Saturday, May 16, 2009

The mother-baby bond

Yesterday we gave 150 shots and weaned the lambs. It was hard on all of us. Dave caught and held 46 babies while I gave each of them a second shot to prevent overeating disease and an injection of Ivermectin, a very good wormer. The lambs were surprised by the shots and sometimes skittered around afterward at the momentary discomfort. After the shots, Dave set the lamb into one of two pens, the keepers and the meat lambs.

When we finished with the lambs, we began the ewes. They are way too big to lift over the fence, and since we didn’t have to divide them, just keep track of who had had a shot, we marked each sheep’s nose with a yellow marking crayon after her injection of Ivermectin. The sheep didn’t actually want to be caught, so Dave had to chase, grab and then take down or pin every ewe against the wall. It was quite a battle. I seem to only get in the way, so Dave chooses a ewe, grabs a hind leg, moves in on her to hold her flanks, flips her onto her side and lays on her, all by himself. Then I step in and quite easily inject one to two cc’s of Ivermectin just under their skin. Then I scribble on her nose with a crayon and Dave lets her go. As we worked our way through the flock, the noise level increased as babies and mothers realized that they could see each other and hear each other, but they couldn’t reach each other.

After all the lams and ewes have had their shots, we release the ewes into the pen with the keeper lambs and quickly drove them out through two gates to the north pasture. We have to keep them moving so that they are in the far pasture before they realize that they have left their lambs behind. The best mothers are the hardest to move because they don’t want to go anywhere without their lambs. They keep turning around, trying to go back and find them.

I remember what it was like to be a nursing mom, I had a hard time leaving my daughters with my parents, to say nothing of a baby sitter. And I knew I would see my girls in a few days. I can’t imagine losing my babies forever. I can’t imagine what my ewes are thinking.

I know what I’m thinking. The lambs who are left behind in the barn are my sale lambs. Gradually over the summer, people will come to buy those lambs from us for lamb roasts. And we will sell them.

Tonight, when we go to bed, we’ll hear the ewes in the north pasture baaing for their babies, and we’ll hear the lambs in the barnyard baaing for their mothers. That is our penance.

On the other hand, many of the lambs are almost as big as their mothers. Christmas has two lambs her size. If we don’t wean those babies, Christmas will get thinner and thinner, her nipples will wear and her patience will thin. So we also do the ewes a favor by weaning their babies. I just wish that we could explain it so that they would understand.

In a few days, the baaing will stop. In a week, we will stop worrying about an animal breaking through the fences to rejoin with family. In a month, if the lambs and ewes somehow end up in the same pasture, most of them won’t un-wean themselves, but a few, a few of the good mothers, or those with persistent lambs, will begin nursing again. Motherhood is a strong bond, whether you are a sheep or a person.

1 comment:

  1. That's sounds like so much work. Ufda!! I've got to consult you about senting up a sorting and vacinating chute.