MaggieBaby5

Newly minted. You can still see the umbilical cord.

On December 28th, we were finally going to make a trek up to Spokane to see my husband’s mom. We were out feeding critters in the early morning before we left, and I look over and see four new little feet. Maggie, one of our American Blackbelly/Soay sheep, has had a baby, and its a boy! We weren’t expecting any babies until late January. Surprise!

MaggieBaby4

Penned up and safe. Shortly after this picture was taken, I watched this little guy make a nest in the hay and lay down. How’s that for instincts!

The weather was foggy and below freezing. But we chose this breed of sheep because they are disease and parasite resistant, and hardy as heck. Both the Blackbelly and Soay were species that were abandoned on islands and left to their own devices for a long time. Nature has selected for them to survive well with little human intervention. The baby, by the time we saw it, was dry, up and moving. It must have been born in the night. Mama and baby were fine, and still are more than a week later. We did pen them up, and had a neighbor come check on them a couple of times a day, until we got back the following evening. When the little one nurses, his tail goes around in a circle. While not popular with the mother, its awfully hard to not snatch him up and snuggle him.

MaggieBaby2

A few days later. Maggie is keeping a close watch.

Our sheep have a 5 month gestation period. Which means that Maggie got pregnant sometime in late July. Which means she got pregnant while she still had twin babies that were born March 12th.  We did not separate the new lambs (mostly boys) from the adults last year. We were not set up to do multiple pastures, and we wanted the lambs to self-wean, rather than go through the stress that forced separation has on everyone.

MaggieBaby1

Close watch or not, he’s happy to climb up into the hay feeder. They start trying to graze practically from the minute they are born.

Because of this, we knew that this year’s babies were going to be born somewhat haphazardly. American Blackbelly’s are fertile year round, if conditions are right. But now we know that if we want to better control breeding (both in timing and who the Daddy is) we’ll need to separate the lambs from their mothers when they reach 4 months of age (8 weeks is generally the minimum). It was probably worth letting it go last year just to get a better idea of their natural cycle.

Blitzen1

Blitzen and Wallula. Wallula has smaller horns and small elf ears, compared to Maggie. My husband is much better at telling everyone apart than I am.

Now that we have the new irrigation system in, we’ll be able to put water on our back field, which will dramatically increase the amount of pasture we have available. This in turn will give us a place to put the lambs born this spring when we separate them from their mama’s.

MaggieBaby3

Both mama’s and babies out in the field on a foggy morning.

On December 31st, almost in time for the New Year, Wallula gave birth to a new baby boy as well. He has one white foot. We have one male born last spring who we named Argyle because of his strange markings. He has a lot of white on him. We suspect that he’s the daddy. So that’s two. We’ve named the 2nd baby Blitzen (last year was “A” names. This year is “B” names). We haven’t finalized the name of the first one yet. Baxter maybe.

VeryPreggersSheep

Seriously wide load. We’re expecting twins from this one, any day now.

We had eight mamas give birth to thirteen babies last spring, all in the month of March. Ten of them were boys! So, there are a lot more babies to come. We expect the three females born in March to be the last to give birth. Which will give us an idea of when they become fertile, which is another important piece of information to have.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2014, where we’re ringing in the new year one new baby at a time.

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