Lambing Season 2012
The Birth of Lambs Means It's Spring
similar breed has been roaming our national pastures since 1300.
Drenthe Heath Sheep are beautiful sheep to look at. They're multicolored, often born spotted, but the spots on the body disappear in the adult fleece. I like to give my sheep names and I always search for names in the internet groups I'm a member of.
The Rams - Fathers of the 2012 Lambs
I Used Two Rams This Year
In order to maintain diversity in genes, I use a different ram or rams every year. This year I retrieved a ram of my own breed (GWK-D-00203) and put him in with 4 ewes that are not related to him. Reason was that the only offspring I had from this ram, a beautiful ewe, suddenly died last year. As this ram is special in his color, I really wanted some more offspring of him.
The second ram I used, came from the same current owner and this ram was bred by one of our members in Luxembourg. His color is Mixed Brown Spotted, though due to the sun, you can't see the white spots clearly in the picture.
Ram SCL-D-94128 is the father of the lambs:
SusannaDuffy - Ladymermaid - Shimo - Amkatee - Mugshot - Cianna and Shimo
Ram GWK-D-00203 is the father of the lambs:
Jilly - Paul-B - Poddys - Ravenko - AnnieMackie - William - Fanfreluche and two rams that didn't get a name.
Meet the Moms
Eight Ewes Got Pregnant
These ewes are all at least 1,5 year old. We never let a lamb get pregnant in the same year of her birth, though some breeders do. I think it's important to let them grow fully into adulthood first. Most troubles you get with ewes who become moms too early. Sometimes they just don't know what to do with that bleating thing that caused them pain in giving birth.
Lamb #1 SusannaDuffy - Born March 17, 2012
SusannaDuffy is the name of my first lamb born in 2012. Late afternoon, I was just about to get into my car to visit my 100 year old mom, when I looked at the sheep in the little meadow across the street and I noticed that Mom Auntie Greet was laying down, standing up, laying down again and my sixth sense got activated, so I went to the meadow instead, only to notice that the birth of the first lamb was about to happen. It didn't take long before the first lamb was born. Soon I knew a second lamb was on its way.
SusannaDuffy will either be a Mixed Color (light brown and dark brown) or she can turn out to be a Blue Fox, just like her sister. We will know that by the time she gets her adult fleece. If it's all creamy white, she's a Mix, if there is grey in it she's a Blue Fox.
SusannaDuffy as an Adult
Lamb #2 Ladymermaid - Born on March 17, 2012
Ladymermaid was in the process of being born, when I noticed that there was only showing her head and one foreleg, meaning the second foreleg was still in there and it would be difficult for the mom to get her out, so I had to help a little. As the head was already out, I couldn't push her back to get the second leg, so I had to squeeze my hand around the lamb neck and started to pull softly on the next contraction. Luckily it was not the first time that Mom Auntie Greet gave birth and that the lamb was the second lamb, so there was a little room to maneuver. The lamb came out rather quickly and all was well. No harm done and no malfunction of the leg. Ladymermaid's color belongs to the same color group (Blue Fox) of the ram above; though it's not her father and her mother Mom Auntie Greet belongs to that same color group too. Ladymermaid's adult fleece will be white with more or less grey in it.
Ladymermaid as an Adult
Lamb #3 Jilly - Born on March 22, 2012
Jilly was born in the evening. I kept Jilly's mom Annegien in the stable, because I had bought her from another breeder and she was quite shy, so I needed her in a confined place in case I had to help in some way. Short after feeding the sheep I noticed that Mom Annegien was lying down, puffing and showing small contractions. I went inside the house to tell my hubby I would be in the stable for the next couple of hours. So I grabbed my cigarettes and a stool to sit on, but when I returned to the stable, the first lamb was already there and Annegien was a good mom. I expected the ewe to have a second one, but she showed no sign of going into labor again (which can be short after the first one, or sometimes it takes a bit longer). Mom was busy licking this lamb dry and she took her time. Jilly was a smart little lamb, which got on her feet and found mom's nipple within 15 minutes. When Mom started eating hay again, I thought I must have been mistaken about the second lamb, so I went inside the house again.
When I returned some time later to check, there was indeed a second lamb.
Lamb #4 Paul-B - Born March 22, 2012
Paul-B is a tiny little fellow. He is much smaller than his sister Jilly, but he was as quick as her in finding mom's nipple. He's a fighter, nothing wrong with him. I was very pleased to see his color, a spotted Black&White. Normally all spots on the body will disappear in the adult fleece when the lambs grow up (only head and legs will keep their original color), turning the fleece to either black or grayish white, but his Black&White color pattern will stay in the adult fleece. He sure got the white gene of his father.
It took some time to get a good picture, because he was hiding under his mom Annegien all the time.
Update on Jilly and Paul-B
March 30, 20112
For a few days now I noticed that both lambs were bleating a lot more than the other lambs. Lambs never bleat for no reason and most of the time it's to locate their mom when they're hungry. Both lambs weren't looking happy, tail between the legs and not participating in the joyful outruns with the other lambs. So I wondered if their mom was actually feeding them properly, but she did. Then I got hold of mom and felt her udder and then I noticed it was rather small and not swollen at all. Then I knew that the ewe wasn't producing enough milk to raise two lambs, maybe not even one. This afternoon I bought special powder milk, put the ewe with her lambs in the stable with the three yet to become moms and tried bottle-feeding both lambs. Oh boy, my assumption was right, were they eager to take the rubber teat and suck up the warm milk. They drank half a bottle between them and a few hours later again.
So they will stay in the stable until the lambs know that I'm the one who's giving them extra nourishment. They have learn to associate my voice with the yum yum warm milk, so eventually they will come running to me to get their bottle. That will take about a week and then they can go back to the others in the meadow.
In the meantime their mom is feeding them too.
Sometimes the life of a little lamb ends too soon
On Monday July 23 2012, I got a phone call, telling me that there was a dead sheep laying in the meadow. I don't like phone calls like that. I rushed over to find out it was the lamb Jilly. No clear sign of what had caused her death. It can be a lot of things. It's a pity, but these things happen. May she rest in peace.
Spring Means: the Hop Hop of a Little Lamb
20 Minutes Old Lamb Hopping Around - Not Enough Light in the Stable Alas
Lamb #5 Poddys - Born March 25, 2012
Poddys is a beautiful male lamb by Mom Wibbina and though he looks rather brown on his body now, his adult fleece will be white (like his mom's). Normally the color of the head and legs stay the same, but in Poddys' case, the head might turn to a much lighter brown when growing up. Drenthe Heath Sheep are like gobstoppers (jawbreakers), some of them keep changing color during their life. It's a big lamb, but that's because he's a single. Twin lambs are smaller most of the time.
Poddys with Mom Wibbina
Lamb #6 Shimo - Born March 26, 2012
Shimo's birth was a big surprise. I had been in the stable this morning to feed the sheep and I didn't notice any signs that her Mom Lammy had gone into labor. Some time later I had to be there again and I peeked through the hole in the door and saw Mom Lammy sniffing at a brown lamb, so I thought it was the lamb that was born yesterday evening. Then Poddys Mom moved and there was Poddys, so then I knew Lammy herself had given birth to a lamb. I like that, that's how nature works. Say nothing, show nothing and just poop out the lamb. It's a beautiful little girl and Lammy is a great mom to her first lamb.
Shimo as a Young Adult
Update Shimo March 31, 2016
I got photos of Shimo from the breeder she's living with now. She's doing fine and has been a mom twice.
Shimo with Her Lamb in 2014
Shimo with Her Lambs in 2016
Lamb #7 Cianna - Born March 28, 2012
Cianna was born in the evening around 21.00hr. When I was feeding the sheep at 18.00hr I noticed that Mom Alya was sniffing the food, but didn't want to eat it and then she strolled off to the far corner of the meadow. Then I knew something was going on, so I put her inside the stable to keep an eye on her. Last year her first lamb was still born.
Cianna is a healthy lamb who stood on her feet within minutes and found mom's teat short after.
Due to the behavior of Mom Alya, I expected a second lamb, but when it wasn't there after two hours, I called the vet and asked him if he would come over and take a look. He came, but there wasn't a second lamb inside.
Cianna 5 Minutes After Birth
More Single Lambs This Year
Last year I had a total of 20 lambs from 10 ewes: 1 single, 8 twins and 1 triplet: 10 females and 10 males. This year so far 7 lambs from 5 ewes: 3 singles, 2 twins: so far 5 females and 2 males. Three ewes to go. I'm expecting at least twins from one older ewe, I don't know about the 2 ewes that are lambing for the first time. One looks rather heavy, maybe twins, the other is not so heavy, so I think she's carrying a single lamb. Always a surprise. So far so good, all good moms with healthy offspring.
One ewe (Lammy) won't let go of her afterbirth and that's a bit to worry about. She's not sick yet, but I have to watch her closely. The vet says they won't take action unless the ewe gets sick. So keep your fingers crossed she will stay ok.
Lamb #8 Ravenko - Born April 4, 2012
Ravenko was the first born lamb of Mom Lady Lotus. I had hoped he would have more white all over, but he only has a big white tail tip which you can spot behind his rear leg. The little white dot on his neck will eventually disappear. Nevertheless he's a beautiful black male lamb and I'm very pleased with him.
(I know...lamb Ravenko is a male lamb and writer Ravenko is a lady, but does that matter?
Lamb #9 AnnieMackie - Born April 4, 2012
AnnieMackie is the twin sister of Ravenko and she's quite another story. On the morning of April 4, when I was feeding the two lambs Jilly and Paul-B, there were no signs whatsoever that Mom Lady Lotus was about to give birth. When I came back for the second feeding early afternoon, both lambs were standing there, but I noticed that only Ravenko had been licked dry and that's a sign that the mom has had no attention for this female lamb. I immediately put mom and lambs in a small pen to get them as close together as possible. Sometimes it helps the mom to focus on both lambs. AnnieMackie was eager enough so I directed her to mom's teats and she started drinking. That is very important, because newborn lambs need to drink enough first milk (called colostrum) within the first 24 hours, or they won't survive at all.
I noticed that mom was all focused on Ravenko. As AnnieMackie was still covered with amniotic fluid, I rubbed the two lambs together in order to get them to smell the same and at some point she started to lick the female lamb too. When Ravenko had a pee, I rubbed it all over AnnieMackie. However Drenthe Heath Sheep ewes are very intelligent and hard to fool. Next morning I knew for sure, she wouldn't accept the female lamb. I just hate that, but there is nothing I can do about it, so I gave AnnieMackie her first bottle of milk. Next day I let her drink several times with mom again, holding the ewe by her horns. I was really mad at her for being not a good mom, but there are so many reasons why a ewe can reject a lamb that Mom Lady Lotus will get one more chance next year to prove she can be a good mom. If she rejects a lamb again, then Lady Lotus will finish at someone's plate. Alas but true, because we have to keep this breed healthy and sound and being a good mom to all her lambs is one thing a ewe simply must do.
So now I have three lambs to bottle feed and that's about the same as taking care of three babies. The other two lambs need only 3 or 4 bottles a day, because they drink with their mom too, but AnnieMackie needs feeding every 2/3 hours the first two weeks. So for the next two months there always has to be one of us at home. She is however such a darling, eager little lamb, that I will gladly sacrifice my free time to get her through. She's doing very well and is already responding to my voice.
Drenthe Heath Sheep Photos - the Oldest Native Sheep Breed of the NetherlandsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The New Newborn Lambs Hopping Around in the Meadow
Not Easter Bunnies, but Easter Lambs
On Sunday Easter morning, when I was bottle feeding the lambs, I noticed that mom Little Ann was very quietly standing in a corner, sort of gazing into nowhere land. It's a sign of going into labor, but as this was her first time, the opening up of the cervix can take several hours, sometimes days. However when I came back about 4 hours later, I saw that the amniotic sac had been broken and at that point the ewe is going into the last stage of giving birth and should have heavy contractions, but she didn't and was just standing there. I knew something was wrong, either the lamb wasn't laying in a normal way, or could be even dead, so I called the vet and asked him to come over and take a look.
My vet lives only 10 minutes away, so he was there very quickly. It appeared that the ewe had not enough opening of the cervix and that it was impossible for her to get the lamb out. Most of the time the ewe will stop the contractions and when nothing is done, the lamb will die and probably the ewe too. I was very that I was at home that day. The vet took out one beautiful spotted male lamb and to my surprise there was another lamb behind him, but she was in breech presentation. She came out alive, but she was small and rather weak. She's accepted by her mom and drinking too, but it will take her a little longer to become as strong as her brother is.
Lamb #10 William - Born April 8, 2012
William is a beautiful Mixed Brown Spotted lamb. The white and brown spots will stay at his head, tail and legs, but the brown spots on his body will eventually disappear into the grey/white adult fleece. He could even develop to the Blue-Fox color. It all depends whether he's getting a fox colored circle around his eyes and grey in his adult fleece. We'll just have to wait and see.
William as an Adult - He Turned into a Blue Fox
Lamb #11 Fanfreluche - Born April 8, 2012
Fanfreluche is a lovely rusty colored lamb. She hasn't as much white as her Mom Little Ann and probably the little white she has will disappear eventually.
I really wonder how she will look in a few months, because her lamb fleece will be colored rather rusty, which is a bit unusual. Her adult fleece will turn grayish/white though. She too could turn into a Blue-Fox color. We'll know for sure next year.
I truly hope she's going to make it, because she's still a bit weak. Time will tell, keep your fingers crossed.
Fanfreluche as an Adult
Playing LambsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Lamb #12 Amkatee - Born April 14, 2012
Amkatee is a darling black lamb. Finally her Mom Linnepin decided it was time for her to see the world. Actually Amkatee is a black spotted lamb, but probably the little white spot on her head, will either vanish at all of stay visible, but gets smaller. The tiny white tip of her tail will stay, but will hardly be visible when she gets her long adult fleece, but she can give the white factor through to her offspring. She was a vivid little devil and was trying to stand up right after being born, which was in the middle of the night at 4.00am on April 14th. I was glad it took a while, because otherwise she and her twin brother had been born on Friday the 13th!
Lamb #13 Mugshot - Born April 14, 2012
Mugshot is the twin brother of Amkatee and almost identically colored. The white spot on his head is a bit bigger. Mom Linnepin did a great job and is a perfect mom.
For his sake it's very lucky he wasn't born on Friday the 13th, or he would have been in double trouble, because he's also the 13th lamb that has been born in my flock.
It was a long night, but worthwhile staying up for, though I had secretly hoped on a lot more white in these twins, but health comes first and healthy they are.
I Had a Successful Lambing Season 2012
I Was Fortunate Not to Have This Smallenberg Virus in the Sheep
Yes, I'm very glad that my lambing season 2012 granted me 13 healthy lambs, because it could have end up quite differently. In November 2011 a new unknown virus was discovered in the town Smallenberg in Germany, which affects only the foetus, resulting in terribly deformities in unborn lambs that are non viable or very weak lambs that will die within a few hours or days after birth. This virus with the unofficial name: Smallenberg Virus (after the city it was first discovered in) is passed on by tiny mosquitoes, called Knuts. When an infected Knut stings pregnant ewes between the 25th and 50th day of the pregnancy, when the nerve system of the lambs is being formed, the foetus will not develop into a normal lamb, but will be totally deforming the lamb.
I won't show a picture of a Smallenberg lamb here in my article, because I want it to be safe for all kids and adults, but when you want to read more about it you can find it here Smallenberg Virus or just Google the name to see what it is all about.
The virus has spread very quickly since November throughout several European countries. The adult ewe is not affected, only the unborn lambs. I was lucky due to the fact that I had put the ram in with the ewes as late as half October, so when the pregnancy of my ewes reached their 25th day, it was already winter and therefore there weren't many Knuts flying around anymore. A big herd of a different breed in the area where I live had the lambs in January and 1 out of 6 lambs was malformed or not viable. For this self-employed shepherd it meant a loss of about 200 lambs this year, which is an almost insurmountable financial disaster.
The Smallenberg virus is not only affecting sheep, but also goats and cows.
© 2012 Titia Geertman