Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Waiting till the Worst Possible Day?

Lily's first lamb of twins, born outside. 
I was up on an early alarm this morning anxious to check on our ewe, Lily. Friends of the Blog will recall that she was "bagging up" (udder enlarging) in the previous post, so we knew we were on for some lambing, but she was still, this morning, officially 10 days early. She had teased me all yesterday with her retreating to far flung corners of the field to lie down, get up, walk in small circles and lie down again. She'd taken a light breakfast though and was not showing any other signs (like 'star-gazing'), so we had all gone off to bed lamb-less.

Twin #1 gets a good lick over by attentive Mum. 
Liz and I had been joking that she was deliberately hanging it out till the forecast snow started, the better to guarantee herself some nights indoors. Well, this morning her retreating, declining breakfast and looking uncomfortable were at a whole new level of intensity and I just KNEW we were on today. Then at 9 am the snow started to fall in earnest. I 'spoofed' the other sheep onto the front lawn so that we could have unfettered access to her and her lamb(s).

Chowing down on the all-important
colostrum, indoors by now. 
I retreated back indoors for my own breakfast but could see her through the binoculars from the Dining Room window and at 5 to 10, I shouted up to Liz that "we have membranes". We were on. Lily is a fast and efficient Mum. She quickly followed the bag of membrane and liquids with the lamb herself. She was no sooner on the ground than Lily was licking her clean and in minutes she was up on her feet and nosing around for Mum's milky teat.

The second twin arrives within minutes of us moving the
new family indoors.
Then it all went a bit quiet. Lily gave one big squeeze which sent her loin almost concave as seen from above and pushed out the 'leavings'. I guess Lily ate these though I didn't see that - I'd gone off to set up some indoor accommodation out of that snow and wind.

That lovely cardigan now finished by Liz. The same-colour
snood / neck-wrap  is here sitting on the right shoulder. 
I was in two minds whether to call it a day, all done, just the one lamb and bring them indoors, or whether the move might stress out Mum half way through her labour (if it was twins). We decided to bring them in as it was very cold and still snowing and the first lamb was shivering badly. This is relatively easy with a calm ewe - one person picks up the lamb and holds it where Mum can see it, then retreats to shelter with Mum following the 'stolen' baby.

That morning really was awful.
With the family safe indoors and towelled dry (with hay; also good for massaging some warmth/life back into a chilled infant) we humans retreated indoors for tea, me thinking that this was it. I sent the usual volley of texts out to interested parties. I went out to check the sheep about 10 minutes later and was delighted to find that in that interval she'd fired out the second lamb - twins! #2 was already struggling to its feet (I have not checked sex on that one yet) and starting to nose around for a teat.

Christmas left overs - turkey and ham PIE. Respect. 
And that was it - all over by about 11 o'clock. We both went about the various other businesses of the day, frequently nipping back to check on the new family. We have Mum-in-Law coming up possibly tomorrow (though the snow may cause a re-think on that plan) so there was shopping and house-work prepping, plus I had been asked to help friend move furniture to clear a room that was getting new lino, and then to move it all back afterwards.

As we go into the dark evening, it is still snowing on and off and I gave the dogs their off-lead exercise tonight in the orchard in a mini blizzard. Liz is delighted that the bad weather has caused tonight's play rehearsal not to happen. The lambs look very well as we shut down for the night - I have seen both suckling heartily on that all important colostrum and I have seen both Mum's teats in action. I have yet to see the lovely, comforting 2-lambs-at-it-at-once-one-on-each-side which we shepherds love to see. That tells us that all is really well. I have sprayed the lambs' 'belly buttons' with iodine. We have yet to ring-dock their tails and to take the iconic, lamb-under-each-arm cute photo. Tomorrow for those jobs all being well. It's been quite a day.

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