Lambs update – they grow up so fast

The lambs are growing up so fast…
They have been locked up in the lambing paddock since they were born but now they are big enough to be let out. Yesterday I opened the gate for four very bored and demanding ewes and four very excited lambs. They all ran around and rolled in dirt piles before settling down to some serious nibbling. The lambs are now eating grass and leaves as well as drinking milk.

Nut making sure I get her good side

Everyone down by the duck dam

Tired babies

This is Wolfie, the youngest lamb. Growing up fast

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Lambs everywhere

We now have four new babies (lambs) they are all beautiful and unique in their own way. Having never had lambs before, it has been a really interesting time and  I have noticed some interesting things;

First – Lambs seem to be born just before or during rain, all three of the babies were born on overcast, drizzly days (and there have been very few of those lately). I don’t know yet whether this is a fact or just luck of the draw, given the small sample size of the observations, but later years will tell me if I’m right.

Second – My girls guide each other through labour, the first girl to give birth; Kraken (she has a black spot), was alone. The other girls hung back and watched until the baby was born. The second girl; Snow White (obvious really) had Kraken by her side the whole time, licking her face and making encouraging little bleats. The third girl; Nut (and she is) had the other two mums to help her, but she went a bit weird after the birth and ran around and around the paddock like a maniac before coming back to feed her baby (which the other mums had cleaned for her). It seems to be a community event.

This is Peridot, the girl cleaning her is Kraken and her mum; Snow White, is behind her.

Third –  The mums will feed each other’s babies. I noticed this with the first two babies; the lambs just go to the closest boob for a feed. I didn’t think sheep did this, but obviously I was wrong.

We have three boys and one girl so far and we can’t keep them all. We plan to keep Ramesses the First (our first born boy) as a wether to keep Stag (the ram) company in the lambing season. We will keep Peridot (our second born girl) as a breeding ewe. We can’t keep the new boys (no name yet) and we will be making them wethers too. I hate the idea of having to eat some of these babies one day, but it might come to that if I can’t find homes for them.

The mothers love their babies so much, and take such good care of them that it hurts my heart to think of taking those babies away. I have to burn the horn buds off Ramesses today and castrate the poor boy too, that will be quite enough torturing of children for one day I think.

Do you keep animals for meat? How do you reconcile the heart warming moments you observe with the eventual act of taking them away?

Does anyone want an automatic lawn mower and hedge trimmer in about three months time?

It’s Imbolc – we’ve got lambs

Imbolc means ‘ewe’s milk’ or ‘in the belly’ (depending on which etymology you read), and is the time of year when chooks begin to lay again, snowflakes and hardenbergia flower, self sown seedlings begin to appear in the garden and lambs are born. I love Imbolc for the potential in the air; life is exciting and full of new possibilities. The goddess Brigid rules this time of the year, symbolising the return of warmth, creativity and home making activities.
Some more hemisphere appropriate information about Imbolc.

Hardenbergia.

And snow drops

This year we had the usual (these days) quiet little ritual to welcome Brigid back into our homes, and with her the warmth of the strengthening sun and the element of fire. We read poetry, lit candles and laid Brigid on her bed of fire. Then we had a wonderful feast and conversation.

Brigid is come, Brigid is welcome.

Imbolc is very apparent around the humpy too, with bush fires burning all around us as people light ill advised fires, chooks beginning to lay eggs again after the winter rest and lambs being born.

New flowers appearing in the yard

New seedlings in the garden

Way back in Early May when Stag (the ram) came to live with us, it seemed that lambing season was a long way off, but it’s finally here. We have our first baby lamb; a boy we have named Ramesses (even though he will be a wether) he is destined to become lambing season company for our ram Stag. We watched the entire birthing process (from a distance) and after all that effort we got to go and meet him, along with the rest of his new herd.

Ramesses the first (and his mum)

Stag; the Wiltshire horn ram- welcome to the family

We have a new member of the family; Stag. He is a Wiltshire horn ram. The original  idea was to have sheep as lawn mowers to keep the fire breaks clear and to provide some meat for the freezer in the form of lambs each year. So far I have avoided breeding my girls because I didn’t want to face the idea of eating their babies, but the time has come to let them fulfill their maternal drive. I think I will try to sell as many babies as I can.

I found Stag on Gumtree, on a conveniently situated property only two hours drive away. After a visit to check him out in person, we decided to buy him. He came home with us today and is now happily eating with the girls. We will have babies to look forward to in early August.

Our first meeting; Stag loves white sapote leaves.

As you can see in the video, he arrived a little stiff and sore, with a limp from lying on his leg for an hour or so, but within a few hours he was feeding well and walking around with the girls.
Interestingly, Stag’s breeders regularly fed him handfuls of white sapote leaf (his favorite food), a little research has revealed that these leaves have a sedative and blood pressure lowering effect on mammals. I hope this doesn’t mean that his quiet nature is due to being mildly sedated most of his life.

The guinea fowl were very worried to discover a new sheep in the home paddock and told everyone about it for a few minutes.

The girls were nervous about having a boy in the paddock at first.

But it didn’t take them long to figure out the possibilities.

We put new bedding in the shelter and added a hay net and a mineral lick, now all we need are some rose petals and the romantic scene is all set.

Wiltipol sheep

Let me tell you the story of our sheep………………
Four years ago I began to worry about bush fire danger to our humpy so we began to mow around the general human habitat with a push mower; laborious and boring work (I can tell you). The procedure involved having my two daughters walk in front of the mower and clear a 10 meter wide strip of bush of sticks, rocks and clods while my partner and I took turns pushing the mower (with a catcher) and emptying the wheel barrow of clippings from the mower.
Although this process yielded lots of kindling for the fire (sticks) and mulch for the garden (clippings), we soon got sick of it as it needed repeating on a monthly basis over summer and it took a whole weekend of 8 hour days to complete. So after two years; a new plan was hatched……
We decided we needed to let animals take over some of the work as they didn’t have to go off and earn a living and study too. After a lot of research into suitable animals for the purpose of fire hazard reduction we settled on sheep as the most useful; horses are too delicate and browse branches in preference to grass and ground cover; goats are the love children of Houdini and an old world daemon and will escape a maximum security enclosure in order to eat your favorite shrub; geese are too susceptible to predators, eagles, foxes and dogs; cattle need more feed than we can provide on our poor land, so sheep it is.
I didn’t want a breed of sheep that required tail docking, mulsing and shearing so I looked around at the older varieties of sheep who shed their wool and are capable of surviving without massive amounts of human intervention. I came up with Shetland sheep and Wiltshire horn sheep as my preferred breeds because both have usable wool but don’t need a lot of attention.
As it turns out, Shetland sheep are impossible to obtain in Australia so I began looking at Wiltshire horn sheep and discovered that they are wild and wary creatures who never tame fully. I kept asking around and talking about the idea until I ran into a local lady who breeds…Wiltipols.
Wiltipols are a newish breed of sheep made from crossing Wiltshire horns with Dorpers (another shedding breed). They are reasonably docile, shed their wool and do not require a lot of care or intervention. I asked the local lady; Evelyn, to let me know when the next lot of lambs were ready to go. Meanwhile we began to save for fencing and managed to build two smallish paddocks by the time our babies were weaned and ready to come home.

They eat everything and anything; lantana, bladey grass, native grasses, the lot.

You can see the old wool gradually shedding and the new fleece below.

 give them a handful of mixed grain of a morning to keep them coming to me and so I can check them over

They came when you call them and I love their playful yet gentle natures.

We eventually moved to electric fencing to make paddocks for them as that has proved to be the most flexible method of getting the firebreak mown.

They do a brilliant job of clearing the fire breaks and they are just going into their first moult. I believe that getting our four girls (and the later addition of Kitty, another story) has been the best labor saving initiative we have ever instituted.
I have yet to figure out how to collect the shed wool in any useful amount, but it will happen if I keep thinking about it.