Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's All in the Udder

Today I thought I'd do a little blog about my potential upcoming lambs.  I'm getting a bit antsy about it all.  After all, this will be only my second year of lambing.  Here's the run-down.

In November, I purchased 7 blue-faced Leicester ewes and two rams from Zephyr Sheep Farm.  They're wonderful sheep.  All 7 of the ewes were potentially bred, because they had been with the rams from September 11 to October 16 of 2009.  I decided, after receiving them, that I would put them back in with the rams "just in case" any had not ended up being bred in the fall.  One of the 7 had a very clear marking on Dec 1, so I assume that she wasn't bred in the fall round.  That left me with 6 BFL ewes to lamb in February or March.

Sheep gestation is roughly 145 days. Based on the gestation calculator, I determined that if a ewe were bred on the first or last day:
  • Earliest possible lambing date: Feb 4
  • Latest possible lambing date: March 11
Now here we are at Feb 25. Of the 6, I have 4 ewes showing udder development, and 2 not at all, I don't think.

According to the Zephyr Sheep Farm blog , Leslie was bred around September 21. I think that marking was an unsuccessful attempt because a September 21 breeding should have been roughly a February 14  lambing and she has not lambed.  But, I think she is due to lamb pretty soon, because here is her udder.  It's the biggest of the bunch.

The blog says Black Pearl and Assyria didn't show breeding marks (i.e. after Sept. 25 when Carol stopped using the marking stuff on her rams).  Assyria shows no udder development whatsoever, and I am not sure if she is pregnant at all.  Here is Black Pearl's udder - what do you think?  Do you think she looks pregnant?  I am just not sure.  The latest she could lamb would be March 11 - I would have expected more development by now.

My other "maybe" is Corsica.  She should have been bred in the fall but here is her udder, which doesn't look like much to me.  I doubt that she was bred then....what do you think?  You can actually see a teat sort of pointing to the left but there isn't much "udder" to go along with it.

Sloan was marked in "late September" but Carol didn't write the date down...but, a September 30 breeding should have been Feb 23 lambing, in other words, 2 days ago. I do think Sloan is pregnant though - here is her udder.  She wouldn't stay still for me, but she looks to be due fairly soon.  She's a little smaller than Leslie.

Carol actually saw Alystyne being bred on October 5 (which would imply lambing on Feb 28).  Strangely, she has the smallest udder of the 3 "big udder" girls.  But Februarly 28 is only 3 days away...  Here's Alystyne's udder.

So, at the moment, I see udder development on Leslie, Sloan and Alystyne, and possibly Black Pearl.  I suspect Paisley, Corsica and Assyria were not bred on the fall round, but I hope they were in the second round after they arrived here.

In theory, that means I should have 4 sets of lambs between now and March 11, the last date according to when the rams were separated. However, all of the "official" dates are passed, except Feb 28, and Alystyne doesn't look like she is that far along. So overall, I'm really confused and wondering what is going on.  I wish I had an ultrasound, but they're a good $4000 or so to buy. Argh.

Well, in other news, Stormy finally had his coat taken off and here he is today.  What a handsome youngster!  At the moment his fleece is darker than Mom and Dad's fleeces, but maybe he will lighten with age.
What a sweet face!
I'd love to hear from any of my experienced sheep readers on their thoughts on my sheeps' udders.


Michelle said...

Just a little bit of experience here, but udder development can vary quite a bit from sheep to sheep. Some bag up like holsteins well in advance; some seem to wait until lambs are born to actually come into "milk." All of my Shetlands have been fairly obvious in udder fill, or tightness by due date, but sizes and WHEN they bag up does vary.

IsobelleGoLightly said...

Hee hee Claire! I would have liked to have taken a photo of you crawling around taking photos of sheepie naughty bits!

Louise said...

I can't help with the sheep, but I just had to say that little Stormy is adorable!

Melodie said...

My sheep are not fiber sheep,but I can never tell when they are going to have babies.When I think they must be ready and can't possibly get any bigger they get bigger and I am left waiting!

Thank you for your kind comments today at my place.

Animals with Opinions said...

i spoke with the human about your udder thing. she is udderly clueless. haha okay seriously she has never had a sheep. she has been in your situation with her goats though. one didn't bag up till 6 hrs. before delivery, two others walked around with huge bags for four weeks before anything and one not until after the babies were born did hers bulk up. not much help i know. she thinks they just like to mess with the humans. its very irritating and about drove her mad. in fact i think it did. everyday, several times a day, she would stand at the pen staring at bags and girl parts hoping for a sign. i don't think she ever got one.

gerald the not very helpful goat

Anonymous said...

Leslie looks like she is still a week or so out...since she is pink in the rear end, she will probably turn a very hot pink right before she lambs. Her udder is big, but the teats aren't filled out yet. I'm not sure about the others with no udders, but for $7.50/head you can send a blood sample to and they will tell you if they are pregnant or not. I just had 4 done and found out that they are indeed bred :) There are instructions on the website. Good luck!

Somerhill said...

Hi Claire!
Its not all in the udder - its also in the vulva. :^)
Has Black Pearl always looked like that, or is the flacid udder a newer development? I can't see her vulva in the picture - is it puffy and ripe looking, or just small & heartshaped, like pursed lips?
Are the other 3 ewes virgins? That makes it harder, since often first timers will wait and bag up at the last second. If their teats look prominent compared to earlier in the season, that is a hint. And again, watch for changes in size of the vulva.
Each ewe is different. Making notes to yourself this year about what changes you noticed in each ewe, and when, will help you in years to come as you follow ewes around, staring at their backsides. :^)
That said, we've been lambing for 20+ years, and still follow ewes around, staring and asking eachother "do you think she is bred?" LOL

Mom L said...

Oh, wow - now I really know it's time for lambs! Udders, pink lady parts, bags - what's the world coming to?!! My cat, Emma, is covering her eyes, silly girl! Truly, though, I find this fascinating. Claire, I just wish we were a little bit closer, but I'm determined to visit your farm later this year! Keep one of the babies in a time capsule for me.

Nancy in Iowa

Brenda Lelli said...

Hi Claire,
On Leslie, she is quite close, and by the looks of her udder, sporting multiples. If you have some breeding - marking - dates for the adult ewes, but they didn't lamb on the dates corresponded to the first date, then add approx. 17 day cycles to those dates, and you will come up with subsequent breeding times. Unless of course they resorbed, or aborted at some point and thru them out of cycle.
Your ewe lambs that were exposed aka 'Paisley' was most likely jumped and marked by an over ambitious ram, and would have been more receptive in November. Also, the move and stress to a new farm, just after breeding may have caused them to return to open.
If we've got any big storms headed our way, count on it to start them all lambing.:-)

Flartus said...

I have nothing of substance to add to this conversation. Just...truly a fascinating way to start my morning! (I didn't have a chance to post this comment from work!) Good luck with your own Winter Lamb-lympics!

My Life Under the Bus said...

I don't have sheep but feel like I am reading sheep porn LOL !!! One my eight year olds popped up behind me and said ," Should you be looking at that ?" hahahahaha.....

Becky Utecht said...

Ah yes, udder shots! All of us shepherds know the anguish of checking the bags daily and due dates coming and going with no lambs on the ground. My advice is to save and date those shots so you can refer to them next year. By then you'll know the lambing date and can gauge how far out a particular ewe MIGHT be. Every year I look back in my photo archives looking for bag shots of certain ewes. Lisa's right about checking the vulva too. I can't wait to hear the news and see your lamb photos. BFL lambs are SO cute! Good luck!