Thursday 26 March 2015

Raising the Baaaaa......

I got the call and immediately mobilized. My friends, proper farmers, had located some cade ewe lambs for me to raise by bottle.

It's not that I specifically want to give myself the added expense in time and finance to raise baby lambs, it's just that by raising lambs by hand, you really bond with them. You get to know quirky personality traits and they get to know you, which seriously helps when they grow up and you need to move or manipulate them. My current ewes were all raised this way and they are the most biddable, loving, want-to-be-petted-like-dogs, creatures ever. It doesn't make commercial sense but it makes sense to me, (and saves me time in the long run.)

My 'big' girls were all raised by bottle and are so easy to manage. I don't have a sheep dog to round my ewes up, so, standing by a gate, I merely call them and they come running from three fields away. I'm the Barbara Woodhouse of sheep!

Dog crate in the boot of my car, my friend and I drove to a commercial farm where barns and sheds, and even a huge wedding marquee, housed extensive sheep maternity wards. Hundreds of sheep, hundreds and hundreds of lambs. In specially created hot boxes, (intensive care) we saw some tiny tiddlers, most seemed to be perking up and the commercial farmer assured us that most would survive to be raised by bottle. My lamb-dealer shook her head and we were off to shop for perkier lambs.

In hay filled pens, cades, (3rd and 4th sibling lambs or orphan lambs,) huddled together in the straw. Some of the long-term inmates, brave individuals, pottered over to sniff us through the bars of the hurdles. Suddenly a lamb was handed to me, then another.... then another. We were urged to follow the farmer who went pen to pen, handing us suitable babies, most taken from their mums who already had two healthy lambs to feed. All looked fit and well, all had clearly had an initial feed of colostrum, the essential protection for any baby.

We made mini trips to the car to pop warm, bleating lambs into the dog crate. I felt sad to have pulled them from their mums but also assured that they were due to be pulled anyway and besides, I'm a lovely mummy too and they were coming to a lovely home.

And so I've decided, in terms of shopping; lamb shopping is the best. You can keep your shoe shopping, the Manolo Blahniks etc and clothes shopping, you can even keep your make-up and jewellry style shopping, lamb shopping is the best.

Fourteen days on, approximately 672 feeds later, (1344 to go) and all 8 babies are drinking happily from the bottle, most have sussed that there is also milk in the free-feed bucket that is bolted to the wall.

Clockwise: Sproglet1, Smudge, Spots and Noche

It's not easy feeding 8 hungry lambs, fortunately I have had a multitude of volunteers and some who didn't volunteer (sorry Spanish guests!) It may not be easy but it is lots of snuggly fun.

As these baby girls will join our other breeding ewes in two years time, we have named them. (Also not very commercial) There is Una, Smudge, Blanca, Squeek, Nibble, Lady, Noche and Spots.  They join our original ewes: Snowy, Moon, Pink, Oreo, Bourbon, Cocoa and Bino.

Our proper lambing from our own ewes begins tomorrow for the next two weeks.... goodbye bed, hello night-shift!

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