Thursday, April 2, 2009

A cacophony of ewes

The nominative plural for a group of sheep is a flock, and it fits adult sheep perfectly. But just after lambing there is a much more descriptive word– a cacophony.

Today we vaccinated all the babies. Dave picked up a lamb. I pulled up a little tent of skin on its shoulder, slid a syringe needle into the space and injected 2cc. of Clostridium perfringens Type CDT. This vaccination will keep the lambs from getting overgrowths of bacteria in their guts.

The lambs wiggled in Dave’s arms during the injection, but scampered off when he set them down as if nothing had happened. The easiest way to keep track of which lambs we have vaccinated is to partition the barn with all the animals on one side of a fence. Then we drop the vaccinated lambs over the fence to the unpopulated side of the barn. This works well until a few ewes realize that their lambs are missing. They start calling for their babies, the babies call back. But because of the fence down the middle of the barn, they can’t get together. Christmas paced back and forth along the fence line talking to her babies, but other ewes were not so smart. Some ran around the pen bawling and searching for their lambs. Rooster just stood in one place and bellowed.

By the time we finished vaccinating the 50th lamb, our ears were ringing and we had to shout to hear each other over the din. When we opened the fence, the ewes rushed through and the noise level increased as they checked out lambs sniffing and crying for their own. No one in the barn today could deny this group of sheep is a cacophony of sheep.

And then when all the lambs were released to the freedom of the barn yard, we realized that there is also a better nominative plural for a group of lambs.

The barn emptied as moms and babies, reunited at last, ambled out for corn and hay. I lifted the bottle babies one by one out of the group pen. Each lamb looked around, then, catching sight of another lamb, trotted over. When the group of bottle lambs swerved toward the barn door they were met by incoming lambs, racing at full speed. The bottle lambs broke into gallops and careened around the barn, practically running up the walls in their enthusiasm. After two or three circuits of the barn, they were out the door, ears flapping in the breeze. Like the water in the mill race at a mill, the lambs flowed around corners, over obstructions and then burst free – a race of lambs.

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