Yesterday was a very exciting day for us! I got up early to head off to school, since I had class at 7:40 am. I went outside, as is my usual practice, just to ensure all was well in the farmyard. I just do a quick check on my early class days, and Kelly follows up later with feeding everybody. Well, I immediately noticed that Clover was in the shelter, instead of out with the rest of the flock, so I climbed the fence to take a closer look at her. Sure enough, her babies had dropped low in her belly, and she had a little mucus showing, which is a sign of labor. In the picture below, you can see her hip bones protruding and leaving her upper body looking hollowed out - a definite sign!
I ran inside and changed out of my school clothes and into barnyard clothes, sent a quick email to say I wouldn't be at school, and rushed back out with the camera. This would be the first birth that we would actually witness first hand, since Bianca and Oreo both lambed when we were not watching. I also made a coffee and put it into a travel mug, so I could sit out there waiting for her to start the actual lambing process. Off I went, into a clear blue morning, sun shining, but wow, it was chilly! Only 3 C (which is 37 for my Fahrenheit readers), so I was glad for that warm coffee!
When I came back out, there wasn't much change, so I figured it might be a while. I sat on the old cable spool that we have in the pen and watched Clover wander around, lie down, get up, stare at her back end, lie down again, get up again, bleat at her back end, etc. She finally lay down for about 20 minutes in the shelter, so I went over to chat with her. She let me rub her neck and she just lay there looking huge. After I got up from petting her, she got up too, and that's when the water sac emerged.
Meanwhile, Kelly had hastily put on his barnyard gear and was feeding the other animals. He put out some hay for the mini goats and other sheep in the pen with Clover. I had read that usually animals in labor don't want to eat. Ha! Not so with Clover. She ran over, with her little water sac hanging behind her, as if it were any other normal day.
She ate for a few minutes and then I noticed a new sac emerging. I am new to this whole sheep birth thing. I didn't realize that the first sac (which had reddish color fluid) would be different from the second one (which had cloudy but non colored fluid).
Kelly and I sat against the south wall of the barn, watching, because it was the warmest spot. Now we really know why the sheep and goats like to hang out in that spot all winter!
Anyway, we now know that the second sac was a sign of imminent birth, because from within the sac, we suddenly saw hooves!! The little hoof tips kept poking out, then going back inside. Poking out again, going back inside. You can see them in the picture below, just coming out.
Clover was eating the whole time. It was like she could not make up her mind...."Gee, do I eat, or do I give birth....I think I'll just eat.....oh wait, maybe I have to give birth.....nah....I'll just eat.....oh, maybe I don't have a choice in this matter...."
Suddenly, the head was out, but Clover just kept on eating. Slowly, her first little lamb emerged, and Clover did not stop eating until the lamb was on the ground.
Suddenly she kicked into high gear, licking and tending to her lamb.
We moved in with a clean towel to help dry off the lamb because of the cold wind, and we moved the lamb down to the side of the barn where it was protected and warm. Clover gladly followed. Meanwhile, a second sac had emerged....
All the time the second birth was starting, Clover continued to tend to the first lamb, who by now we had determined was a little brown ewe lamb. I have named her Bramble. Somebody else had a sweet little lamb named Bramble, and I can't remember whose blog it is, but I think it's an adorable name, so I'm afraid I borrowed it!
The chocolate brown color in Icelandic sheep terminology is referred to as "moorit" and the father was moorit, so we knew there was a chance of that. Since I am interested in their fleece for spinning, I like to have different colours in the flock, so I was excited to see a moorit lamb. We began to get concerned because the little lamb was shivering, and we wanted to get Clover and her lambs inside the barn to the lambing "jug" (a term for a small enclosure used for a ewe and her newborn lambs to encourage the bonding between mother and lambs, and to protect them).
We could see that Clover was really struggling with the second lamb. She was pushing and pushing and her mouth was open and I was starting to worry that there was a problem. But, then, with a few tremendous pushes from Clover, out popped a little black ram lamb.
Kelly took a moment as a proud shepherd to enjoy the new additions to our flock!
We rushed all 3 inside, because it was clear that Clover was finished lambing. We weighed the lambs. The little ewe was a mere 4 lb 1 oz. Her big brother was 8 lb 7 oz. What a difference! Her brother was immediately active and starting to investigate the udder! It didn't take him long to start nursing. The ewe on the other hand, was shivering and not trying to nurse. We tried to help out, and let me tell you, it's a bit of a trick to be holding a lamb, opening its mouth, steadying the mother sheep, and trying to put her teat in the lamb's mouth, all at the same time. Clover kept pushing my hand away with her back leg, and of course the little brother lamb was always in the way.
We got out our handy book about lamb problems and established that she was probably too chilled to have the sucking instinct kick in, so we set about warming her up. She was toweled, rubbed, scrubbed, re-toweled, re-rubbed, and was probably getting tired of being messed with! She stopped shivering, but still wasn't interested in sucking. So, Kelly went in to the house to get a bottle with a lamb nipple on it and I hand milked Clover a little bit, into the bottle. It's really important for lambs to get the colostrum from their mother in the first 30 to 60 minutes after birth, since after that, the ability of the lamb's digestive system to absorb the antibodies present in the colostrum drops significantly.
The little ewe took to the bottle quite easily, and once she had some of that, she began to perk up and show interest in the udder. Fairly soon, she was nursing well, and she has continued to do so, much to our relief.
Here's the little ram, whom Kelly has named "Sven" because it sounds sort of Icelandic. He has really big horn buds. He also has the "sugar lips" trait that suggests he will have some grey coloring to his fleece and not be all black.
Bramble has a tiny light coloured patch to the inside of her right eye, but is otherwise all the same colour. This might show that she carries the spotting gene, even though she does not express it in the form of white spots.Both lambs have such curly fleeces, I just want to touch them all the time! They are both doing fabulously well and we'll be taking more pictures soon!
Just one pregnant Icelandic ewe remains - the oh-so-large KitKat. No doubt, she'll have her turn in the next few days.