Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lambing in the Mountains

My guy is lambing, and due to the less than ideal spring weather, he hasn't been able to get his ewe's shorn yet.
Every year in Wyoming sheep producers must dodge storms and work around busy shearing crews to get their herds shorn before lambing. If you don't get shorn before lambing the wool gets much dirtier, and in range lambing situations the ewe's tend to lose more lambs because they don't realize it's cold with their wool still on, and their lambs can't find a teat to nurse on through all the wool. Nobody likes to start lambing before shearing is done, but every once in a while it happens, and there's nothing you can do about it.

The weather is what got my guy caught with wooled sheep lambing, as a number of spring storms have rolled through the part of the state he lives in during recent weeks. Shearing wet sheep will ruin clipper blades, and shearers don't like that. Wet wool is also less than ideal, so these ewes are wearing their wool until it drys out enough to be removed.

Things like poor weather don't stop mother nature, and lambs will be born on time. Fortunately my guy has a nice field next to his house, where they're lambing (this is not the field in the above picture). He keeps a close eye on his sheep to ensure their lambs don't chill down and die in this cold and snowy weather.
Regardless of whether ewes have wool on them or not, they still need to be watched at the elevation the guy lives at. It gets much colder than where I'm from, on average, and newborn lambs are susceptible to the elements. He spends a lot of time with his sheep right now because he wants them to live, and is willing to give them extra care and attention to make sure they do.

Most are just fine, and the ewes do a good job keeping their lambs warm and fed for the most part. Once a baby lamb is up and has had the first all-important drink of colostrum, his chances of surviving go up significantly. It's that time period just after birth that's most critical for survival.

Despite all the efforts on the guy, and the ewe's part, there are those born during particularly cold, windy mornings (Saturday), who get cold and chill down faster than the ewe can lick them off and get them up and drinking. In those cases my guy brings the ewe and lamb(s) into a shed to care for them and ensure they live...well with sheep that means you try your hardest and they decide to whether live or die.

No matter how cold and miserable it is outside, he is out there making sure each newborn is warm and fed. If they're not, he takes as much time as is needed to make sure they get that way. This is just another example of the lengths ranchers will go to in order to ensure the health and livilihood of their livestock.

Here are two cold lambs that were born on a windy and freezing morning last Saturday. We brought them inside, put them under a couple heat lamps, rubbed them vigorously to get their blood flowing and fed them some warm milk to get them warmed up on the inside too. Their mom was also brought in and took over after our initial efforts. After a few hours of touch and go, especially for the lamb furthest away, I am happy to report these both lived and were turned back out a day after their birth, healthy and ready to go.

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