A Soay lambing crisis update: All’s well so far

Yesterday the twins born under less-than-ideal circumstances celebrated their 2-week birthday, and they not only are surviving, they are thriving and growing like little ovine weeds. Tolcarne is, as usual, a superb mother and at least for now is cranking out milk sufficient to meet her lambs’ needs without losing her good conditioning. May I brag on them with a couple of pictures? The first was taken when the lambs were 5 days old, exploring the nursery and its snazzy new feeders for the first time.


The second picture shows the twins at the ripe old age of 11 days posing in their current home, a sunny paddock in our new area of breeding pens, which also work just fine for housing groups of new lambs and their moms.


Since Tolcarne’s difficult lambing, we have researched the available data on Soay lambings and spoken to several breeders, and from everything we have learned, breech presentations really are extremely rare in Soay sheep, but they happen, and we know of another one within the last couple of weeks.  It reminds us that although Soay are easy keepers and easy lambers, they need their shepherds to pay close attention to them for those unusual times when trouble arises. The moral of this story is to have your sheep-knowledgeable vet’s phone number handy and hope the problem arises during the day.  If you do not have a sheep vet in your area, try to locate an experienced shepherd nearby and keep her well stocked with homemade pie, fresh-baked bread, bottles of good wine, or whatever it takes to make her want to help you in a pinch. If you are lucky enough to find such an experienced person near by, you will want to have a bottle of long-acting penicillin (also called “dual-pen”), 3cc syringes, shoulder-length obstetrical gloves in a small hand size, and obstetrical lubricant or K-Y on hand for her to use. [Author’s note: The use of the feminine pronoun here is purposeful. It is hard to imagine a man with hands small enough for this emergency job.]

Meanwhile, it was not until after our Tolcarne crisis subsided that we realized this is the same Tolcarne who produced Otley the Noisy a couple of years ago. Remember Otley? She’s the lamb who came out frighteningly tiny, but with lungs like a foghorn and with a propensity to wander.  We were so inexperienced back then that we did not trust a tiny lamb to make it on her own, silly us.  For those who may have missed the saga of Otley the Noisy, click HERE and read about her opening night performance, and HERE for her operatic debut.

Tolcarne took a break from theatrics last year and had a completely uneventful lambing, producing our winsome ewe lamb Buttermere, she of the lopsided white swath on her forehead and nose.


We look forward to breeding Buttermere for the first time next fall. With any luck, both she and her mother will lamb easily and without fanfare. I may need to have a chat with Buttermere over the summer about not trying to upstage her mother in the high-drama department. One thing is certain, whether the lambings are boring or dramatic, I will keep you posted.

For now …