I'd like to introduce you to this year's bottle lamb's: Norma and Hubert.
Norma is an adorable Lincoln/Hampshire ewe lamb whose mother was unfortunately not accepting of her. After several frustrating days of tying her mother up to let Norma nurse, holding the lamb to let the mother sniff her, and doing everything I could think of, her mother would still not accept her as her own. So, little Norma got put in her own tiny pen to be bottle fed. After a couple days, she developed terrible bloody diarrhea at just a few days old. After consulting with a book called "Lamb Problems: Detecting, Diagnosing, Treating" by Laura Lawson, the best conclusion I could come to was an E. coli infection. I was sure she was going to die in her first week of life, but after diligently treating her with streptomycin, pepto bismol, electrolytes and mixing kefir for probiotics into her milk, she made a miraculous recovery and is still with us today! The way she got her name is a funny story. My friend, Brooke, was over one day helping with chores. She was looking at her ear (which was damaged by her mother) and said "Is this normal?". I heard her ask, "Is this Norma?", and the name just stuck. Norma is small, due to her early setbacks, and sometimes seems a bit confused by flock antics, but she will fit in just fine.
Little Hubert's mother stopped producing milk when he was about a week old. She is an older ewe, so this sometimes happens. She was still very loving toward him so we decided to keep him with his mother and just supplemented him with milk replacer. He was named by my friend, Kim, who he will be going to live with soon. He is a lovable little ram lamb, though very persistent when it comes to wanting attention. When we separated the ewes from the lambs for weaning this past weekend, his mother went tearing out the door into the pasture by herself (which sheep never do) looking for him. And poor Hubert had a raspy "baa" by the morning. None of the other ewes seemed as bothered as they were. It's amazing to see how bonded they still were, despite the fact she was unable to feed him herself.
I mentioned the book "Lamb Problems: Detecting, Diagnosing, Treating" by Laura Lawson. This book and it's partner book, "Managing Your Ewe and Her Newborn Lambs", have been literal life savers and I highly recommend them to shepherds of any experience level! They have wonderful dichotomous keys to work through the symptoms, descriptions of ailments and treatment suggestions. This book saved Norma's life and has helped in many other situations as well!
Lastly, the last few years I have had several people ask if I have any "bottle lambs" for sale. While bottle lambs are friendly and cute, I do everything in my power to keep the lambs with their mothers. A true bottle lamb means that their mothers have died or have not accepted them, which is a situation a shepherd never wants! While there are always lambs that need a little bit of supplemented milk, Norma is my first true bottle lamb in a few years. Despite the fact she was ill, she never had to spend time in the house, and was able to be with other lambs and their mothers at less than 2 weeks of age. This is my goal as a shepherd, as sheep are happiest in the barn with their own kind. Any lamb or sheep will become friendly and lovable if you spend time working with it.
It's hard to believe that another lambing season has concluded. And it was probably the most successful crop of lambs I have ever had! Twenty one bred ewes yielded 34 lambs- 14 sets of twins and 7 singles. We also had probably the highest percentage of ewe lambs ever for a total of 20 ewe lambs! Sorry for all the statistics, it was just a very exciting year for us after several frustrating years of single ram lambs.
The beginning of January held snowy weather and negative temperatures, and with most of the ewes showing very large bellies and udders, we were quite worried about lambing during the storms. After several pep-talks to the ewes to hold on a little bit longer, we began lambing on January 8th. In a matter of days, we had 9 ewes lamb. We only have, at most, 6 jugs (lambing pens) so it was chaos for a few days with "makeshift" jugs out of hay bales and babies everywhere. Toward the end of the season we had a few stragglers and ended our lambing season on March 6th.
No lambing season is without it's tribulations, which are expected for a shepherd. There's always at least one midnight check where you find 2 ewes and 4 lambs just as confused as you are about who belongs to who. There's always at least one ewe who needs to be helped along, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. This year we also had a yearling ewe abort her first lambs, due to carrying a "mummy" (an undeveloped fetus). Despite the normal challenges and setbacks, I'm so thankful that we didn't lose a single lamb after being born. This is a huge encouragement after several disappointing years. We did have two bottle babies this year, who we affectionately have named Norma and Hubert. I'll do a blog post about them later this week!
Now that everyone is around 3 months old already, tails have been docked, ears have been tagged, vaccines have been given and the oldest lambs have been weaned. Lambs will begin going to their new homes in a matter of weeks. It's amazing to think how fast they are growing and fun to see the personalities they are developing. Many lambs are already sold, and I look forward to seeing how they grow at their new homes. Now it's time to wait for the arrival of spring and green pastures.
All photos are from Maria Victoria Savka, a friend who visited on a gorgeous day in January. Check out her beautiful artwork at: https://mariavictoriasavka.com/ You might even recognize a few of the sheep in her art...
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.