Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lamb Psychology

I know, I know, in my last post, I said it was pointless to try to figure out lamb psychology, but this lamb's actions are just too strange.

She keeps following Dierdre around. Last night, we went to the barn to feed Astra. There's a divider in the barn that used to be part of a stall. While I stood there with a bottle of milk in my hand, Dierdre circled the divider four times with Astra in tow. By the end, I think Dierdre was getting kind of freaked; she couldn't shake the lamb. I finally stepped in and grabbed Astra, who hungrily started eating when I stuck the bottle in front of her face.

Today, Dierdre and I were walking, and Astra ran up to us. I veered left, Dierdre right. Astra followed Dierdre, sticking to her side, slightly behind her shoulder, just as lambs often follow their mothers. The dog swerved and changed pace; the lamb stayed with her.

I feed her. Dierdre pesters her and herds her. Yes, Dierdre is sort of sheep-sized. She has four legs. She's very furry. But I feed her! I just don't get it.

On a cute and less-confused note, two friends helped feed Astra yesterday. All parties were quite happy (once we got Astra away from Dierdre).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Baby Animal Updates

Heloise's lamb is doing well. She's guzzling lamb milk replacer from a bottle four times a day. I'm a bit frustrated, though, that she's not running to me each time I go out. Instead, she heads straight for Dierdre. Considering I feed her, and the dog pushes her around and tries to herd her, I'm not sure why the lamb's made the choice she has. But trying to understand lamb psychology is probably futile.

I moved the chicks to larger accommodations last week. They adjusted quickly to the bigger space, although they protested greatly during the two seconds it took to move each of them from the large box they were in to their new digs. Growing chicks certainly eat a lot!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Very Sad

Heloise, our favorite sheep, died on Sunday. She likely had mastitis. Her lamb was only eight days old.

I didn't notice anything wrong until late Saturday afternoon. She had one injection of penicillin, but it wasn't enough or in time to help her.

I'm bottle feeding her lamb. She's had some trouble adjusting to a bottle, but she is eating some. I've seen her try to nurse from other ewes, but they keep pushing her away. She guzzled the milk from the bottle last night, but she wouldn't take it this morning. I'm hoping that means she was full because she managed to nurse from someone, but I'm not sure. She did drink several ounces from the bottle a little while ago, though.

The other sheep are looking after her, in general. She's sleeping with them and wandering around the property as part of the flock. She keeps crying, though. I know she wants Heloise.

Heloise was one of the first two sheep I bought. She's my "cover sheep" on my home page, and I often tell stories about her. It's hard to pinpoint all the reasons why she was so special. I guess she just had that certain something about her.

We always called her our Zen sheep. She seemed to take everything in stride. Even her arrival here was bumpy. Heloise and Juliana, her travelling companion, had an adventurous trip to our ranch. I arranged to meet their original owner, who was traveling from California to Arkansas, at a sheep ranch about 40 miles north of Wilhoit. However, my truck broke down a few miles short of my destination. It was two days before we could get it running again, so Juliana and Heloise had a short, but unexpected, stay up north. We finally got the truck going late in the afternoon of the second day. We loaded the sheep and set out…and broke down again after driving less than a mile. As the sun was setting, and then in total darkness, we winched our pick-up (with Heloise and Juliana still in the back) on to a trailer, and the truck and sheep got towed all the way back to Wilhoit.

When she had her first lamb, Minerva, she was a caring but not overly-anxious mother. She let Minerva explore and only called her back it she wandered too far. Some mothers, especially first-time ones, will hardly let their lambs out of their sight. Heloise took a more relaxed, and perhaps progressive, view of motherhood.

When Minerva was a couple months old, a strange dog got into the property and started harrassing the sheep. By the time I got to the barn, all the sheep were huddled together except for three. Francesco, the alpha ram, Heloise, and Minerva stood out in front of the others, between them and the dog. Luckily, I got there before the stand-off was broken and chased the dog away, but it was fascinating who protected the rest.

Heloise was always interested in what was going on around her. She made friends with the horses and dogs next door, putting her nose through the fence to touch theirs. She liked to have her chin rubbed, and she loved molasses.

I put molasses in a honey-bear squeeze bottle and give it to nursing mothers. All the sheep like the taste of it, but I have to force it into the mouths of most of them. Heloise, though, figured out very quickly the advantages of opening her mouth of her own accord and drinking from the bottle. She would come running when she saw me carrying that honey-bear bottle. A neighbor once asked if I had brandy in there, considering the enthusiasm with which Heloise was drinking.

Poor Heloise, as one of the first sheep here, she was also one of the first to be sheared by us, inexperienced as we were. I won't pretend she didn't make a fuss, but we all survived, and the shearing experience has improved over the years. When I sheared her last summer, she fought a little about getting on the shearing stand, but once she was there, she seemed resigned to the experience. She knew she would be more comfortable once that heavy fleece was gone.

She was also very practical. I usually take two or three trips to give the sheep hay. Every time I give them more, the sheep run over to the new batch, sure it's going to be better than what they've got in front of them. The grass is always greener, right? Heloise, though, often stayed where she was, apparently realizing it was all the same, and once the others had scrambled to the other hay, she had the first batch all to herself.

Although I've read that some other breeds of sheep will let any lamb nurse, I've only seen my ewes allow their own babies to eat. Heloise, however, was flexible on that issue. A few years ago, one of Minerva's lambs indiscriminately nursed from both Minerva and Heloise. Not surprisingly she was big! But Heloise had no problem with it and nursed that lamb as willingly as her own.

Heloise had beautiful wool -- long, shiny, ringlets, and her dreadlocks were classic Cotswold. I always loved shearing her and seeing the cascades of wool come off.

We'll miss her.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

It's Kind of Weird, but....

I may have gone off the deep end, but even the sheep droppings from the lambs are kind of cute. They're so small. I'll spare you a picture; I don't think it would translate well online.