A Ewe and Her Lambs

Daisy and lambW

I never cease to be fascinate by the curious bond between a ewe and her lambs.  Thank heavens the 2016 lambing season has only just begun.  Three of our Border Cheviot ewes were bred to lamb in late February.  Two of the ewes were first-time mothers and the third was the mother of one of them.  The third and final ewe, Daisy, from this February group delivered twins, Leap Day babies!    We spotted Daisy and her new twins within an hour of their arrival and I was glad we did.  It was becoming pretty clear another pen-mate was trying to adopt the new arrivals as her own so we quickly separated the new family into a lambing pen.  Daisy had never given birth before and she certainly didn’t ‘learn the ropes’ by watching her pen-mates deliver their lambs earlier in the week.  Credit can only be given to the undeniably powerful maternal instinct a ewe can’t help but act on.  She immediately turns into a fiercely protective force to be reckoned with, positioning herself between the threat and her vulnerable lambs.  The classic ‘hoof stomp’ appears out of nowhere as soon as young ones come into the picture.  Our Border Collie, Calla acts on her own strong instincts by assuming the role of ‘controller of the stock’ and keeps a careful eye on the activities inside the lambing pen.  Calla is of course the primary target of the hoof stomps. Border Cheviots are known for their strong maternal characteristics but I never fully grasped what that really meant until seeing it for myself.  They’re constantly vigilant, their impressively protective and yet, amazingly gentle.  The ewe develops her own special bleat unique to her and her lambs and she constantly puts their needs above her own.  The lambs don’t waste anytime between their first breath and their first attempt to nurse.  I am amazed by it all!

I spent some time quietly sitting in the lambing pen a few days after the Leap Day twins arrived.  A lot of valuable knowledge can be gained simply by sitting with a group of livestock and observing their behaviors.  We could all stand to benefit from a little less distraction in life and I found my time in the pen incredibly rewarding.  Within 15 minutes of sitting still in the pen, Anna, the female twin laid down beside my leg.  I slowly scooped her up in my arms and rubbed her head and ears, right where her wool and face hair meet.  Her brother, Alfred laid down next to my other leg.  Daisy’s bright, alert eyes didn’t shift off of me for a second as I was in the pen but with each passing minute, you could tell her internal alert system was diminishing.  She wasn’t exactly ready to bring up a cud and lay down next to me but she wasn’t on high alert either.  Calla, taking the hint that her herding instincts were not needed laid down behind me and even the random assortment of cats nestled in the hay nearby.  All was right with the world.

I love lambing time!


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