storm Senter" (Stormy for short). He's huge, with legs like tree trunks. I think he's going to be spectacular when he grows up! You can see more photos of him here.

His 3/4 brother, out of Char's half sister Scylla, was born April 20th. He's not quite as large as his brother, but more refined in his build. And what a handsome face! I think we're going to call this one "Senter Fielder" (Willie for short, as in Willie Mays, the famous center fielder). You can see more photos of him here.

My sister and I haven't exactly worked out the details of what we're going to do with these foals, but they will probably both go to live on her farm for a few years. She may use one or both of them for breeding her mares when they are old enough. And then, when they are a few years old and started under saddle, they should be worth quite a lot, so then we'll sell one or both of them.

Unless of course someone makes us an offer we can't refuse in the meantime!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Lamb in the Bathtub

After two days, I think I may have finally solved the mystery.

You see, on Saturday my friend Heather and her mom came by for a farm visit. It was a beautiful sunny, breezy day filled with lilac blossoms and butterflies, and it was made even more special by the fact that my ewe Petra gave birth to two white ram lambs around midday, so our visitors got the chance to see brand new babies.

Both lambs were born unassisted, both were about the same size, both nursed early and got colostrum. But as the day went on, one of them began to fall behind. While Lamb #1, Uldor, was wobbling around after their mom in the lambing pen, Lamb #2, Uldis, would just lie in the corner. Petra didn't exactly reject Uldis, but she didn't help him either. When he tried to nurse, she'd just walk away without encouraging him.

I tried bottle feeding him a few times, trying to give him enough of a boost so that he could catch up with his brother, but that didn't help much. Yesterday, I tried taking his brother away entirely, so that Petra would have a chance to bond more closely with Uldis.

I wanted to take Uldor someplace where he would be safe and warm, but far enough away that Petra wouldn't hear him crying and try to find him, while ignoring Uldis. So Uldor spent most of the day lying on a fleecy dog bed placed in my bathtub (safe from marauding cats, and easy cleanup of the inevitable "accidents").

Every couple of hours, I'd bring Uldor back to nurse for a bit, and then take him away again. Each time, Uldis seemed perkier after having had a couple hours of his mom's undivided attention. I thought they were bonding. So last night, I left the trio together, thinking maybe my experiment had done the trick.

But this morning, there was Uldor hopping around the lambing pen, while Uldis was back huddled in his lonely corner.

I had one more idea, something that had caught my attention vaguely and settled into the back of my mind when I was trying to bottle feed Uldis the previous day.

I picked him up and stuck my finger in his mouth. Sure enough, one of his baby teeth was coming in pointy and SHARP! I stuck my finger in Uldor's mouth for comparison. No sharpness there.

I can't say that I blame Petra for preferring the twin who wasn't piercing her teat with a needle tooth every time he tried to nurse!

So, using an Emory board, I filed off the sharp point of Uldis's tooth. Now Uldor is in the bathtub again to give Petra a chance to bond with the new and improved Uldis.

With luck, that may be one more lambing problem solved.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Good Thing I'm Getting a Livestock Guardian Dog

After a night of unbridled gluttony, grazing on the lawn, the rams take a break to relax and digest this morning.

Preston & Freyr:

As you can see, it's hard to relax. The rams lead a life of constant peril, and always have to be on the lookout for dangerous predators like mountain lions:

And wolves:

Char's Foal

I just noticed that I pasted the wrong link to the photos of Char's foal yesterday. I just fixed it, but if you missed seeing this VERY handsome young foal, check out his photos here and here. What a looker!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In Other News...

The blog has been pretty focused on sheep stuff lately, since it's lambing season. But that's not the only thing that has been going on here.

Here's the news from the horse side of the farm:

1. My stallion Senter Stage's first foal of 2007, Selebrity was born on my sister's farm in Maine, but was purchased recently by a young rider here in Virginia, Brieanna of Cedar Bluff Stables. Selebrity arrived safely at his new home in Charlottesville last week, just shortly after his first birthday. You can see a few photos of him if you scroll down to the bottom of this page. After lambing season is over, I hope to go meet Selebrity in person for the first time, and take some more photos of him.

2. Senter's first foal of 2008 was born on April 14: a bay and white tobiano colt, out of my mare Maggie whom I just traded to my trainer. Here are a few photos of the newborn. His name is Senter of Attention, barn name Phoenix:

Look for more photos of this handsome boy as he grows!

3. My filly Andromeda was sold and went to her new home earlier this week. I was too busy with lambs to make a big deal about it, but: Good luck in your new home, Andromeda!

4. Senter's 2nd foal of 2008 was born this morning! Another gorgeous bay and white colt, out of my favorite mare, Charybdis, the one that it broke my heart to sell. So this brand new colt is not only the son of my stallion, he's also half brother to my gorgeous Art Deco filly, Grace, since they both have the same mother. You can see photos of this boy here.

5. All of my 2007 foals (Grace, Glory, Libby, and Penny) had their first birthdays. They are looking less like babies now and more like little horses. Although Grace is not so little---at barely a year old, she is already right about 15 hands. After lambing season is over, I should finally get a chance to start working with these girls more. Once they've finished shedding out their winter coats, I'll give them baths and take fresh new photos of them to show how nicely they've grown.

6. My stallion Senter has started his training program now. Below are photos of him taken on only his third day of serious under saddle training. He's looking mighty fine already!

Expect more photos of Senter, too, as his training progresses. When lambing season is over, I'll be taking another trip down to visit him and take more photos. Plus we hope that he'll be ready to go to his first show in a couple of months. Exciting!


My sister Donna informed me that now Lamb-A-Palooza is over, I need to have Lamb-A-Rama, which is when I show off all the new lambs that arrived during Lamb-A-Palooza.

So, without further ado, here are some photos.

The lambs and moms are learning how to manage grazing in the field without losing each other. For some, this is an easy task. For others, it takes several days of trial and error.

Here's Phoebe with her twins, Ursus and Ursula.
Phoebe is a very caring mother, but she can't count. Sometimes she has one white lamb following her.
Sometimes she has as many as five! As long as she has at least one at her side, and as long as all the lambs following her are white, she figures that's close enough. After all, with this many white lambs running around, who can keep track?
Here's Peri, with her white twins, Ulric and Ulrica. I was worried that Peri would have a hard time being a mom this year, because one of her ankles was destroyed by a rattlesnake bite last summer, so she has to hop on 3 legs. But so far, she's doing fine.

Ulrica stays close to her mom.

But Ulric is apt to wander off and get lost. He usually ends up being the 3rd lamb following Phoebe instead.

Here's Moriah, very proud and protective of her surprise spotted ewe lamb, Ulani:

Pandora's white ewe lamb, Utopia, looks like she may end up being as large and well-built as her mom.
Halsa's black mouflon spotted ewe lamb, Udara, has so much white covering her mouflon markings that it was tricky deciphering her genetics to figure out what her real color was.

Poppy's babies are Ulyssia:

And Ulysses:
Una continues to be as cute and stout as can be.
Dainty little Unity frisks around:
One of our cats, Oliver Sudden, stops by for a drink:

Tonight is the first night I'm leaving the pasture gate open so the ewes and lambs can stay out there after dark if they want to. The temperature was in the mid-80s (F) today, so the hot sunny pasture wasn't as enjoyable to them during the daylight hours.

My rams are a bit thinner than I'd like them to be, since all the ewes have been getting the majority of the attention lately. So to give them a treat, I opened the ram pen gate and let them out onto the lawn to graze on the new grass. They are pretty happy about that!

The lilacs and cherry trees are in full bloom here, so the air is filled with sweet perfume. And at sunset, the sky put on one of its fiery displays that we are so privileged to enjoy: