Spring is a couple weeks away, but so far, this winter has not had much of a bite. While the warm days make it easy on the sheep and make my chores a little easier, there may be some consequences later this year.
I am now busy getting ready for the arrival of our new lambs in a few weeks. I have been spending my time cleaning out the barn for the ewes and their lambs. There are many chores to do and preparations to be made before the first lambs arrive.
The alleyway is cleaned and the sheep shears are sharpened so that the ewes can be sheared soon. We always shear the ewes before they lamb for several important reasons. For the shearer, it is easier to shear a nice round ewe than one that has lambed and has wrinkly skin.
It is important for the lambs, too. While Mother Nature does a wonderful job of teaching a newborn lamb how to find its mother’s teat, making sure that it is not hidden in a woolly fleece helps with the outcome.
And most important for the pair is that the shorn ewe will seek shelter in the barn from a storm and take her baby with her. A ewe with a full fleece will lay comfortably out in a blizzard as her lamb freezes next to her. A nicely shorn ewe also is a lot easier to observe as she goes into labor and may encounter problems.
We clean out the stalls and prepare the jugs (the small lambing pens) with fresh straw, feed and water pails, and heat lamps in case of a chilled lamb. Other supplies such as iodine for their navels, banders for docking and castrating and a pile of old towels to help dry off the newborn if the mother has not licked it dry.
While lambing can be a stressful time with weather issues, birthing problems and midnight barn checks, it is the highlight of the year as the barn emanates with the sounds of ewes and their lambs talking to each other as they get acquainted.
They quickly go from a wobbly legged lamb to one that can outrun the shepherd in just a couple days. As they grow, it takes only a few weeks until groups of lambs are racing around the pastures in playful games while their mothers graze nearby baa-ing commands to their rambunctious children.
With the stress of a dry winter and unknown summer rains, it will be nice to take a little time this spring to enjoy the carefree energy of our lambs. Until then, it is back to the chores of preparing for the upcoming births.
Doug Ramsey has farmed in La Plata County for more than 35 years. He can be reached at 385-4375.