It has been a month since the last lambs arrived; I've had time to catch my breath. It was a very hectic
3 weeks as I had a larger than usual share of complications. First, sadly, we lost one of Jasmine's triplets after the lamb was sick for about a week - always a hard thing for everyone on the farm when a lamb dies. Then Janey had a breech birth; I was worried the lamb had aspirated as it was very weak and not breathing well. Once I got colostrum in it, and some extra nutrients with some TLC , I was happily surprised when it got up after about an hour, trying to nurse. Holly then had twins one night and the little ram lamb must have gotten separated from her as his twin was born. By the time I reunited the lamb with his dam & sister, Holly wouldn't accept him as hers. I don't think there is anything harder or more frustrating than trying to get a ewe to accept a rejected lamb. We held her, then had to tie her to let him nurse, as she
tried to butt him. I tried the old method of putting a coat on the accepted lamb, then switching it to the rejected one after a couple of days. And I tried many other remedies! After almost 2 weeks, I was going to give up though at that point it would have been very hard to get him to accept a bottle. The lamb got smarter, though, and rushed in to nurse when his sister nursed. Finally Holly accepted him and now gets upset if both her twins aren't right with her. So happily we now have 9 healthy lambs running through the pasture.
I was so glad none of the ewes decided to have their lambs 2 weeks ago when we had another snow - 5 1/2 inches this time which is quite a lot for us. The ewes decided to stay under shelter and eat hay as that white stuff looked cold and deep.
Jasmine was carrying triplets in that big belly; they were born early Saturday morning. I went up to check her before the sun was quite up, and she seemed to be in early labor. After awhile, since she was still walking around while occasionally pawing at the hay, I thought I would run in the house to make a cup of tea. I was gone 20 minutes which was plenty of time for Jasmine to pop out her lambs. I guess she didn't want me watching her.
There were a couple of surprises this morning - first the snow. The yearlings, including Onyx, were out playing in it. Was snow even in the forecast last night?
And here's the picture of Abby I was trying to get last time. Like I said, thank goodness she's so cute.
Lambs start arriving in a week. Now is the time for getting ready: putting fresh bedding in the stalls, making sure I have all the lambing supplies, and frequently checking on the ewes. Its always a guessing game when looking at the increasing size of their bellies - will it be a single, twins or triplets? Jasmine is looking quite big; she's given me triplets twice before. We'll see next week!
Pepper, our Leicester/Tunis cross wether (and Chloe's pet) happily followed me down to the ram's pasture, where I opened the gate. Pepper then led Tony Romo back up to the barn as I called them. Who needs a sheep dog when I've got Pepper?
And the ewes patiently wait for the morning.
Despite my preoccupation for the last 5 months with Sam's death and finding Pyr's to replace him, life with the sheep has gone on. Towards the end of August, 23 year old Emily came, with baby Abilene in tow, to shear the lambs. The baby slept through most of her amazing mother's work; she woke towards the end and we were happy to play with her as Emily finished up.
In December I had a very successful weekend selling my wool wares at the Saxapahaw Holiday Market - always a fun time!
Holden has been with us for 5 1/2 weeks. Because of his overnight break out of his pen that first day, he had a less than desirable rapid introduction to the sheep, but I soon found he continued to be calm around the sheep and all the other critters. Livestock Guardian Dog Test #1 passed! However, he didn't seem too protective of the sheep which is the second important test of a LGD - no marking of his territory, very little barking and leaving the sheep alone out in the pasture. Over the past few weeks, though, he has slowly started to exhibit those important guardian behaviors. We hope those behaviors will continue to improve and, in combination with his very sweet nature, we've decided he's a keeper!
Having lost Gabby to coyotes, I decided having two or more Pyrs was essential. Carolina Great Pyrenees Rescue called me again last week about a young female that had come in. A Pyr breeder was trying to get rid of all his older puppies as one of his dogs was due to have more any day. When the rescue volunteer went out to the farm, she found 16 (!) Pyrs out in the field - many older puppies and young dogs that had never been handled by humans. We brought Abby home, a terrified, small but beautiful Pyr. She trembled with fear every time we came near her at first. It has taken a week of patient work for Abby to trust us, but at least now she will let us pet her and seems happy to see us in the morning. Much more work will be needed to guarantee her LGD skills, and to continue to gain her trust, but she's a keeper too. Holden and Abby are fast buddies, and his comfort with humans is helping Abby accept us.
We got the call the night before we were to head back home from northern VA from visiting family and picking Chloe up from the airport. Ben was counting the sheep, getting ready to close them in after dark, but noticed one was missing. He found Gabby, one of my biggest and sweetest ewes, dead from a predator attack out in the pasture. The signs were more consistent with a coyote rather than a dog attack. The only thing that didn't jibe was that coyotes are more apt to go after smaller lambs rather than the large ewes, but I then realized that the lamb's small pasture was pretty coyote proof. Even though the ewes pasture was near the barn, the fencing wasn't good enough to keep out a determined coyote. Without a livestock guardian dog (LGD) to protect them, the sheep were vulnerable to coyotes.
I told Ben to put the lambs in the small paddock right next to the barn, and the ewes and ram into the small area right behind the barn where we had reinforced all the fencing in anticipation of trying out unproven LGDs. Since coming home, I've kept the sheep penned up and am feeding them hay. We are also leaving all the barn and outside spot lights on all night since almost every night we hear coyotes yipping and howling all around the farm.
Tuesday evening I got a call from Carolina Great Pyrenees Rescue; they had a Pyr coming in from a shelter in the mountains with an unknown history but maybe he was a LGD. Would I be willing to test him? In desperation for another LGD I immediately agreed. I drove to Winston Salem on Wed. and picked up Holden, a 120 lb., sweet and responsive Pyr. As is usual when testing an unknown Great Pyrenees with livestock, I introduced him on a leash to the sheep, walked him around the perimeter of the paddocks, and put him in a 6'chain link pen in between the two groups of sheep for the night. He seemed to be calm with the sheep so I was hopeful. The next morning I went up to the barn to find Holden loose in the barnyard. He had completely ripped loose one side of the pen, made a huge hole to escape and then climbed over the paddock fence, bending it down. (To be continued)
Last July, after Sam's (our Great Pyrenees) untimely death, I wanted to wait awhile before getting another Pyr to replace him. After all, I felt too sad and thought it was too soon to find another Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD). But within a few days, I realized I needed another dog. For the first few mornings after Sam died, I led the sheep across the creek out to the big pasture. As soon as I starting walking back, all the ewes came running after me. I realized they knew it wasn't safe without big Sam to protect them. The lambs, having much less sense, were happy to stay out there by themselves. I trusted the ewes' good instinct and brought everybody back into our small pastures near the barn.
My choice to replace Sam would be a known LGD, adult Pyr that was in rescue. I could buy a puppy but not all Pyr puppies turn into good LGDs, and besides, my sheep needed protection right now. I found "Moses" in rescue from a family in Tenn. that felt like they had too many other large dogs to care for. I was told that he might have some slight hearing loss. We made the trek to the mountains and brought him home. After a few days we found that Moses was a very sweet Pyr but was also completely, totally deaf. A LGD's most important sense is probably hearing. However, since Moses seemed to get along well with the sheep, didn't try to escape (which is a known Pyr trait), and did everything else a LGD should do, I thought maybe we could get another Pyr to be his ears and they could work together. So back we went to the NC mountains to pick up "Thomas" from an animal shelter. Thomas was another beautiful and sweet Pyr, but within a few days was demonstrating his skill at climbing fences. So eventually Thomas went back to the shelter (where an elderly lady was waiting to adopt him) and Moses went back to his original farm.
My sheep will have to live in our small pastures for awhile longer and I'll have to start feeding them hay a lot sooner. I'll continue the search for another Great Pyrenees, but this experience has reminded me how lucky we were to have Sammy and how much I miss him.