This is Fiona’s 5th lambing season. Her first year she had a single ewe lamb, then the next year twin ewe lambs, then a huge ram lamb, and last year was another single ram lamb. She has always given us very specific and timely signs as she closes in on lambing. We did not see her bred, but we saw her in heat and the ram kept both ewes in the barn all day and was being very attentive. So we put her due date at May 28th based on the behavior.
She headed into lambing season overweight. She is a super easy-keeper and had snuck a bunch of extra weight on toward the end when her fleece was at it’s longest. When we sheared her we found her to be very fat. We were careful to balance her feed at the end of pregnancy to not overdo her and make her fatter, and yet be sure she was getting enough vitamins and minerals to support the pregnancy and lactation and keep away milk fever. But still, by the time we were closing in on her due date…she was still quite fat. A lot of that fat is being carried around her back end, which made it difficult to clearly read all her usual symptoms. But the timing of her udder building lined her up to be right around her due date, so we expected it to happen around her due date.
One of her main symptoms as we really close in on lambing is that the lamb(s) always drop into position for her at 4-5 days out. Always. So when her lamb(s) dropped into position on Tuesday May 21 we were expecting a Saturday or Sunday lambing. But then nothing happened. Monday came and went…nothing. Tuesday, her due date, arrived and I was expecting to potentially find a baby with her in the morning when we went out for chores….nope.
Now Rose had kept us guessing for 6 weeks at this point, in addition to the fact that we didn’t get to experience lambing last year so we are all pretty excited about it this year. We were all really dying for it to hurry up and happen. I started second guessing her symptoms…was she really dropped a week ago!? Yes she was, she totally was, no doubt about it. Then why is she still pregnant!?
Wednesday and Thursday ticked by…still nothing. Friday morning as Rose and Fiona were eating their breakfast I was marveling at how very dropped they both were, and how large their udders were. How was it possible that these lambs still had not come!?
You have to know Fiona to know why this is significant. Fiona LOVES food. Fiona will not leave food for anything. And Fiona REALLY wont leave food that has another animal eating it. She is very competitive about food and wants to get more than her fair share from any pile of food. But she just up and walked away and stood by herself. As she stood she looked even more dropped (see the dip in front of her hips) and I thought…maybe this is it.
She was very active the first hour…pacing and getting up and down and up and down. Then she settled into the jug and I closed her in and closed Rose in the one next to her so that if there were any issues she would be enclosed and easier to manage.
It took her quite a lot of pushing before we finally saw feet, and then quite awhile to get the head passed. When the lamb came out he wasn’t moving at all. So I climbed into the jug with her and started clearing off his nose and mouth and rubbing him. He started moving, but wasn’t breathing. We have birthed many animals here on WCF, from calves, to goats, to lambs…but we have never had the experience of a new baby not breathing. Thankfully, we have read about it and knew what to do.
I continued to rub him and clear his face and mouth while Fiona licked on him. I tickled his nostrils with straw. He tried to take a gasping breath but it was very congested and full of moisture and gunk. I kept rubbing and working on him. He still wasn’t breathing and so Mtn Man climbed in to the jug with me and swung him by his back legs to let centrifugal force help clear his congestion. We have never had to do that before, only read about it, and I must tell you it is not fun and is kind of scary swinging a lamb around by it’s back legs. The whole thing was quite scary, it felt like 10 minutes that he wasn’t breathing but I am guessing it was only a couple or less. Swinging him did help, but he was still struggling somewhat to breathe. Meanwhile, the kids had run down to the house to get a bulb syringe – which by the way we are now adding to the lambing kit. Take note – put a bulb syringe in your lambing kit. After Mtn Man had swung him a couple times I wiped him with the towel again and we started suctioning his nostrils and mouth with the bulb syringe. We got quite a bit of gunk out of the back of his throat and he started to breath better and more regularly. Over the next 10 minutes or so his breathing would get gunky again and we would suction him again and it would clear up. Once he was breathing well he settled into a sternal position and Fiona continued to give him a good cleaning.
While it was a very scary few minutes there, looking back I am really happy that the kids all got to see it happen and see how it played out and what we did to handle it. They learned a TON and will be more prepared to handle similar situations in their futures.
Once he was breathing well we all breathed a sigh of relief and finally had a chance to see if it was a boy or a girl…and it is exactly what we were hoping for – a ram lamb!
After breathing and resting for about 10 minutes the little guy started standing up, and then went right to work finding food. He is a champ at nursing and experienced Mama Fiona is doing great with him.
Rose was very interested to see who had joined Fiona in her jug.
But Fiona wasn’t too interested in sharing her new little on. Rose, it will be your turn very soon!
First lamb of the season! What a blessing!!!