April 29, 2016
Gamboling, bouncing lambs!
Lambing season is well underway. Two thirds of the 120 ewes have already given birth. The lambs dash and spring and leap sideways. They frisk and cuddle and bleat. Some even nestle on their mother’s back. In the evening, the barn is a scene of cosy bliss. Curly white forms lie snuggled down in the straw — sometimes all in a jumble —, eyes closed, mouth half-smiling. How cute!
It’s a good thing the lambs are so cute because, man, are they a lot of work!! All the new
mums are kept in a private pen for a few days before moving into the common area. (This enables them to bond with their lambs in relative peace. Moreover, it makes it much easier to monitor any problems.) Three times a day, these sheep need fresh grass and water. The layout in the barn is a bit chaotic, so there’s a lof of (elegant) lumbering over fences included. All of the ewes also receive grain twice a day in a common trough. This is without a doubt the highlight of their day — they go crazy! You almost need earplugs to cover the deafening BÊÊÊÊÊ. The new mothers get their grain carried to their pen. In the process, you risk getting mobbed by the other ewes, all of them desperate for extra grain. You’d think we starved them.
Otherwise, I’m learning to recognize the symptoms of imminent birth (lack of appetite, nervous pawing, standing in one spot without moving) and have also witnessed several births. I’ve even been able to bottle-feed a few of the kopplamm. These are lambs that have been taken away from their mother because she couldn’t provide enough milk for all her babies. Though they have their own milk dispenser, some haven’t quite mastered the necessary drinking skills, so we bottle-feed them just to make sure that they’re getting enough milk. In addition to providing the kopplamm with material food, I like to hug them as well, on the pretext that they’re cuddle-hungry. In return, they try to nibble my clothes. (Interestingly, it isn’t always the smallest lamb that becomes the kopplamm. For example, if a mother has two very small lambs and one very big one, the biggest will be removed in order to give the other two a more equal chance.)
All in all, it’s a pretty tiring and crazy season. Yet it’s wonderful to see things we’d prepared when I last was here being put into use. The tablets we’d painted with chalk-paint now hang in each pen and are used to inscribe the new arrivals’ information – weight, sex, date of birth, etc. The fences we’d built and hinged together form the sides of the individual boxes. And the most exciting : swollen, misshapen ewes give way to tiny little creatures that wobble on their legs and soon enough are exploring all around the barn.
Well, the sun is out now and that’s all from my little cabin on stilts, which is rocking wildly in the wind.