Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lambing and the Doughnut Man

Lambing season is officially in high gear at our place. It is a time of the greatest highs and the lowest lows and sometimes they happen in the same day. It is also the time of the year when I can fully relate to the old Duncan Doughnuts commercial. You know, the commercial where the doughnut shop owner greets himself at the door, coming and going. All the while, he is muttering, “got to make the doughnuts.”  That how I felt this morning when the alarm rang, I got dressed and stumbled out to the barn fully expecting to see myself at the basement door.

Last night we had an ewe start showing signs of labor at about nine o’clock and I moved her to the lambing jugs. Jennifer and I went out on our normal ten o’clock check to see how much progress she had made, hoping to walk in to newborn lamb or lambs. Instead we found a restless ewe with no outward signs of progress. Not what we wanted to see. It meant a longer wait and, more importantly, less sleep.

We watched the news and started watching the Jimmie Fallon. The minutes slowly ticked off the clock and both of us fought to stay awake until the predetermined eleven o’clock check. I have often marveled at how hard it is to stay awake until ten during lambing season. Most often during the year I stay up and watch the late news before going to sleep. However, there is something about needing to stay up that makes it that much harder. Luckily, I have never been one who falls asleep very easily sitting up.

At the appointed hour of eleven o’clock Jennifer and I once again put on our chore clothes and made our way out in what was becoming a much cooler night. Again, we opened the door with anticipation that the ewe would be cleaning off new lambs and after a few checks we could retire to a peaceful slumber. Once again, we were disappointed. You would think we would have learned by now. No more progress had been made. The ewe was alternating between nervous pawing of the straw and floor, pacing and laying down.

The decision was made to wait it out. Jennifer had a feeling that something was just not right and I have learned to recognize those premonitions and act accordingly. I am not sure just how long we watched and discussed what to do, but it seemed like an awfully long time. Of course, I am impatient when it comes to things like that so I am sure it was not much time as I thought it was.

Suddenly Jennifer moved to a vantage point where she could see better and motioned for me to come help. Apparently, progress was now being made rather rapidly. I held the ewe’s head while Jennifer worked on the other end. First a couple of feet, thankfully pointed the right direction, then a nose and finally a whole lamb. He was kind of a big fella so we assumed he was the sole occupant. Jennifer worked at drying him off and I went to work making sure the ewe had milk.

That was the point when we found out that only half of her plumbing worked. That was a disappointment but not a terrible turn of events. One spigot, one lamb, it should all work out ok. At least it wasn’t twins. No sooner had I voiced that opinion and the ewe grunted and out shot lamb number one’s little brother. This was a problem.

Lamb number two was dried off, stood up and both lambs took turns at the limited space at the lunch counter as the realization of a probable bottle lamb sunk in. The lambing jug was cleaned up and mother and twins settled in for what was left of the night. We finished up just in time for the midnight check.

We made our way cautiously through the ewes and thankfully did not find any other ewes in labor. I guess on the bright side it made the midnight check much easier. It did not, however, make getting up the next morning easier. It was one of those nights that it seemed like the alarm went off at the same time my head hit the pillow.

The next morning the fog of a short night’s rest was cut away by a sharp wind out of the North. The twins from the night before were doing relatively well. The big lamb seemed to have gotten enough to eat and the little brother was grateful for his bottle. We were even greeted by a new set of twins and a mother capable of feeding them. All in all, a relatively successful night in the lambing barn. Only four or five more weeks to go. I guess it could be worse, the doughnut man has to do this year-round.



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