Friday, February 8, 2008
This is the first of what should be four or possibly more UC FFA Club Farm lambs this spring. Mother and child are doing well in their lambing pen or "jug" at the Tinker Farm. For early lambs, a special pen with heat lamp and mother confined ensures survival in Maine winters. Luckily, it's relatively warm out today at around 25-28 F. The first worry the shepherd has is, is the lamb warm enough to survive? Most lambs that die shortly after birth do so from hypothermia because they're still wet and can't dry off and warm up. The mother's vigorous licking helps stimulate the lamb to move and get warm. The second question is, is it feeding? Lambs need calories to stay warm. As you can see, this one is. Lambs always wag their tail vigorously when they're getting milk.
These lambs are Hampshires and Hampshire crosses. I always think Hampshires are a too-skinny sheep. But then Aimee and I keep Corriedales, which are not only fatter, but have a good deal more fleece. Our own pregnant ewes are huge and will get even bigger by the time they're due, right around spring break.
You can time the birth of your first lamb of the season by separating the ram or "tup" in the fall. If he can't get to the ewes, he can't breed them, and the gestation period will ensure a later birth, which in Maine is very good policy. Last year at this time it was far too cold for early lambs. Cold weather and early births make for busy shepherds and sometimes a dead lamb.
Students may go visit, but are asked to go in the sheep shed only with FFA club members. There are three other pregnant mothers there, all due very shortly, so we don't need to get them running around all riled up, if we can help it.
Thanks to Aimee P for the great pictures.