Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The double twin bluff

Yesterday was a winter blast - snow, hail, wind and rain - grim weather for newborn lambs. The sunrise was not red but full of warning anyway.  Farmer cannot remember ever having to lamb a ewe in a swirl of snowflakes before. He did the usual rounds of the fields and when the skies cleared in the afternoon he got to the hill.

Last night, Farmer had a couple of ewes and lambs he wanted to check on in the Emergency Ward before bed so I walked up with him.  Walter waited patiently outside.

Today did not start much warmer.  I drove to Tobermory first thing and the temperature was 1.5 degrees.  The hill tops were white and the roadside along the Mishnish lochs was covered in patchy light snow too. Thankfully the sun did come out at times, between the showers.

Lambing is about half way through now, and today was, for various reasons, the first time I had been out with Farmer when he was checking the older ewes and the Cheviots.

One of last year's bottle fed Zwarties was lambing for the first time this year (a gimmer), and when we reached her, she showed no signs of having had her lamb and yet she had two lambs running around her - to complicate things further, they were of different ages!  This tiny one was clearly newborn, and most probably she had given birth to it, despite there not being any signs of her having lambed.

As Farmer investigated, the Zwartie bunted the little lamb and walked off with the larger lamb, who was trying to suckle from her.  Leaving this wee one on its own and bleating frantically.  He popped her in the back of the buggy and we continued on our way.

This ewe was in the middle of lambing but the lamb had a 'leg back'.  Intervention was necessary to save the lamb and possibly the ewe as well.  He and Jan leapt out of the buggy and with some successful non verbal communication between the two of them,  Jan stood her ground the other side of the ewe whilst Farmer jumped towards her and caught hold tight.  It was amazing to watch him gently lamb the ewe, clearing the nose and mouth of any blockages, massaging its body to get the blood going, and out it slips onto the ground.    Within a minute it was trying to get up onto its feet, and he moved the lamb round to the ewe's head so she could start to mother it.

Farmer decided to try something he had never done before, that he had heard of other shepherds doing.  He was going to try and trick the ewe into thinking she had given birth to a pair of twins.   I fetched the lamb from the buggy, and Farmer rubbed it in the afterbirth, so that it would smell the same as her own lamb.   He then placed the lamb next to her own one. It appeared to work as she started to sniff and lick the second lamb as well as her own.  

We brought them back to the farm, set her up with her new twins in one of the Emergency Ward pens, and left them to it.   Farmer is never smug about his successes but was quietly pleased, and justifiably so, that this had worked and that she had taken to the foreign lamb.  

However... imagine his surprise when he went back an hour later to see how they all were, to discover the ewe now had THREE lambs in the pen.  She had been marked at scanning time as carrying a single lamb but had in fact been carrying twins!   So today she had the last laugh. And we were back to square one with the unwanted wee lamb.  

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