Christmas break starts for my family today. Yes, it means time celebrating Jesus's birth, time with family and other Christmas traditions, but it also means hard-work. While Christmas means the end of one time of anticipation, that of Christ's birth, for us it starts a new time of pending excitement. Lambing and calving season are right around the corner at our ranch.
While the impending birth of many lambs and calves is cause for excitement, it is also the cause for a whole lot of work. First, the barns must be turned into maternity wards. The area needs to be cleaned, pens built, heat lamps must be hung, water and feed pans must be readied. Equipment such as syringes, gloves, birthing aids and towels must be found and placed where they can be accessed when needed. Keeping in mind that they will often be needed in a hurry and in a time of great stress.
Next, bedding will need to be moved into a holding area where it can easily be spread out. We lamb our ewes on wheat straw we buy from our neighbors. Sometime next week we will go buy a truckload and stack it next to our lambing jugs (oh yeah, the pens we build to lamb our ewes are called jugs). Each time a ewe and her babies are moved to the lamb pen, we will clean the jug and put new, fresh straw in it.
Finally, we will go through all of the various medicines we will need for both lambing and calving. Lambs receive a supplement in the first couple of hours after birth. It will give them a boost of energy. Our calves we give two shots that help prevent life-threatening illness. We also need to make sure we have the proper medicines to treat common ailments such as pneumonia and diarrhea. We will also make sure that we have ear tags for both the lambs and the calves. The ear tag will match their mother's and allow for us to know which lamb/calf goes with which ewe/cow.
This time of new lambs/calves on our ranch is both exciting and exhausting, and it is also my favorite. However, we have learned that prior preparation makes it much easier both on the sheep and the shepard (or the cow and the rancher). Our goal is to provide the safest, healthiest environment for our lambs and calves to be born in. Like all of my fellow farmers and ranchers, the health and well-being of my animals is always first and foremost in my thoughts.