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A De-tailed Story of Lamb Triplets

 

Our First Set of Lamb Triplets

 

 

Born March 10, 2008. Check back here frequently for new updates on the triplets progress and that of their fellow lambs. 

 

 

Mom Rachel with Newborn lamb triplets
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March 10, 2008

 

 

March 10, 2008 Day One

 

What a pleasant surprise! We have been blessed with our first set of triplet lambs. They couldn’t be any cuter. We came home this afternoon from a group lesson we had with other area homeschoolers. We discovered Rachel one of my black faced ewes, had delivered. She had them in our old barn. This is where the herd stays when it is very cold or raining. The remainder of the herd was out in the field still grazing. It was a gorgeous day for March, a balmy 75 degrees with a gentle breeze. I did a quick head count, as I usually do when I drive up. If one is missing, that is a sure sign a ewe is off lambing by herself. They instinctively separate from the group to have their babies. Then as soon as the babies are born they head back toward the safety of the herd. They will stop and baa to their lamb to hurry up and come on. Unfortunately this can sap the little strength a newborn has. Especially if his mother has gone very far from the group or they have grazed even farther off than when she started labor.

 

I was pleased to find that Rachel had not yet headed back to the herd. She had remained in a nice dark quiet stall. She had evidently just had the last lamb. It was fairly damp compared to the first two. The earlier born lambs already had their tummies full of some nice warm milk. You can tell if they have had their fill by gently lifting your flat palm under their abdomen. It is heavier, bulges and sometimes you can hear the milk slosh as you lift. I suspected the tiniest lamb which was a girl, was born first. We named her Millie. She had so much milk in her tummy that it actually sloshed. This is unusual for the littlest. Being littler they get shoved out of the way most often. Millie seemed to have the advantage of being first born. She had plenty of time before her brother’s arrival to get her fill. Millie was almost an overall black color when she was born. The head and legs are a darker black while the trunk is lighter but not quite grey. This is how the black faced sheep usually look right after birth. The trunk of the body begins to lighten up in color even during the first week.

 

Second to be born must have been Daniel. He is the tallest of the three. Like his sister, he was dry when we discovered them. He also had milk in his tummy though not to the point of sloshing. Yet when I think about it, he could have had the same amount as his little sister. It was just more likely to make sloshing noises in her little tank compared to his bigger stomach. Daniel and the last born Moses look almost identical. Their father is a Dorset and mom is a Hampshire. The two brothers have speckled black and white colored faces. Their trunks are tan and their legs are mostly black with some white.

 

I picked up two of the lambs and told my son Frankie, to pick up the third. The mother will usually follow. When I got to the lambing pens in the garage, Frankie pointed out that Rachel had not followed. Instead she stood in the barn bleating pitifully looking for her missing babies. I explained to Frankie that he needed to go back to the barn with the lamb. Then he needed to walk back to the garage carrying the lamb down low enough that his tail is nose level. Nose level is important. Mother ewe detects which lambs are hers by smelling the lamb’s hind end. When we carry the lamb, her eyes are on her lamb only. She can be very afraid of people, totally petrified of them. Yet she will follow that lamb as though it was magically floating through the air and no person is involved whatsoever.

 

While Frankie repeated the magical floating lamb number, I moved the resident ewe and her now one month old son into a smaller pen. I had placed the double armful of lambs in the largest pen already. I moved the month old lamb named Joseph into the smaller pen. His mom Mut, came along with out too much difficulty. Frankie arrived with the new mom in tow this time and she followed him right into the pen without a moment’s hesitation.

 

Once the triplets were back together with Mom they got down to business of finding and using her ample milk supply. I was tickled to see little Millie in there holding her own against her bigger brothers. I worried that with three of them I would need to supplement with bottle feeding. In the mean time, I grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures.

 

 

The first born and littlest lamb - Millie.
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Just a few hours old on March 10, 2008.

 

 

Daniel - second born and the tallest.
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March 10, 2008 He has darker black ear tips and knees.

 

 

Moses peers out from behind Mom with sister Millie
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March 10, 2008 Ear tips and knees are lighter color.

 

 

March 11, 2008 One Day Old

Ally and I were up first this morning. While I had checked on the triplets right before I went to bed, I was still worried. The lambs are most vulnerable during the first 24 hours of life. We were anxious to see that all three had made it through the night. Frankie had managed to piece together a single remaining heat lamp yesterday afternoon, which was reassuring. The deadly combination for lambs is cold temperatures and no warm milk.

 

When we peered into the pen, low and behold; all three survived. Hurray! The best news yet was the tummy check results. All three had very full tummies to my delight. Maybe I wouldn’t have to bottle feed anyone after all. After making sure both ewes had clean fresh water and some alfalfa to eat, I grabbed a few more pictures. I wasn’t sure since both of the male lambs looked alike, that I had a shot of each one the first day. I wanted a photo record to go along with their story. This time both boys decided to help me out. I got a few pictures with Daniel try to nibble on Moses’ ears. With their faces close together, I was able to figure out that Daniel has larger and darker black markings on both his ear tips and legs. There is an obvious difference in their height which made it easy to tell them apart from the beginning. However, when you are sitting in the house and there is a photo with only one of the males in it, then I had trouble figuring out if the picture was Daniel or Moses. I gave fresh water and some more alfalfa to both ewes again. When I fed Mut I saw that her lamb was enjoying the alfalfa also. I noticed he was really huge at one month of age compared to the tiny newborns. I gave them a little bit more alfalfa. I thought, I need to make sure they have plenty. He is growing so fast. I don’t want to slow up his growth progress.

 

 

Daniel and Moses "pose" for a comparison.
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Really Daniel is trying to chew on Moses ear.

 

 

One Day Old - Climbing on Mom's back already.
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Daniel climbs on while Moses considers the idea.

 

 

Moses checks out Joseph.
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Joseph is tasting the fencing and not looking at Moses.

 

 

Joseph made a stomping noise with his foot.
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Moses ran off at top speed! Hey, he is way bigger than me!

 

 

March 12, 2008 Two days old

 

Ally made it out to the lambing pens before I did this morning. She was thrilled to report that the triplets were fine. However, apparently Mut had died during the night. I felt terrible. I immediately knew why. She had likely died from too much alfalfa. Alfalfa can be a good food source for sheep and other livestock but it must be feed sparingly. I messed up. I had overfed her probably two days in a row. When I moved her into the new pen, I had put more alfalfa in with her. She had already been fed that morning. Then the next day, I made a bad choice in deciding to give her a little more than I had been, to help her feed her rather large lamb. Sheep need lots of indigestible fiber to keep their intestinal tracts healthy. Alfalfa has some rather woody tough stems which most self respecting sheep will ignore and just eat the soft tender leaves. These leaves are poor in fiber but high in protein. An imbalance of too much protein and not a sufficient amount of fiber leads to a deadly condition called bloat. The multiple stomachs of a sheep produce too much gas which strangles the bowels. Then when gas production continues it compresses the lung cavity as well ending up in suffocating the animal. I had essentially killed her with kindness. Now her lamb Joseph, was an orphan. At one month of age, he is far too young to be weaned. He nibbles on grass at this point but does not consume enough to sustain him.

 

I do not have any baby bottles. I broke the only lamb nipple I had at the house the last time I tried to attach it to a bottle. I need to make a trip to town to buy a few baby bottles. I have lamb formula which does me no good without a way to give it to him. I am exhausted. I have had the flu since Sunday night. I slept maybe two hours that night with all the coughing. I have a fever and chills and muscle aches all over. It seems lambs are only born when I am not feeling well. One way to look at it, the lambs give me something to be cheerful about even when I am feeling my worst. We made a trip to town after I took a nap. Now armed with a bottle in hand, I paid Joseph a visit. He was petrified to have someone in the pen with him. He ran pell-mell into the fencing. Then he ran into the gate fencing which is large enough to put his head through. Once his head was outside of the pen he must have felt safer because that is where he stayed. I walked over to him and gently stroked his soft wool to calm him. Then I pulled him out of the fencing and he again panicked and tried to run. I held tight and just stroked him some more until he calmed again. I tried to hold the bottle to his mouth and he tried to break free. This time I wedged him between my knees. I held his head with one hand and worked the nipple into the corner of his mouth. He was so afraid; the fact that he just had milk squirted in his mouth did not faze him. I stroked his throat to get him to swallow. This guy was going to be one tough customer. Normally it takes a bit to get a newborn to latch onto a bottle. Joseph didn’t even seem to want the milk. Moving the bottle into a more frontal position where he could begin to suck elicited no response. He still didn’t want to swallow. I continued squirting milk in his mouth and stroking his throat to get him to swallow. I managed to get a couple of ounces down him this way.

 

 

My daughter Ally holding Millie.
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Millie has become a bit shy hiding behind her Mum.

 

 

March 13, 2008 Three Days Old

 

I went out to check on the triplet lambs and Joseph. I took Joseph another bottle which he was as equally receptive to as the first one. The triplets are beginning to fill out. The hip and back bones no longer stick out and are just visible. Sheep have been bred for low birth weight for centuries; so lambs are rather skinny when they are first born. The low birth weight results in less loss of lambs and ewes due to birthing problems. Yet, I have found this to be a detriment. It seems they are born too immature neurologically. Often times they fail to begin nursing on their own and I am usually left coaching them. This involves sticking them under their mother’s udders at the correct end of her body, then helping them find a teat to latch onto. I was told by many to not interfere when I first began raising lambs. I soon learned to disregard good intentions and to follow my gut instincts. I have lost too many lambs by letting nature take its course. If a lamb is no longer struggling to get to its feet and just falls over in exhaustion, it is not going to latch on. A supplemental bottle of lamb formula is needed. Sometimes only one bottle is all that is needed. With others they continue to need support for a few days. Usually by the third day they are able to latch onto their mum’s teat and get a good suckling of milk to sustain them. They have no body fat and a tiny little layer of wool. It takes a good tummy full of warm milk to get them through the cold night.

 

While looking out the window this afternoon during a phone conversation, I saw that Emma Lou had delivered her lamb. She was walking back to the flock calling and waiting on the lamb as she went. By the time I got off the phone and slipped my shoes on they were already by the barn. I picked the little critter up to see which gender the Lord would surprise me with this time. It was another boy, hmmmm, 4 boys and 1 girl now. There was definitely an imbalance in the male to female ratio there. Oh well, we have exactly what the good Lord gives us.

 

I held the new lamb about Emma Lou’s nose height and she sort of followed. A few times she cut in front of me. Trying to head me off, she thought maybe she could convince me to put her baby back down. It isn’t hard to side step a sheep. They are not the brightest creatures. Ultimately we ended in the final open pen in the garage. There I set the littlest lamb down and Emma Lou went right in after the little tyke.

 

I set the lamb under his mother’s udders. He pushed upward into her arm pit. I redirected his head toward a teat. He nibbled at the teat then dropped it and began nuzzling in her arm pit again. Again I redirected him.

 

 

My son Frankie holds the newest lamb - Lewis.
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Emma Lou, his mother keeps an eye on him.

 

 

He moved his head around a bit more then fell down in exhaustion. I set him back on his feet after a few minutes rest. Again putting him near a teat, he turned around and headed toward his mom’s front. I explained to him that sheep are not built like people. The milk is in the back not up front. This time I put his mouth on a teat again. He fell down again. When I got him back up he just could not stand. His Mom had already made him travel the distance of a football field. I let him sleep a bit and came back out a few hours later. I spent another half hour trying to help him latch on. Then standing back awhile and letting him try on his own. He never suckled her teat. He fell down repeatedly now. I was sad for him. He just didn’t have the capacity. I went in the house and grabbed him a bottle. I had tried milking his mom’s udder so I could give her lamb her own milk. She wasn’t having any of that business. For his first milk it had to be lamb formula. The lamb really surprised me when he began tasting milk in his mouth; he latched onto that bottles nipple in less than a minute. It didn’t take him but a couple of minutes to down 6 ounces. He made up for lost time very quickly. I moved the heat lamp into his stall since it was getting close to dark. Since he was the newest and not nursing from his mom well, he was the one needing it.

I tried another bottle on Joseph. He still refused it. I was beginning to lose hope on getting him to ever take a bottle. Maybe I just needed to try some milk in a bucket.

 

 

Joseph is rather lonesome.
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As you can see we are trying a milk bucket.

 

 

March 14, 2008 Four Days Old

 

Ally and Frankie have decided the new lamb is named Lewis. I haven’t been able to get a picture of him because the first hours of his life I spent working with him to get him to nurse and when that failed I had to bottle feed him. Once I started bottle feeding him, he stuck to me like glue. Visiting him every 2 to 4 hours with a bottle of warm milk rather impressed him positively toward humans. I need at least three feet between my inexpensive camera and my subject to get a clear picture. Frankie held him for me so I could get his photo.

 

The triplets have been watching with interest at the commotion in the pen next to them. I brought my camera to catch them at play while I went into their pen to check them over. I unstacked a couple of hay bales I brought in yesterday so I could have a place to sit. The boys immediately thought they made much better places to play that for me to sit. Let’s face it; I wasn’t going to get any pictures with them climbing in my lap so the hay bales were now for playing on.

 

I snapped a couple of photos of Joseph also. I have now added a small amount of milk to a bucket inside his pen to see if he would drink it. I showed it to him first. I even dipped his muzzle in it. I put some milk on a finger and placed some in his mouth. I wanted to be sure he knew what it was. He is ignoring it, at least for now. Maybe the smell will attract him to it.

 

 

First we have to test the play toy.
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Giving it a good sniffing is essential as well.

 

 

Millie may be shy with people.
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Yet she is can play "King of the Mountain" just like the boys.

 

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Copyright Dianne Augustine 2008