I did write that we had our first lamb birthed on the farm in the wee hours of Monday morning. However, it actually wasn’t as simple as it sounded.
Skippy is one of our ewes. We bought her bred because we were impatient for lambs. We’ve been watching her closely for a few weeks because she was looking more and more like she was getting closer to delivery. Sunday, during the day, Skippy started acting funny. She didn’t really graze and she didn’t stay with the flock. She hung out by the gate looking puzzled. I knew she was probably going to lamb very soon because of this behavior.
I checked Skippy at 8:30 and she looked normal. I was headed to bed at 10:30, but went out again to check on her. Her water had broken, and she had lots of stringy mucous hanging from her vulva. I was so excited! My husband, my daughter, and I hung out in the field and watched her for awhile, but there was nothing to see. She wasn’t straining or anything. Around 11:30, we moved the flock up to the field closest to the house. I knew it was going to be a long night.
I went to bed and set an alarm for an hour. At 12:30, I trudged out to the field to check Skippy.
By this time, she had probably been in labor for several hours. No progress had been made, so weI figured it was time to check and see what was up. My husband came out around 1 and he caught Skippy and laid her down on her side. I put my hand in the birth canal to see what I could feel.
Skippy was fully dilated. However, the lamb was not in the birth canal. The lamb was stuck in the entrance to the canal. Its feet were pulled back toward its face, and the elbows were hung. I gently extended the lamb’s feet and tried to give a tug.
At this point, Skippy started pushing. Often, the sensation of a baby in the birth canal will give a mama animal the urge to push. I pulled several times. I got to where I could just see the head, but my grip wasn’t strong enough to go any further.
My husband and I switched places. He began gently tugging on the baby, while I held Skippy down. For a first time ewe, this lamb was large. Its shoulders were hung up. He pulled and pulled and poor Skippy tried to help us by pushing with all her might. We were beginning to get worried. The lamb was alive, but we could see by its swollen tongue hanging from its mouth that it was beginning to be distressed. I wasn’t sure that we were going to be able to get the lamb out in one piece. I feared for our ewe.
It started raining, and we were kneeling in the mud, trying to extricate a little lamb from a ewe who seemed just too small to birth it.
Eventually, though, my husband was able to wiggle the lamb free. A tiny bit at a time, the lamb began to slide out of Skippy. The baby’s hips hung up on Skippy’s pelvis, but slowly, patiently and as gently as possible, we worked the lamb free. The lamb slid out onto the wet grass. We were happy to see that it was breathing and shaking its head after just a few seconds. I let Skippy up.
Automatically, Skippy leapt away from us. She ran off to the rest of the sheep. My husband moved toward Skippy and held her still, and I brought Skippy her baby. I shoved the little one in Skippy’s face and once she caught a whiff of her baby, she was in love. Skippy began licking and cooing to her little lamb, with a sweet maternal bawl. We stepped back and watched the miracle. Skippy seemed so thrilled to be a mother. After a time, we decided that we would need to put Skippy and the lamb in the barn. The ground was muddy and wet, and Skippy needed privacy and an enclosed space to bond with her lamb.
I took a wheelbarrow and began filling our stall with clean, fresh bedding. By the time I had it ready, my husband had moved Skippy over by the barn. Moving her was easy. All he had to do was pick up the lamb and carry it at Skippy’s eye level. She would follow her baby anywhere. She didn’t even seem aware that she was going someplace unfamiliar.
After the two sheep were in the barn, we took a quick peek at the baby.
A girl. The ewe lamb was stocky, white with a black head.
Next, was to encourage Skippy to feed her little one. Skippy was so interested in licking and mothering her baby, that she kept chasing the little one around in circles. The lamb would head for the udder, and Skippy would turn around to lick her. So we held Skippy still while the lamb got herself a good drink of colostrum.
Finally, around 2:30 in the morning, we felt fairly confident that Skippy and her lamb would be okay for the rest of the night. We left a dim light burning in the barn and finally went to bed.
The next day, we were definitely tired, but it sure was worth it. Skippy is doing marvelously and it amuses me to see how devoted she is to her baby.