When a Problem is a Solution

So you’ll be thrilled to hear that not only has my little bottle lamb survived, he has thrived.

Bottle lamb at Sheep and Pickle Farm
Lamb in the house!

 

Lester Flatt spent about four days in the house, sleeping on my tummy at night and coming to work with me during the day.  In that time, he went from sad and listless to vibrant and vigorous.  So vigorous that it was clearly time to put him outside where livestock belong.  But he couldn’t go out alone – sheep need friends, and a lone little lamb would be the saddest situation possible.

Enter Merle Watson.

I came home on Saturday night from taking care of the main flock.  I was completely exhausted and still debating whether to remove Meadowlark from Shirley to make sure she would be adequately fed.   As I was shuffling to the door, I heard Earl baaing a plaintive, whiny baa.  “Can it, Earl.” I thought.  He can be kind of a whiner about food.  Then I had one of those gut feelings.  “It’s worth a check…it’ll just take a moment to make sure he has water or whatever.”

Earl was standing alone in the damp cold.  “Where’s Martha?” I asked.  I saw her face in the door, and her position told me instantly that she was in labor.  In their shed, I found that she was well on her way to delivering a HUGE lamb.  All of my goat experience has made deliveries second nature, so without thinking I positioned the baby and pulled with her contractions.  Out came the BIGGEST LAMB (or goat!) I HAVE EVER SEEN.  He was really, really big, perhaps 15 lbs.  I have no idea how Martha’s tiny body managed this, but she did.

After he was out, I set to trying to dry him just a little.  Martha had run off, and I fully expected her to turn around as soon as her son started to bleat, but no such thing happened.  Martha stood about 15 feet away from me in her usual cautious manner, as though nothing at all unusual had just happened.

“Martha!  It’s a boy!”   Nothing.

Once I had dried him enough so he wouldn’t instantly freeze, I stepped away to let Martha approach on her own while I went for a towel.  Returning to the paddock, I thought I saw Martha nuzzling her new son, but coming closer I found that she was just eating hay beside him with no regard for him at all!

Indifferent sheep
Earl and Martha, indifferent to the little lamb beside them! (apologies for the low-res/low-light pic)

I may have jumped the gun in deciding that Martha was not going to parent this lamb, and I could have put more effort into getting her to pay attention to him.  But on that cold night, with one bottle lamb already, I decided that this little guy might be the solution to my lamb-eviction conundrum.

The rest is standard- Jaska and I dried little Merle Watson like a mother would, and got him some emergency colostrum from Green Mountain Girls Farm.  (In addition to her lack of motherin’ feelings, Martha had very little milk relative to the needs of her monster lamb!  Hormonal issue?).  He consumed a pint in one go and was still eager for more!

Mothering a little lamb at Sheep and Pickle Farm
“Mom! I’m CLEAN already!”

Merle Watson’s sire was clearly Doc Watson, the ram from Dot that I retained from last year and bred only to Martha.  He’s distant enough from most of the flock to allow me to breed Earl’s daughters this fall.  Another bonus, as the ram search is proving as challenging this year as it was last year!

Bottle lambs at Sheep and Pickle Farm
The size difference between newborn Merle (no coat) and week old Lester (coat on)!

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