EweTube: Bummer Soay lamb grows up, lambs without a hitch

Little could we imagine two years ago when we were bottle feeding Patterdale in our kitchen that she would survive, grow up, and produce her own healthy lamb, but that is just what has happened here in the last few days.

You may be wondering, what’s the big deal, since Patterdale obviously lived through her difficult first few weeks. What we didn’t know then was whether she would mature properly and be capable of getting pregnant, carrying a pregnancy to full term, and delivering a lamb successfully. The plain fact is that bottle-fed lambs present issues beyond merely keeping them alive. They really cannot eat on the same schedule as their nursing cousins, who take very small amounts of milk at frequent intervals, up to several times an hour. No matter how diligent we were in feeding Patterdale, we could not match the schedule her mother would have provided had she not rejected Patterdale out of hand. In addition, there is a substantial risk of the lamb scouring because it wants to drink more each time it is bottle fed than its digestive system can accommodate. Later, when Patterdale had no choice but to go out in the pasture with all the other lambs and their big mothers (but without a mother watching out for her), we learned the hard way that she could not compete at the feeders. In short, we had no idea whether her reproductive system had successfully matured in light of her compromised growth process.

Against this background, Steve was delighted when he arrived at the Maternity Ward late in the afternoon of April Fool’s Day to find Patterdale fussing and giving off signals that she was about to go into labor. Because she is so tame, she followed Steve right into a jug and quietly lambed there while Steve went about evening feeding chores. By the time I grabbed my camera and ran over to the Maternity Ward, Patterdale had nearly finished cleaning up her lamb and getting her up to nurse:

Later that evening when we worked the lamb, we were pleased to find her a respectable (especially for a small first-time mother) 4 pounds 4 ounces, warm and obviously having had her fill of the all-important colostrum. We also have been amused to see how ferociously protective Patterdale is now that she and her lamb have re-joined the jumble of newborns and their moms. Any other lamb or ewe that approaches Patterdale’s baby gets butted away and butted hard, as though Patterdale is saying to herself, “my mom abandoned me and by golly, I’m not going to let that happen to my daughter!”

For now …

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  1. robson says:

    LOVE the Patterdale progress! What a sweet baby she has.