Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Weaning the Lambs

After my fun weekend with my gal-pals was over, it was time to worm and vaccinate all the sheep, and to wean the lambs. With the help of Ken and our improved catch-pen setup, this went relatively smoothly.

With all the supplemental food we've been giving the sheep over the past month, most of them have shot from "a little too thin" right past "good condition" and have headed straight on to "verging on tubby."

So it will be a good thing for the ewes to have their babies weaned, so we can take them off all that extra feed and let them gradually come back to their ideal weights. And the rams, who are doing no work at all this time of year, definitely don't need any more extra feed. They already waddle when they walk!

Normally, I don't wean my lambs. I just let them self-wean when they are ready. The process is pretty much complete by the time I separate the rams from the ewes in early September. But this year, most of my sheep buyers are ready to take their animals in July, a full 2 months earlier than usual, which is great for me---I get the money sooner and have fewer animals to feed for the rest of the summer. So that means, all the babies have to be weaned now.

The whole flock got checked, and we wormed those who needed it. And everybody got their annual CD&T shot. Most shepherds give the pregnant ewes this shot a few weeks before lambing to ensure maximum resistance gets passed to the lambs in the colostrum. But so far I prefer to do all the vaccines---lambs and moms---at the same time.

Up until this year, my flock was small enough that if I vaccinated the lambs and ewes separately, I'd be wasting most of a bottle of vaccine each time. This year, the flock is large enough that this isn't the case, so I may switch to the more conventional vaccine schedule in the future.

The babies will all get their booster vaccine---along with their ear tattoos for the registry and their ear tags for the Scrapie program---in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, they have to get used to being without Mom.

The first night they were apart, both moms and babies cried all night long (I should know, my bedroom window faces the sheep paddocks). Not only were they upset to be separated, but two thunderstorms rolled through that night, a mild one at dusk, and a rip-roaring one at 2:00 a.m. that included lots of VERY bright, scary lightning and about 1/2 hour of hail.

Now that a few days have passed, the lambs and moms are starting to get the hang of the new routine. The lambs can go off and graze in their pasture and the moms can go off and graze in theirs. They can still come together and visit each other through the paddock fence if they want to, but no nursing anymore.

The one possible problem from weaning time was that one of the lambs managed to squeeze through the other paddock gate into Glory's paddock, where we only noticed when Glory started running around trying to trample him. We rushed over there and got him out, but apparently Glory had managed to knock him in the head with one of her hooves, as he was bleeding around one of his horns.

The horn didn't seem to be knocked loose, and the blood quickly dried. The lamb is subdued today, so I'm keeping my eye on him, but here's hoping all he has is a (very understandable) headache.

Naughty Glory!

And speaking of naughty horses, over in the other paddock, Grace decided she was going to disassemble part of the barn. Her run-in shed is actually a bay in the barn with a wide opening and a small section of wall blocking part of the opening.

One of our previous horses already kicked that small section of wall and jarred it loose, and Ken had not yet figured out a sturdy enough way to repair it. Only recently he had said that since it was not a supporting wall, maybe it would be easier just to tear that section out rather than trying to repair it in a way that would be horse proof.

So Grace took him at his word. I heard a terrible creaking/scraping sound out there, and when I went to investigate, there was Grace deliberately rubbing and pushing against that little section of wall until the post was off its support and all the boards were starting to come loose.

Fortunately, she didn't hurt herself, and it only took Ken a few minutes to finish the disassembling that she had started. Now the whole front of the bay is open. Let's hope Grace doesn't find something else more important to break now!

1 comment:

Windyridge said...

We have found that putting the radio on helps keep them from baaing all night. The lambs are in the barn, the moms in the adjacent barnyard and the radio drowns out the sounds of the lambs so the moms don't baa. The moms appear to be relieved each year when the lambs are separated from them. In about 10 days we put them back together again and all is well.