Lambing Season 2014
Lambing Season 2014: Little Lambs Are Gorgeous and so Much Fun to Watch
It's the fourth season in a row now that I will present the newborn lambs of 2014. This way I can share with you the happiness and sometimes sorrows of my flock of the very old and rare Dutch sheep breed Drenthe Heath Sheep.
In 1977 the Dutch Government performed a check on all the original Dutch Farm animal breeds and they discovered that this specific breed and another one (Schoonebeeker sheep) were not far away from extinction, so they rang the alarm bell, because these breeds needed to be rescued and preserved. It took about 8 years before an Association of breeders was founded and as we just had bought a few sheep of this breed, I was there when it all started. The Association of breeders of the Drenthe Heath sheep and the Schoonebeeker sheep was founded in 1985 and we started with about 20 members. Today we have over 250 members and also the still existing big herds are participating in the breeding program.
We're not out of the danger zone yet, but we're getting there.
Meet the Dads of the Lambs 2014
I Used Two Rams This Year
Normally we try to make multiple breeding groups with one ram in each breeding group. That way we preserve and maintain a great diversity in genes, which is necessary for keeping a healthy flock of sheep. Too much inbreeding will eventually result in getting weaker sheep, which will be more vulnerable to diseases.
This year I used two rams. One is the same ram I used last year, because he's a beautiful ram and as we never breed with ewes in the same year they're born in, there's no danger that he will breed with his own daughters. His name is 'Tasty Peter'. The other ram is William, one of my own breeding products and I used him on only three ewes that are not genetically connected with him. Normally I don't use my own rams, but this one is special due to the spotted (white) gene he's carrying. The ewes in his little flock also carry the spotted (white) gene and my hope is that this connection will provide genetic white lambs. Not at all sure white lambs will be born though, because each ewe or ram carries all color genes and in order to get genetic white, the lamb must get this gene from both parents.
Meet the Moms of the lambs 2014
This year 14 Ewes Will Get Lambs
This year, other than any other year, most lambs will not be born at my place. Due to a hip operation I got in November 2013 and the long time of total recovery, I actually was planning to not have lambs at all this year. However one of my fellow breeders said: "I feel sorry for you if you won't have lambs this year, so give the ewes to me, I've plenty of meadows and after they have given birth, I'll bring them back to you". So she took most of my ewes with her and the ram and now it is lambing season and she will send over pictures of the newborn lambs. That's how I ended up with 14 lambing ewes in stead of the 8 I normally have.
Not quite the same as I'm used to I must say, because I really miss having those Moms with their babies around, but still I'm very pleased with this breeding colleague's offer, otherwise I wouldn't have had any lamb at all this year. Another breeder took the William ram home for her own ewes and she took 3 of mine with her, that are not connected to William as I wrote above. Two of those three ewes - Alya and Lady Lotus - carry that white gene, so there might be a little (very little) chance on genetic white lambs. We just have to wait and see. The third ewe - AuntieGreet - carries the gene for what we call Blue Fox, which gene William is carrying too. But again, all three ewes might very well surprise us by giving birth to lambs with a totally different color and that's this breed so interesting, you never know what color lamb pops out.
Lamb #1 - Sunny Brit - Born on March 19, 2014
Sunny Brit was the first lamb this year and I must truly say I had mixed feelings on not having her here with me, but only seeing her on a picture in my email. Her mom LilyMom had proven already last year to be a good mom and she is an excellent mom this year. Sunny Brit will turn out to be the same color as her Dad Tasty Peter, a beautiful light Fox color. Her fleece will turn grayish white eventually, just like her mom's.
Lamb #2 - 2wice - Born March 20, 2014
2wice in the early morn of March 20 and though his mom Othercat was caring and loving him, she wouldn't let him drink. She turned away each time he tried to grab the nipple. So Jeanet and her husband Richard (the hosts of my sheep) hold her steady so the lamb could drink the first milk, called colostrum. It's very important that lambs get colostrum within the first 24 hours or they won't survive. This first milk contains all the ingredients to protect the lamb from diseases.
Then they discovered what caused the reluctance of the mother to let her lamb drink her milk. I'll tell you below what they discovered. 2wice is a beautiful all black lamb and his fleece will stay either black or will turn grey with the years, like his mom's fleece did.
Reason Why Mom Othercat Wouldn't Let Her Lamb Drink
Lambs are born with teeth (lower jaw only) but they are covered with a soft membrane so they can't hurt their moms. This membrane didn't cover all of 2wice's teeth and as those tiny teeth are sharp as a razor, he had damaged his mom's nipple and that hurts a lot. That's the reason she wouldn't let him drink. So that day he was bottle fed a few times in between the forced drinking of colostrum with his mom. All this time his mom didn't reject him, she only wouldn't let him drink.
Because the meadow of these people is not close to home, it would be a lot of work for them, so I decided to drive over (2,5 hours) and take them home, because I could put the two in my stable and I have more time on hands. Besides that, I liked to keep the bond between mom and son as close as possible.
So I drove over on Saturday March 22 in my big van and agreed to take another ewe, LilyMom and her lamb Sunny Brit home as well and also the ewe JodyK's Paris, who had rejected a lamb last year at the breeder she was sold to. I had bought her back and wanted to keep a close eye on her.
Yes, Sometimes Miracles Happen and I'm Glad
I had prepared the stable and got me some artificial milk powder and all was set to bottle-feed lamb 2wice. However from the moment I put them in the stable, I didn't need to bottle feed at all, because apparently the nipple of Mom LilyMom didn't hurt anymore and she let her son drink all by himself.
I called Jeanet and Richard to tell them and they told me that during that day, before I arrived, it was going better and better.
Well I can't tell you how happy I am, because bottle feeding a lamb is fun, but it's also a hell of a lot of work.
So....miracles do happen.
2wice Is Challenging a Ewe
Sad things happen too
Male Twins of Mom JodiK's Paris died within 2 and 3 weeks after birth
Lamb #3 and Lamb #4 - NoName1 and NoName2 - Born on March 24, 2014 - Died on April 7 and April 15
Mom JodiK Paris with Her Twins
Update April 7, 2014:
This morning we heard a plaintive bleating coming from the meadow across the street and when I went over to look, I found Jammy Jack standing there all by himself, while his mom and all the others were at the other end of the meadow. Normally I can't walk up to a lamb and pick it up, it would run away as quickly as it can, but not Jammy Jack this time and then I knew something was really wrong. His muscles were all flabby, he didn't react as he should and when I put him down again, his legs was just elastic and he couldn't stand anymore.
First I thought that his mom had rejected him after all, but if that was the case he would have been bleating from hunger a lot more. Yesterday evening when I was working in the chopped pollard willow branches, he was still lively, nibbling on grass and tiny willow twigs. Not a sign that he would've been underfed or that something was wrong.
I took him into the house and gave him a bottle of milk, which he drank but not with great enthusiasm, indicating he wasn't that hungry at all. So I decided to put him back in the shelter on the meadow, but he died in my arms on the way over there.
So sad, but these things just happen. Could well be that something was wrong with him all along without any sign for me to get alarmed. I've never seen his mom rejecting him, but if she had refused to let him drink, he would have been dead within a few days and not have lasted a few weeks.
Update April 15, 2014:
This morning I wanted to give the lambs their temporary ear tags, so I would know which lamb belongs to which mother, when I found the second lamb of mom JodiK's Paris dead on the meadow. Same like his brother above, not a clue to what caused their sudden death.
That's the sad part of it all, not knowing what caused the death of both lambs, but this is the second time the lambs of this ewe die within a few weeks after birth. Last year she rejected one and the other died after a few weeks and this year both her lambs that seem healthy at start, unexpectedly lay dead one day. This time within 3 weeks. That's absolutely not normal, as sad as it is, there will be no motherhood for this ewe again. She will be either sold to someone who doesn't want to breed, or she will end up at someone's plate. It's no use to let her have lambs each year that die within weeks. That would be a rude thing to do, because this Mom has been calling out to her remaining lamb all afternoon.
Lamb #5 - Lollypop - Born March 24, 2014
Lollypop is the second female lamb born this year in my flock of sheep. She too, like Sunny Brit above is a beautiful Fox colored girl. Her Mom is SusannaDuffy
I think I'm going to get a lot of Fox colored lambs, because Fox color is the dominant color in this breed.
Lamb #6 StephenC - Born March 25, 2014
StephenC is the twin brother of Gadget-Boy below. One has the spotted Fox color (spotted = color + white) and the other is black. Cute little fellow he is. I think eventually his face will become a plain color Fox. The little white above his nose will disappear.
Isn't he a cute little fellow, enjoying a warm sunny day?
Mom is BossyPants and she's an excellent mom.
Lamb #7 - Gadget-Boy - Born March 25, 2014
Gadget-Boy is the twin brother of StephenC above. As you see, he's not the only black sheep in the flock. His fleece will stay black.
The reason that BossyPants can give birth to a black lamb, while father Tasty Peter isn't black either, is because there is black in the ancestors of either ewe and/or ram. In this case I know that BossyPant's mom was a black ewe. That's the fun of this breed; we never know what color the lambs will have.
Resting Sheep in the Sunny MeadowClick thumbnail to view full-size
It's Quiet on the Lambing Front
Quite often you see that ewes give birth in clusters. They don't all come in season at the same time and quite often they don't get pregnant at the first hit and then it takes about 17/18 days before they get in season again.
I just heard from the other breeder who has three of my ewes, that one is showing a big udder, so it won't be long before she will deliver. So we just have to wait till the next lamb pops out. Still 9 ewes to go and I'm sure there will be some more twins.
I really miss not being able to see the births of the lambs, but if both breeders hadn't offered to take care of my ewes, I wouldn't have had any lambs at all this year.
Yesterday (March 26) a crew came over to chop off the branches of the pollard willows, so we have enough work on our hands to clean up the mess. We need this wood (the thick branches) to burn in our woodstove next winter. We don't have central heating, only a wood and a coal stove.
Lamb #8 - Caroline - Born April 2, 2014
Caroline is the twin sister of Amber and both are such beautiful lambs in a color I have never had. Looks like dark chestnut. They both will change a lot though when growing up. Their mom is the ewe Wibbina. First of all, both will get a white fleece within the year and I'm sure their heads will change to a lighter color too, which we will call then a Mixed Fox color, a mixture of lighter and darker fox brown.
Lamb #9 - Amber - Born April 2, 2014
Amber is the twin sister of Caroline and she too has this special chestnut brown color. In real life Amber is 9 years old at this moment and I'm sure she will be very surprised to find her namesake on the web tomorrow.
Lamb #10 - Timo - Born April 3, 2014
Timo is the twin brother of the lamb MartyJo. He will probably turn out to be a beautiful Blue Fox colored ram. The signs for Blue Fox are the grayish mouth, the light circle around the eyes and the rusty color of the ears.
Lamb #11 - MartyJo - Born April 3, 2014
MartyJo is a black lamb with one little white spot on her body, but I wonder if that tiny spot at her side will stay visible in the adult fleece. (Note 2015: it's still there).
The mom of Timo and MartyJo is the beautiful young black ewe Amkatee, who was born in 2012 and Amkatee is the daughter of my beautiful black spotted ewe Linnepin.
Mom Amkatee with Timo and Martyjo Just After Giving Birth
Lamb #12 - Ries - Born April 8, 2014
Ries is a beautiful brown male lamb, but his mom Fanfreluche had a very hard time getting him into the world. She didn't manage by herself, she was too narrow to get this lamb out of her, and so the people where she is staying now, had to help her deliver her baby boy. It was hard work, but they got him out on time and Mom is taking good care of him.
Lamb #13 - OneFootPutt - Born April 10, 2014
OneFootPutt is a lovely Black spotted lamb with a white tail. The white spot on his head might get smaller or totally disappear when growing up, but his tail will stay white while his fleece will stay black. His mom Lady Lotus is black spotted too. His dad is the Blue-Fox spotted ram William at the top of this article.
He is the twin brother of Artyfax.
Lamb #14 - Artyfax - Born April 10, 2014
Artyfax is the twin brother of Onefootputt and he will turn out as a Blue-Fox spotted ram, just like his father. Spotted means that there are white spots on his body that will stay white when grown up. Artyfax's fleece will turn to grayish white.
Photos of Sheep in the MeadowClick thumbnail to view full-size
Lamb # 15 - SnakesMum - Born April 11, 2014
SnakesMum is a lovely spotted fox colored lamb. SnakesMum mom is the ewe Little Ann, who's also the mother of the ram William, father of some of the other lambs of 2014. Snakesmum is the twin sister of ErinMellor.
Lamb #16 - ErinMellor - Born April 11, 2014
ErinMellor is a beautiful black lamb. That's the fun of this breed, their moms and dads don't have to be black themselves in order to give black lambs. If somewhere in their background has been a black ewe or ram, than they carry black too even if they don't show it.
Mom Little Ann with Her Lambs Snakesmum and Erinmellor
Lamb #17 - Gorgeous George - Born April 13, 2014
Gorgeous George is exploring the meadow for the first time. When he and his twin brother Jammy Jack were born, they looked like yellow bananas due to the color of this ewe's amniotic fluid. You can see that below in the photo gallery.
Lamb #18 - Jammy Jack - Born April 13, 2014
Jammy Jack, isn't he just a Jammy lamb with his white face and orange/brown body? Their mom Alya almost always gives lambs with practically white faces. I'm sure they will turn out to be beautiful rams.
Gorgeous George and Jammy Jack - Photos Are Made by My Colleague Breeder Ingeborg HolsterClick thumbnail to view full-size
Lamb #19 - YoursFoolie - Born April 13, 2014
YoursFoolie is a beautiful girl lamb in the most original Fox color. I'm very glad with this color because it was slowly vanishing because everybody wants those fancy colors today. Those are very nice too, but we should be careful not to let the original color vanish, because once gone, you can't get it back anymore.
Lamb #20 - DarkPrinceOfJazz - Born April 13, 2014
DarkPrinceOfJazz is the twin brother of YoursFoolie and he too has that beautiful Fox color, though he's a little bit darker than his sister. That could change easily though within a few weeks.
Drenthe Heath Sheep are just like those delicious gobstoppers, as they too so often change color when growing up.
YoursFoolie and DarkPrinceOfJazz's mom is a light Fox colored ewe, called Lien which I bought from another breeder and she turned out to be a very good and caring Mom.
Photos of YoursFoolie and DarkPrinceOfJazzClick thumbnail to view full-size
Ewe Auntie Greet - Is She Fat or Is She Fat!
My ewe Auntie Greet is telling us here that she's really, really pregnant. The caretaker and I had a bet going on if there would two or three lambs pop out. I said two (just wishful thinking, because I don't like having triplets) and she said three.
I won the bet as you can see below. Lambs were really big for newborn Drenthe Heath Sheep.
Lamb #21 - JaguarJulie - Born April 23, 2014
JaguarJulie is a lovely black spotted lamb with the cutest white nose. I said black spotted, but she could well turn into a Blue Fox spotted color later on. We'll wait and see what happens in a few weeks when her fleece is starting to grow. When the black turns to lighter grayish deep inside, she will be a Blue Fox and will get a white fleece with grey in it when she's fully grown.
Lamb #22 - My-O-My James - Born April 23, 2014
My-O-My James is a lovely lamb with Fox colored ears and spectacles (as we call the colored ring around the eyes). He's the twin brother of lamb JaguarJulie and both show that we never can tell what color lambs are born. It's always a surprise. Their mom is my good old ewe Auntie Greet.
On this photo he's still a bit dirty, because his mom delivered him on the sand. In a few days he will look shiny bright white.
Photos of JaguarJulie and My-O-My JamesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Lamb #23 - SammySpam - Born May 10, 2014
SammySpam and his twin brother AndyPo sure kept us waiting. Or better their mom Linnepin kept us waiting. He's a beautiful black male lamb with a little spot of white, but I don't think that white spot will show anymore in his adult fleece next year.
Lamb #24 - AndyPo - Born May 10, 2014
AndyPo (love that name) is another beautiful Fox colored male lamb. With all the sometimes funny colors going around, our breeders sometimes forget to make sure the original basic color of this sheep breed won't disappear.
With SammySpam and AndyPo, the lambing season 2014 came to an end.
Lambing Season 2014 Has Come to Its End
The lambing season 2014 has come to its end. The last ewe delivered her babies on May 10. It has been a different season for me, because besides one, all ewes delivered their babies elsewhere due to my hip operation I had this winter. I'm very thankful to both colleague breeders who offered to take my ewes (and rams) and let them lamb at their place. If they hadn't done that, I wouldn't have had any lamb this year.
That's what friends are for, helping out in difficult times. Good friends last forever.
I haven't had this many lambs in a long time and I sure won't be able to keep them all, but I will seek good homes for them. I can't help it though if some male lambs will end up at someone's plate. It's impossible to keep a group of rams together for years, because as soon as the hormones kick in, they will fight themselves to death. In the wild the loser can flee, but in a meadow he can't flee far enough, so there will be a constant confrontation and they can only act on their instinct and will do that, especially in the breeding season.
I can tell you, it's no fun at all to find a ram all bloody with a broken neck in your meadow. I think that if they had a choice to either die in a fight or through a fast bullet, they will choose the latter. That's the reality of life and if we don't accept that, then we shouldn't be breeding animals at all. When keeping animals like sheep, we also have the responsibility to take good care of them and that too includes keeping the flock healthy.
You Can't Keep All Animals
One Example of What Happens When You Keep All Sheep Alive
There was a shepherd who is a vegetarian (nothing wrong with that) and he refused to kill the sheep or sell them (because they could be killed by the new owner) so he kept all the newborn lambs alive, year after year. He castrated the young males and put them and old ewes in separate meadows, away from the main flock. Those meadows became crowded rather fast and a lot of sheep got infected with worm infections or other illnesses, but he wouldn't let the vet put them down, they had to die a natural death. After a few years, the public who walked along those meadows started to protest, because all they saw were old and sick animals, some crippled, some emaciated by sickness or old age (sheep start losing their teeth at the age of 6 to 8, unable then to ruminate their cud properly). About 6/7 years later this shepherd had to admit that his way of holding sheep had been proven to be not the right way for the animals and he apologized publicly that he had caused unnecessary stress and agony to the animals he loved.
I always tell this story to the people who are against killing all animals for food; because I so often notice that they don't realize the consequences of keeping all animals alive. Of course I'm against animal cruelty and the way some cattle dealers treat the animals on the (too) many transports. Those who treat animals in a cruel way, belong in jail.
If You Eat Meat and You Had Sheep...
Would You Rather Sell Them and Not Know What Happens to Them or Would You Rather Let Them Be Killed in a Humane Way and Eat Their Meat
© 2014 Titia Geertman