Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cold nights and warm days

Yesterday morning, the thermometer read 13˚F. My fingers inside my work gloves were cold as I walked the barnyard looking for new babies. No new babies, and my hands warmed up by the time I had fed the ewes their corn and hay.

We actually appreciate the cold nights at this time of year. We tapped the maple trees out at the sugar bush almost two weeks ago, and we’ve collected sap and boiled it down into syrup ever since. We’ve had enough warm weather lately that the lakes are starting to open up and we are no where near ready to be done syruping. When the lakes are open, it means that the weather is too warm for good clear sap. When the sap turns yellow, we stop sugaring.

So a temperature of 13˚ means that the ice will last just that much longer. We didn’t collect any sap today – the temperature only hit a high of 32˚. The best we could do was empty ice from the cans that warmed enough to shake the ice free. But we spent the time feeding the fires and splitting wood to feed the fires.

They are predicting 50˚ weather next week, so we have our fingers crossed that the sap will run hard tomorrow and over the weekend. Cold nights, below freezing and warm days above freezing make perfect sugaring weather. If it freezes during the night and hits 50˚ during the day, we’ll be fine. But that doesn’t usually happen. Really warm days don’t usually lead to freezing nights. While most Minnesotans think spring, we talk longingly of blizzards and cold snaps – anything to prolong the time we spend in the woods turning sap into syrup.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'm glad I'm not a sheep!

Sitting out on a hillside in the sun is a lovely thing to do. Lambs cavort, leap, circle and race each other. Swans fly overhead; their great white wings whuffle the air. Sparrows fight in the hay mow, high voices shrill on the morning air. The sheep lie in the sun much of the day; and yet I don’t envy them.

There are many reasons why I'm glad I'm not a sheep. They eat mostly hay and grass. They have a very small vocabulary. They can’t read. There are lots of other reasons, but mostly I’m glad I’m not a sheep because of lambing.

Dave helped a ewe deliver tangled triplets. The lamb whose nose was at the opening of the uterus was actually the lamb whose body was furthest away from the opening. There were four legs presenting all ready to be born at once. Dave fished around, his arm up to his elbow in ewe, until he was able to rearrange the lambs and pull them out. What human mother would put up with that?

Once we got the lambs all breathing (one we rubbed with a towel, the second we swung around by its hind legs, the third breathed on it’s own as soon as we cleared the mucus from its face); we set all three in front of their mother so she could lick the slimy, mucusy secretions from them.

Then we forced the mom to her feet and she staggered across the barn to a small pen where we locked her in with her babies. We stripped the milk out of her nipples and all three babies immediately climbed to their feet and began butting their mother’s udder. My breasts hurt at the thought.

But the main reason I’m glad I’m not a sheep is that those three babies were over 100 centimeters long cumulatively, and they weighed a total of forty pounds.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


The time I most appreciate Dave’s expertise as an emergency physician is, well, in emergencies. Like the day after the quadruplets were born. Our lambing jugs are only 4 foot by 4 foot squares. For moms with more than three lambs, we add a small antechamber, a triangular space four feet on a side. but even then, it’s not a lot room for five animals, one of them a 200 pound sheep.

Sometimes a mom will step on a lamb, or lay on a lamb – often out of tiredness, but mostly out of bad luck. Sometime during the four hours between barn checks, Super Mom had stepped on her smallest lamb. At first we didn’t notice. The lamb was up, baaing, struggling to get her chance at one of Super Mom’s two nipples. Nursing involves a lot of struggle for quads – somebody is always waiting to nurse while you’re on the nipple, or hogging the nipple while you wait.

The smallest lamb was salt and pepper gray. She stood out in our minds because of her coloring and her tiny size. We always checked her to make sure her belly was full. And every single time from the first moment we saw her, her belly was full. She more than stood her own against three siblings.

At one barn check, we suddenly realized that that smallest lamb wasn’t using her right hind leg. I picked up the lamb and held her while Dave palpated her leg. A break in one of her tarsals, her foot bones. Dave measured her lower leg and then retreated to the garage to create a splint out of pvc pipe and an old terry cloth towel. Then I held the splint on the lamb as Dave wrapped it with bright green vet wrap. Vet wrap should be one of the seven wonders of the world. It stretches, is thin enough to conform to any shape, sticks to itself and best of all, comes in a rainbow of colors. Dave wrapped the lamb’s leg and set her on the ground. The first few steps, she dragged her right hind leg, but within a matter of minutes, she was putting weight on it.

We kept and her quadruplets in the group pen almost a week, just to make sure that that smallest lamb– Pepper (okay, I named her Pepper – she’s so cute and so tiny, and so used to us because of us picking her up all the time to check her tummy) - was able to get along with a splinted leg. No problem. So this morning, we opened the gate to the group pen and Pepper followed out into the wide world of the barn yard.

Usually, the sheep aren’t interested in each other’s lambs, but Pepper was of interest to Kaly, our alpaca. Kaly followed Pepper around the barnyard as Pepper followed her mother. Every once in awhile, Super Mom would catch of glimpse of Kaly behind her and begin to run. Pepper ran to catch up and then Kaly ran and Super Mom ran faster. Pepper had no problem at all keeping up with her mother. Kaly finally decided that the little black and white lamb with a green splint was neither alpaca, nor threat to the flock.
And Dave and I were reassured that in spite of her broken leg, this lamb was no longer a medical emergency. Pepper was surviving just fine on her own.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


clear skies
even before sunrise
light the sheep with hope

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A fearful thing

Snow White is the most beautiful sheep I have ever seen. She has a silver gray fleece, a dark gray head and white eyeliner around her eyes. She’s a small ewe, with a distinct personality. She has presence, elegance. If the other ewes were going out drinking, she would gently decline and no one would think the worse of her.
She’s been hanging out in the barn for the last week or so and I’ve been expecting to find her in the corner industriously licking a new baby every time I go out to the barn. This afternoon, there was a clear stream of amniotic fluid hanging from her vulva. It was time.
Dave and I allowed her to get on with her labor. We fed and watered the ewes in jugs. We moved three moms and their babies from jugs to the group pen to open up some jugs. We put in ear tags and docked tails on five sets of lambs. Snow White’s labor didn’t seem to have progressed ini that hour, but some ewes don’t labor well in the hustle and bustle shepherds create in the barn. So we left, determined to give her peace.
Half an hour later, when I returned to the barn, Snow White was in her corner, but still no lamb. I walked up to her, speaking softly. “Hello, Lady, let’s see what’s going on.” I held out my hand. Snow White watched me with her big brown eyes and then sniffed my hand.
I knelt beside her, reached under her taut belly, grabbed the legs on the other side of her body and pulled. Snow White fell to the ground. I leaned against her belly and pushed my hand into her vagina. Her pelvic opening was small. There was barely room for my hand and the lamb’s legs. One hoof, two. No head that I could feel. The legs seemed to be attached to each other far inside the clingy confines of Snow White’s uterus. No tail either. What was this presentation?
I clutched the tiny hooves and pulled. They pulled back. Obviously I wasn’t going to get this lamb out on my own. Dave’s hands are bigger than mine, but he is stronger than I am, so when we need strength, he does the pulling on hard deliveries. I leaned on Snow White’s chest. She smelled like clean wool, not at all like the barn. She turned her head and licked my hand, still covered with amniotic fluid.
“I’ve found the head,” Dave said, “but it’s not facing the right direction. These must not be front feet.” We were both trying to visualize what we had felt, to make sense of the angles and shapes under our fingers.
I could hear liquid sounds from Snow White’s vagina. She kept licking my hand. “Okay, I’ve got a head and a leg. I can feel the shoulder. Can I deliver it this way?”
“You should be able to,” I said, straining to hold Snow White in place as she strained to birth Dave’s hand and her lamb.
“Hold her.” Dave said through gritted teeth. He pulled the glistening black lamb from Snow White and handed him to me. I watched the lamb’s head swing, as if unconnected to its body. “It was moving before that last pull,” Dave said, tiredness in his voice.
We tried to revive the lamb. I rubbed its little body. Dave breathed into its mouth and nose. But nothing could fix a dislocated spine. The pull that had finally removed the lamb from Snow White’s body had broken its neck, shutting down heart beat and instincts to breathe.
We left Snow White licking her dead lamb. After awhile she would realize that this lamb would not get up and demand to nurse. She would try to find the little black lamb she knew she had birthed, wandering the barnyard, calling plaintively, a call that would not be returned. She would sniff all the black lambs she found, hoping to recognize her lamb, until finally, the instincts that drove her would ease and she would stop looking, stop crying.
I don’t know if sheep remember sorrow, but I do. Now, when I look at Snow White, I know that her elegance is touched with loss. It is a fearful thing to love that which death can touch.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The thing about bottle babies

This year, we have no bottle lambs – yet. That’s a good thing. It means that all 23 moms are nursing their 56 babies well. Bottle lambs can be obnoxious when you’re trying to get a skitsy mom to follow a set of of new twins into the barn. The bottle lambs get between the new mom and her babies, confusing her. They get under my feet, tripping me. And they are always hungry – no matter how much you feed them. Bottle lambs don’t gain weight as fast as other lambs, so we can’t sell them as soon either.So it’s a good thing not to have bottle lambs.

But it’s also a sad thing. Bottle lambs can be the purest form of joy known to man. When a little girl or a grown man holds a lamb in their arms and the lamb is sucking enthusiastically on a bottle, that person can’t help but grin. Bottle lambs are even nice ten years down the road.

Last night, two ewes lambed one after the other. Both lambed out on the hill behind the barn.

Dave brought in the first set of twins. He picked up the lambs and walked backwards, holding the squirmy, crying lambs out to their mother, just inches off the ground. Valentine, the new mother, followed him about 12 inches before she got distracted and circled back to where the lambs were born. Dave put down the lambs and backed away, After a while, the mom would find her babies and lick them, chuckling over them. Then Dave stepped in again, picked up the babies and began backing. Valentine skittered off. Dave would stop, lay down the lambs and back away until she had made contact again. Step by slow step, Dave backed toward the barn. When I went out to find him an hour after he had left the house, he was holding the lambs inside the barn, but he still had another fifteen feet to go before he could to lay the lambs into a jug under a heat lamp. And even then, he wasn’t done. Valentine had no interest in the jug. We closed the barn door so she wouldn’t leave and gradually herded her down to the open jug. Finally, she saw her babies and stood in the entry tot he jug, watching. I was closest to her. I stood very still, trying to emulate one of the support posts in the barn. She stared at me. I tried to move infinitesimally closer, a little tiny step at a time. Closer, closer, ten feet, nine and a half feet, nine feet. At eight feet, she darted around me and away from her babies.

Dave and I left her to find her babies. They were under the heat lamp and would not get chilled. While she calmed down, we fed and watered the other sheep in jugs and the group pen. Finally, Valentine stood in the opening to the jug. Dave walked oh so quietly up behind her and slammed the door shut. She looked over her shoulder at us in surprise, ready to dart away, but her escape route was gone.

Christmas lambed shortly after Valentine. Christmas is an old sheep, probably ten or eleven, but she is a young mom. This was only her third lambing. But when I scooped up her babies, she was not at all intimidated. Christmas had been a bottle lamb. Dave and I help no terror for her. She would follow us anywhere. As I walked down to the barn, facing forward and standing upright, Christmas circled me, talking to her babies the entire way. She stepped into the barn before I did, and searched until she found an open jug with a heat light shining. She watched me as I laid her babies on the golden straw and then moved into the pen with them. By the time I had tied the pen shut, her babies were nursing. They certainly wouldn’t become bottle lambs.

If Valentine didn’t relax enough to let her babies nurse, they just might be bottle lambs. But I guess if that happened, they’d have an easier time of lambing next year when they were new moms because they would know Dave and I. That’s the thing about bottle babies.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Keeping up appearances

The spring equinox is less than two weeks away. In my mind, bright green shoots and pale purple crocus blossoms re just around the corner (waiting under the snow).

But the reality of the end of winter is much different. Carly, our dog, is old and can’t walk as well as she once did. The melting snow has revealed dog feces everywhere. It’s been an icy winter, and Dave has spread ash from the wood stove down our front steps, along the walk, and over slippery spots on the driveway. The melting snow and ice exposes strata of gray ash flung like sea drift along the shore of our snow banks. Rags of tattered, un-recyclable plastic flutter around the garbage cans.

The barnyard is melting. Between shrinking snow banks, the well trod path to the barn is a morass of mud and manure. Our boots make an inevitable sucking sound when we walk the path. Dave and I try to avoid the deep spots, where we know the muck will rise over the rubber parts of our boots and inundate our socks. Even the sheep don’t like walking in the muck. We all try to stay on the ice shelf that edges the path to keep dry, but like the glaciers in Antarctica, our ice shelf is melting.

There is no relief from the ugliness of winter’s end inside the house either. Both Dave and I work under the hopeful belief that if we walk lightly in our barn boots from the front door to the kitchen sink, we won’t leave any mucky boot prints. Between multiple trips to the barn each day, the inertia that comes with interrupted sleep, and the projects we are trying to do in spite of lambing (Dave making a wooden stool, me writing), we somehow don’t find the energy? enthusiasm, time? to mop the floor as often as we should.

But we have six amaryllis blooms on the plant on the big blue pot on the kitchen counter, and friends are visiting tomorrow. We will mop the floor before they arrive and it will stay clean for an hour or two. But regardless of how long the floor is clean or how clean the floor is, our friends will share with us the infectious wonder of lambing and the absolute joy in being out doors as the weather warms and the snow recedes. Who cares about keeping up appearances!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dumb animals

Group pen

Sheep have a reputation as dumb animals – not in our house, of course, but in the eyes of cattle ranchers and other folks who don’t deal with sheep. I think the reputation is due in part to their inability to speak English, but also to their almost single minded devotion to food.

Well, food and water.

Their single minded devotion to food and water and salt.

Well, actually, to food and water and salt and their baby lambs.

Their almost single minded devotion to food, water, salt and baby lambs is in reality, not dumbness at all, but a great survival technique. If a sheep doesn’t get enough food, water, or salt, it doesn’t survive. And if its lambs don’t get enough food water and salt, the species doesn’t survive. And just think what a loss it would be if there were no baby lambs in the world.

Last night, I’m afraid, I wasn’t so sure. about sheep intelligence. It was 34˚ and raining. All the sheep were snuggled into the fresh straw covering the barn floor, except for three of the moms we’d let out of the group pen just twelve hours previously. These moms had babies who were less than a week old, babies who just five days ago had still been luxuriating under heat lamps to help them survive the shock of being forced out of a 104˚ uterus into a 32˚ barn.

Weren’t they smart enough to come in out of the rain?

I thought about forcing them into the barn and then closing the big doors so they’d have to stay in, but fortunately my brain was not completely in sleep mode, even at 11:30 p.m.
These ewes had been on restricted food for the last week. Dave and I try to feed them enough hay to keep them happy and well fed while they’re in jugs and in the group pen, but we only fed them every three to four hours. Maybe they did need to catch up on eating. Nursing a baby or two takes a lot of calories.

And the barn was crowded. There was a slight, but real chance that a baby could be trampled in the general melee when Dave goes out to check for new babies at three a.m.

But outside! It’s cold and rainy, and the babies have such short fleeces.

And then I remembered. One of the reasons that wool is such an incredible fiber for clothing is that it keeps you warm in spite of being wet. That’s why fishermen wear wool sweaters to sea, while old farmers wear wool long underwear all winter long, and why I never wear acrylic mittens or gloves.

Not only does wool keep you warm when it’s wet, but wool gives off heat when it’s wet! Indeed, a miracle fiber. And those baby lambs are completely covered in a coat of tightly curled wool. Maybe not so dumb after all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

teaching a lamb to nurse

When human babies are born, their moms hold them in their arms, and guide them to their nipples so that the babies can nurse. Sheep aren’t like that.

The ewes encourage their lambs to stand by licking, pawing and talking to them. They then nudge the lambs toward their udders with their noses. But if the lambs don’t figure out how to latch on to a nipple, there is nothing the moms can do.

There are a number of reasons why lambs don’t nurse. The nipples might be too big, too high, too low. The lamb might be too cold, too dumb, too weak. Whatever the reason, it is the shepherd’s job to help the lamb learn how to nurse.

Every shepherd has different techniques. Some are more successful than others. When we first started raising sheep, we would get the lamb as close to its mother’s nipple as possible and then stretch the lamb’s head and the mom’s nipple until they met. It didn’t work very well. The technique I’ve finally developed works most of the time.

I skootch up to the ewe on my knees, holding the lamb between my knees. When the distance is small enough so that the lamb just fits between me and his mother’s udder, I cradle his head with my hands – one under his chin and the second cupping the back of his head. This way, I can keep him centered on the nipple. Lambs are so tiny, their heads fit easily in to my cupped hands. Then I use the forefinger of the hand under his chin to slide the nipple into his mouth. On a particularly stubborn lamb, I might have to open his mouth with the thumb and middle finger of my bottom hand and then slide the nipple in.

Dave pins the ewe against the wall with his shoulder against her chest and his head behind her ribcage. He holds the lamb’s front legs back under its body with one hand and guides its mouth to the nipple with the other.

If I stay calm, and the ewe doesn’t panic, my technique usually works quite well. But if the ewe is skitsy or in a panic, Dave holds her against the wall while I try to get the lamb nursing.

Once we have taught a lamb to nurse, they don’t need reminding. There is no sight more rewarding than to watch a lamb that I have struggled with, nursing, its entire body wriggling. Without our help, that lamb would have died.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sheep shots

low clouds
high humidity
air heavy with the scent of sheep

Just waiting

Ellie and baby

Avi and baby

Sunday, March 7, 2010

11:30 p.m. barn check

I don’t understand how Dave and I can be so tired. it’s been an easy lambing so far. No bottle lambs, no nights spent in the barn or lying in bed worrying. And yet, last night, after a long, careful conversation, we decided that we should go to bed at 9 pm, just after Dave did the 8:30 barn check. Our plan was to curl up in our nice warm bed with two glasses of wine, a couple of chocolate chip cookies and a good book for each of us. We both fell asleep within 15 minutes of laying down.

Even though I wore my clothes to bed so that I’d be uncomfortable enough to stay awake for my 11:00 barn check, I found myself surfacing from a deep sleep about 11:30. My bedside light was still on, and so was the hall light. Careless, I thought. A waste of electricity. I turned off the bedside light, but the hall light was okay, so I let it be. I closed my eyes and sank gratefully back onto the bed.

Only then did I realize I was uncomfortable. I was wearing all my clothes. Stupid.
I glanced at the clock again. 11:35. Ummm.

11:35! Rats. I had almost missed my barn check. And Dave had told me that Christmas was lying under the chute from the hay mow. She was probably lambing by now and she was our oldest sheep. She’d be sure to have problems.

I slid out of bed and staggered down stairs. I pulled on my coveralls, two jackets, felted hat, boots and gloves. Grabbed the flashlight and headed out to the barn. Our worst deliveries always seem to happen in the barn, maybe because when the sheep are in trouble, they go to the place they feel the most protected. SO when I check the sheep, I do the easy part first, I walk around behind the barn shining my flashlight on every ewe to check that she isn’t lambing. There was no moon last night, so none of the sheep were eating outside. When I walked into the barn, the standing sheep moved out of my way, like water around our canoe. The reclining sheep were comfortable enough not to be threatened by my presence.

Christmas lay in the far corner of the barn, eyes closed. When I turned on the barn lights she didn’t move. I walked slowly down the length of the barn. She didn’t look like she was in difficulties. In fact, she didn’t look like she was in labor.

I leaned over her to grab the hay fork and feed the five ewes in jugs. Suddenly, Christmas was awake and alert. She clambered to her feet, head up, and followed me down the row of pens as I fed the ewes. She had been spending her days in the barn rather than out in the field, so she probably was hungry. I slipped the last forkful of hay onto the floor in the corner of the barn.

“Don’t tell anybody,” I whispered as Christmas bent her head and began nibbling tasty alfalfa bits.

Nobody was lambing; everybody looked healthy. I could just go back to bed, no worries to keep me awake. Maybe by morning, I be caught up and sleep and ready to accomplish impossible things. But then again, this was lambing. I don’t have to accomplish anything but lambing, and that’s going well.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Dave and I snow shoed across a lake in the wildlife area behind our house last week. Suddenly, at the far end of the lake, a coyote trotted from shore to shore, bushy tail streaming out behind. As we watched, motionless, it stopped several times and glanced around. When it reached the shore, the coyote turned and disappeared into the brush along the shoreline. As hard as we looked, we saw no further sign of the animal. Against the white snow cover on the lake, it had been obvious. In the small trees and dun brown cattails on the shore, the coyote was completely camouflaged.

At the beginning of lambing, every time we go out to barnyard, the ewes all stand up and move away from us. After several weeks of at least six trips to the barn per day, the sheep barely notice us. But when strangers come to see the baby lambs, the sheep go back to their pre-lambing behavior, panic in the presence of strangers.

If, however, we send the strangers out to the barn in our coveralls, the sheep barely notice them. Our coveralls have become our camouflage, at least in the barnyard.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dawn sky

It is 6:30 am. The moon is setting over the west woods, a big silver circle, glowing in the dawn sky.

Dave enjoys the 3 am. barn check because he loves to look at the stars. I do the 6:30 am. barn check because I love the colors of the early morning sky. The eastern horizon is washed with peach and rose, subtle colors compared to sunset’s vibrant hues, but perfect tints for this time of year – promises of warmth when our eyes are tired of the whites and grays of winter.

In 25 years of 6:30 am barn checks, I don’t remember ever before watching the full moon sink behind the bare trees, brilliant in the reflected light of the rising sun. Something seen every quarter century is indeed precious.

None of our sheep are sick, none are in labor. It is a pleasure to have the energy and the emotional space to enjoy the dawn sky.

Monday, March 1, 2010

We have a lamb!

“Joanie,” Dave’s voice called to me, “we have a lamb!”
I pulled on my coveralls and boots and we both walked back to the barn yard, our hearts light. Lambing had begun.

21 orange, a yearling ewe stood in the sun on the hill, her little white lamb nestled in the hay at her feet.

Dave went into the barn to turn on a heat lamp and to open a jug. I walked slowly toward the baby. “Good job. What a nice baby. We just need to get you inside.” The mom backed up, baaing with concern. I picked up her baby and held it, hoping 21 orange would come up to me to sniff and lick. If she did, I would be able to easily walk both animals into the barn.

The ewe stood there, baaing. I walked backwards a few steps and then set the baby down and moved away. 21 orange returned to the spot where she had lambed, sniffed the ground a few times and then walked to where her baby now lay, shivering.

Shivering. That wasn’t good. A newborn lamb on a warm sunny day, even in the winter, should not be shivering. I picked up the lamb again and walked into the barn where I lay it in a spot of sunlight. The ewe followed. Dave rushed forward and closed the barn door. I picked up the lamb for the last time and lay it under the golden glow of the heat lamp in the jug, a 4 foot by 4 foot pen.

The lamb felt cold. We hung a second heat lamp and I rubbed her with a towel. When 21 orange moved into the jug to sniff her baby, Dave closed the panel on us. I cut the baby’s umbilical cord and dipped it in iodine. Even the lamb’s mouth felt cold. Dave took her temperature. 97˚. Way too cold. A lamb’s temperature should be between 102˚ and 104˚. I ran to the house for a bottle.

Dave held 21 orange with both arms around her neck. She stood patiently while I milked out two ounces of colostrum to feed her baby. But the baby wouldn’t suck. That meant this was a very cold lamb. Dave ran to the house for a bucket of hot water and the 60 cc. syringe and plastic tubing that we use for gavage feeding.

I filled the syringe with colostrum and slid the tube into the lamb’s mouth and down it’s throat. She didn’t cough and her breathing sounded good, so I slowly injected an ounce and a half of colostrum, that absolutely essential first milk that new mothers produce, into her stomach.

Dave set a bucket of hot water into the pen and then submerged the lamb up to her neck in the steaming water. She didn’t struggle. 21 orange kept licking the parts of her baby that she could reach, head and front hooves. She was going to be a really good mother if we could just keep her baby alive.

I had been problem solving in my head since I realized that the lamb was cold. This had happened frequently last year, babies unable to regulate their temperature. Last year we thought it had been due to a calcium and phosphate imbalance, so we had changed the feed mill where we bought our feed and salt, and added selenium, an element that was needed for healthy muscle contraction, to the sheep’s salt. If we had another epidemic of weak and dieing babies this year, I wasn’t going to be able to keep raising sheep.

What else could it be? This lamb was the first of our lambs that was of 75% Rambouillet breeding. Could Rambouillet lambs be less strong than other lambs? Some sheep, like the Finns we used to used to have that easily raised triplets, were known for mothering ability. Range sheep that lambed in the open out west, were known for lambs that stood and nursed immediately after birth, able to follow their mothers as soon as they could stand. In my attempt to get finer, softer wool, had I also gotten weak lambs?

A search of the internet and my sheep books gave no indication that Rambouillet sheep had weak lambs. Not at all reassured, I slid the bottle of colostrum into my coveralls pocket and trudged out to the barn.

The new baby was up and nursing noisily on her mother. The worries about breeding and feeding faded to the back of my mind. This lamb nursing was the best news of the day, even better than Dave’s call “We have a lamb!”