May 7, 2012

That's What You Think

To understand this story you have to know a bit about how our farm is laid out.  We have two barns - one is a typical,  fully enclosed barn, and the other is a pole barn, covered but open air on all sides with fencing. The pole barn is split in half.  The northern half opens up to the pastures and although we can close the ewes into the pole barn, we always leave it open so they can go to and from the pastures as they please.  We feed the ewes hay and oats in the northern half of the pole barn.  The southern half is the pigs' area, when we have pigs, and it opens into a small outdoor pig area. We don't have pigs this year, so the turkeys are in that half of the pole barn.  Both ends of the pole barn are gated and open up towards the enclosed barn; it's about 20 ft from gate to barn door.  Inside the enclosed barn we have two stalls for lambing, along with the tractor, lawn mower, tower of hay bales, and all manner of other farming stuff.

That's the lay of the land - now on to the story.

Friday night Jeremy and Jordan came home before me.   As they pulled into driveway they noticed Notag and Francis out in the pasture, but Lilly wasn't with them.  That is strange for flocking animals - if one isn't with the group then something is up.  Jeremy said "Lilly must be giving birth."  She wasn't.  But she was under the pole barn, alone, laying down and had scratched a good spot on the ground (all signs of labor).  So Jeremy and Jordan open up the gate and took Lilly into one of the lambing stalls in the barn.

When I got home, Lilly was pacing and scratching and looked to be in labor.  We thought it would be within a few hours. We checked on her after dinner and before Jordan went to bed.  Each time she was having contractions, but they were far apart.  But by 12:30am no baby was coming.  We decided to go to bed.

I woke up at 5am Saturday morning worried about Lilly.  I put on sweat pants and sweat shirt, grabbed a flashlight and went to check, fully expecting to find a baby.  But no.  Lilly was asleep and annoyed at me disturbing her.  I headed up to the house and crawed back into bed.  At 8am Jordan and I were up and checked again. Nothing. We checked on and off all day, but by evening no baby and no more contractions.  I'm not sure if sheep have false labor like humans do.  Whatever the situation, Lilly was clearly not in labor anymore.

Sunday morning and there was still no change in Lilly's condition.  When we were going about chores, Notag was in the pole barn showing signs of labor.  Jeremy and I moved Notag into the second lambing stall in barn just to be safe.  That left Francis alone in the pole barn and she was pissed about it.  She yelled and yelled.  I crossed my fingers that either the hormones of Lilly and Notag would combine to cause labor or the largest, fullest, closest moon in human history would set them off.  But by bedtime Sunday, no change in Lilly or Notag's condition.

Monday morning, I got up a little early and went down before showering and getting ready for work.  Still no change.  Notag and Lilly were up and wanting some breakfast.  Francis had calmed down about being alone.  I gave everyone some oats, refilled water, and checked on the chickens and turkeys.  We left for work and school.

Every Monday after school my parents take Jordan to piano lessons and I come home a little late.  When I pulled up the driveway I could see little lamb ears in the pole barn.  Francis had given birth!  Let me say that again - We put Lilly and Notag in the lambing stalls because both were showing signs and fully expecting them to give birth.  Meanwhile, Francis, out in the open air pole barn, who has shown no signs of labor, gave birth.  (That's how we doing things around here - backassward.)  Thankfully our ewes are great animals.  All I had to do was let Notag out of the stall (she went straight to the grass growing just beside the pole barn), pick up the lamb, hold it down by the ground so Francis could she her and walk into the stall in the barn - Francis followed.  A small scoop of oats was all it took to get Notag into the pole barn.

Francis and lamb are doing great.  The lamb is a girl!  This year we are keeping all the girls for breeding so this lamb will get a name and we can treat her like a pet.  She is darn cute - dark gray/black with a little patch of white on her forehead.  She's just over 1/2 suffolk and a mix of other stuff.  (Francis is 100% suffolk and Junior is mutt but part suffolk as well.)

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