For several weeks now, I have been keeping a close eye on ewe #227. She's my smallest ewe and this year is her first year to have lambs. She has been absolutely enormous for the last three weeks or so, much more so than any of the other ewes. Every lamb check, I have been making a special point to check on her.
This afternoon, I got a call from my dad while at work that she had given birth to a stillborn ram lamb. I promptly told him to go back out (in the 0 degree wind) and check to see if a second lamb had been born, as the ultrasounds back in November showed she was expecting twins. A little while later, he called back to say the other lamb was stuck backwards and had to be helped, but was also born dead. It appeared that they had not been alive for several days, based on the color of her placenta.
While this is disappointing, it is a reality for every shepherd. Not everything going perfect all the time, and we always expect a few random issues that cannot be predicted.
But, there is one silver lining and that is COLOSTRUM, or "liquid gold". Colostrum is the first milk provided by a mother and is very rich in nutrients, protein and antibodies. We call it "liquid gold" because of the thick consistency, yellow/gold color, and importance to the lambs. Getting a good feeding of colostrum is very important to lambs, particularly in this very cold weather we have been having. Feeding colostrum can perk up almost any cold or lethargic lamb. While powdered colostrum exists, nothing beats the real thing!
During evening chores this evening, dad and I gave her 1 cc of oxytocin. Oxytocin can be used to help stimulate contractions, as well as stimulate the milk letdown reflex. Normally, when lambs begin to nurse, the ewe's body releases oxytocin and the milk is let down into the udder for the lamb. With ewe #227, she did not have lambs to stimulate milk letdown, so we helped her out a little. After ten minutes, I was able to milk out about 1 cup of colostrum.
We will freeze this colostrum and be able to give it to a lamb who may need it in the future. Colostrum in the freezer is something every shepherd should have on hand! Even though #227 doesn't have her own lambs, I am thankful for the gift she will be able to pass on to another ewe and her lambs.
Those of you who know me, know that I cannot pass up anything sheep-related and books are definitely included. I wanted to share a few of my favorite sheep-related books that some of you other sheep lovers might enjoy! I also plan to share with you at some point some of my favorite books guides to raising sheep, as that is a common question I get from people new to raising sheep.
Ranging from children's books, to fiction, to non-fictional accounts of starting a farm, all are enjoyable. With the upcoming show storm this weekend, head to the library to grab them all!
Do you have a favorite book about sheep that I haven't mentioned? Let me know so I can add them to my own reading list!
Emma's Lamb- Kim Lewis
This, as you can imagine, is my favorite children's book. It was pretty much written for me... Kim Lewis has great sheep-related children's books with beautiful illustrations, and I recommend them all! "The Shepherd Boy" and "Floss" are other family favorites.
Three Bags Full-Leonie Swann
This is one of my absolute favorite books and a must-read for any sheep lover! I discovered this book at the Ithaca Book Sale in college when my friend randomly pulled it off the shelf for me, solely because it had "sheep" in the title and on the cover. This is a detective story, told from the perspective of the sheep, who are determined to find out who murdered their shepherd. I don't know anything about the author, but he must have had sheep himself because the personalities are spot-on!
The Shepherd's Life- James Rebanks
I was told about this book during my trip to the UK in 2016 and bought it immediately when I returned. While I haven't finished it yet, I am really enjoying it thus far! He has also published a book called "The Shepherd's View", which is filled with photos of The English Lake District.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23- W. Phillip Keller
I have read and re-read this book and have gifted it to so many others. A quick, profound (yet simultaneously simple) read, it really opens your mind to why we are considered the sheep of God's flock. Each chapter covers a line of the Psalm and relates it to a real-world shepherd/sheep relationship. I could relate to all the examples given throughout the book and it made me appreciate this beautiful Psalm so much more.
The Yorkshire Shepherdess- Amanda Own
I don't remember how I first heard about this book and Amanda Owens, but I'm glad I did. She became known through being featured on "The Dales" TV series in the UK (anyone know how I can access this???) and has since written two books and become a known speaker. The book opens your eyes to the remote life of shepherds in the highlands of Yorkshire. Her account is insightful and she is definitely someone other women can look up to. The sequel is called "A Year in the life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess", which I also own but haven't read yet.
The Lambs- Carole George
I discovered this book on Instagram, and listened to the audiobook version. Did I like it? Nope. But some of you might enjoy it. It is a story like so many others out there about someone who buys a small farm and wants to write about their story and the things they learned. So many things she wrote about were unrealistic (closing her law office to become a "full time" shepherd of 10 sheep, letting her sheep in the house to listen to the piano, etc.), that I found much of her account simply annoying. While this book isn't my favorite listed here, it is cute and some of the history of the Karakul breed that she covers is interesting. If you read it, I'd love to hear how you think this compares to other "I bought a farm" books!
Sheep in a Jeep- Nancy Shaw
My family has several of Nancy Shaw's books, all of which are delightful poems about a quirky flock of sheep. I recommend them all including Sheep in a Jeep, Sheep Go To Sleep, Sheep Take a Hike and Sheep Trick or Treat.
Henry Moore's Sheep Sketchbook
This beautiful coffee table-type book was gifted to me by Bernice, the mother of my boss who lives across the road from the farm I work at. The sketches are beautifully detailed and depict the personality of sheep perfectly. Not a "read", but would make a great gift for any sheep and book lover.
Emmaline Long, main owner of Orchard View Farm, has a passion for Lincoln sheep and loves educating others about her breed and farm, She currently serves as the Vice President of the National Lincoln Breeders Association.