An Extraordinarily Scary Lambing Day

I love lambing and kidding time.  It’s that wonderful time of year again. Lambs being born and jumping in the snow. Goat kids being born, somewhere but not here yet. Calves are running and jumping for joy to be alive.  What a wonderful time on the ranch.  Except when everything goes wrong. Having animals you know things don’t always go as planned.                  

You make plans in the fall to put the ram in so the ewes will lamb at a certain time, and only the ones you want to be bred. But sometimes animals have other ideas and plans. Enter young ewes making a scary lambing situation.  Either my buck or one of the yearling ewe lambs had other ideas. Difficult births for sheep from breeding too young results in a scary situation.

Well, the yearling ewe made different plans and was bred. She’s not a very large ewe and it was her first time. I usually try to make sure I don’t have any unauthorized partying going on with either my sheep or goats.  

This time of year sleep is a limited commodity. Checking on my sheep and goats every few hours to see who is going to win the race. I try not to start the serious checking until I can see serious evidence they are getting close. Swollen vulvas, tight udders, bellies moved back in their hips. 

I hadn’t started doing the night checking or every 2 hours yet as I thought they weren’t due for another month and a half. Haha, I didn’t realize the buck had unexpectedly gotten out with the ewes. I went out early to check everyone and guess what, there’s a lamb in the snowstorm. It was alive but cold. I took it into the house to warm up.

This was a month early! After that, I looked closely at my girls to see if anyone else was going to surprise me. Yep, there they were. One of my older ewes and a yearling ewe. The yearling had a very large stomach and a very swollen vulva. Ugh!  

Fast forward two weeks. My little yearling ewe decided she needed to lamb. These girls are great.  I don’t know if it’s instinct, safety reasons, or what but for the most part, they go in the barn when they start labor.  

I had my husband check everyone on his way to the shop that afternoon and he came back letting me know there was a ewe down having a problem. Out I go and yep, it was my yearling ewe. Lamb’s head and one foot already out. Mom was having a difficult time and not making much headway, haha. I ran in and got the towels and tried to think of what else I would need. I got down and tried to push the lamb’s head back in so I could grab the other foot/leg. 

Nope, it was too tight and she was not going to let that thing back in. Usually, you can push the head back between contractions. She said no way, no how. I tried to slide my hand back behind the lamb’s head to find the other leg but it must’ve been down behind the lamb and the ewe’s pelvic bone. I tried pulling by grabbing behind the lamb’s head around the shoulder and the other leg. No such luck. 

Pulling as hard as I could just wasn’t enough so I thought about getting a rope or string around it and pulling but couldn’t get it in around the shoulders. 

I was afraid I was going to lose them both and I sure didn’t want to watch them die. The vet is an hour away and to call one to come out was iffy at best. 

I called my husband to come help and between the two of us, we should be able to pull it out.  My husband told me our grandson had just driven in. We got the ewe up and I tried pulling again with her standing.  Still not budging. I hate to admit it, but age is a factor with strength sometimes. Especially, if your body doesn’t want to cooperate in certain positions.

I had him go get our grandson to help after trying several times. Several more times I tried to get that leg out or push the baby’s head back in while my husband went up to the house.  Having to go into the ewe so often especially when the lamb is too big and not much room to work isn’t what I like doing. I could hear things making popping noises I didn’t want to think about. 

My husband and grandson came back to the barn.  My grandson gloved up after I explained what I needed him to do.  Then he told me he wasn’t as “hardcore” as I was.  He’s not a rancher but works feeding at a ranch during the winter but doesn’t have much to do with the animals themselves. He was about to get an up-close and personal education. 

He put gloves on and I explained exactly what he needed to do, then we got down to business. My husband and I held the ewe and had him start pulling. He needed to get ahold of the shoulder on one side and the leg that was out on the other and pull down with the contractions. He did a wonderful job and got the lamb out. Yay! Great job for a novice saving mother and baby. 

The lamb turned out to be a girl and I placed her next to her mom after I dried her off more.  Momma ewe was not impressed with her new baby.   Mom was so exhausted and worn out so I understood why she didn’t care.  

We got mom up off the ground because if you don’t they just seem to give up and die. 

She seemed better once she was up but was still shaking and breathing hard. I thought since she wasn’t moving too much I could sneak the baby in for her first feeding. Nope. I stripped her teats and made sure they were working correctly. I ended up having to tie her to a post, pushing her against the wall so I could let baby feed. The baby needed to get her colostrum even if mom didn’t feel like cooperating.

Between the three of us, baby got a full belly and mom wasn’t upset at all. Did this a couple more times until the baby was full.  I put them in their pen to get to know each other after I dried the baby off more and iodined her navel. You would think that after five months of being together they would know each other, but not all the time.  

Turned the heat lamp on, got her molasses and water, and fed mom. Wow, what a day! I’ve lost two yearling does to early breeding and I try very hard not to let it happen. It hurts my soul when one of my animals dies. I am the one responsible for taking care of them and making sure they’re ok.

But this time it was ok and everyone is doing fine. 


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