Babies! We have babies! Two male American Blackbelly lambs, to be precise. We’re new to this whole lamb birthing business, so it was quite the event for us. Thankfully, Wallula cooperated and had her twins on Saturday afternoon, when both my husband and I were home, and on my birthday to boot. How about that!
We could tell that Wallula was likely in labor earlier in the day, as she seemed restless, and she would lay down, breathe heavily for a bit, then get back up. No doubt what we were observing was her early contractions. A few hours later, she was up and down, up and down, up and down, clearly could not get comfortable, and was pawing at the ground. After a frantic search for binoculars (never did find them, we eventually used a spotting scope) and a quick read on google to find out how long this was all supposed to take, a head appeared! Shortly thereafter, we had our first baby.
Due to a very late start getting our quonset hut built (foundation gets poured tomorrow), and the horse stalls being full of poultry and rabbits, Wallula had her baby out in the field, near the other seven ewes and one ram. It was a sunny warm afternoon, and everyone gave her plenty of room. She did just fine. The neighbors got to watch the second birth.
If you’ve ever looked at an animal husbandry book or taken a class on birthing lambs, goat kids or other four-legged critters, you’ve seen those scary pictures of all the ways that the baby can get tangled up in the birth canal (legs back instead of forward, breech position, tangled up in their twin etc.). And then there are the stories of farmers having to go in, sometimes up to the shoulder, and rearrange the baby so it could be birthed, or having to “pull” the baby out.
Our whole goal when we chose this variety of sheep was to avoid all of that. We’re not trying to maximize the size of the lamb here. We’re not trying to get two sets of lambs a year. We’re not aiming for triplets (or even twins – if it makes things less successful for the mother and means we need to bottle feed). We’re aiming for animals that can be as fully functioning and healthy with as little human intervention as possible.
Well, from our observations, Wallula’s first baby was born with one front leg forward, and one back. And the second one was born with both legs back (we saw the whole head, but no legs, at first). And you know what? We didn’t need to intervene, despite this. She did just fine without us. I’d like to think that this is because the babies were a normal healthy size, and she was a normal healthy mother (this is her second round at motherhood).
We went out and checked on Mama and the twins several times during the evening, and then first thing in the morning. We worried about it getting too cold. We anxiously waited to see both of them nurse on Sunday morning, and made sure they were just sacked out in the sunshine and not dead (they look dead when they crash out) later in the day. We went to the farm supply store and bought stuff for an “emergency” kit, so that if things DO go wrong next time, we are more prepared. But Wallula is a good Mama, the babies seem healthy and are eating well, and all is right with the world.
It will be interesting to see who is next? Cocoa and Hussy both look like they are getting close.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2013, where we “don’t know nothing about birthing no babies” as my husband kept saying on Saturday, but everyone is just fine despite our lack of experience. Phew!