Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Twins having Twins

Bitsy and Betsy are the twin ewes we acquired a year and a half ago. They came with their names and a bit of a problem.  Their owner was losing her farm and had apparently been struggling as she was not able to feed them properly.  They were both grossly overweight when we got them.  We put them on good pasture, lots of hay and only an occasional bit of grain so that they each lost about 75 pounds.  We also quarantined them from the rams the first season we had them as we feared for their health should they become pregnant.  We did let them do their own thing last fall and have since been rewarded with two sets of twins!

Neither sister were what we would consider natural mothers.  Bitsy was the first to lamb.  She had twins, a ewe and a buck.  She seemed confused and had stopped trying to clean up her newborns.  Both were chilled and lethargic when we found them.  We rushed the little family into the stable, put them on heat, milked out Bitsy and tube fed the lambs to get them going.  After a few hours and plenty of fussing on our part they rallied.  Long story but Bitsy was not too concerned with them.  We spent the first few days having to hold her and help the lambs get at her udder to nurse.  We also had to clean their bottoms as mama was lacking in that skill as well.  Bitsy was just getting the hang of things five days later when Betsy, her sister, lambed.

Betsy shared her lack of maternal instinct with her sister.  She barely cleaned up her lambs but they were up and trying so hard to nurse. We had to hold her so that the lambs could get at her udder without her kicking them away.  It took about three days before she seemed ready to tolerate them.

Because of their minimal maternal behavior, we have kept the mothers and lambs safe in the stable for about a week longer than we would with a new mother and lamb.  Yesterday I let them out to see the world.  There was some confusion at first as the mothers tried to sort their lambs or just walked off without them.  Both mothers gently butt away the "wrong" babies so that added to the confusion. Thankfully by the afternoon things were beginning to sort themselves out.  I even found Betsy minding the whole crew while Bitsy had a little me-time on the other side of the barn.  Through it all Baloo, our Pyr X Kangal Livestock Guardian Dog, kept a watchful eye.  He loves baby and has finally learned not to steal them but just to love them from a distance.  He is very trustworthy so I felt comfortable letting him quietly be in charge.

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