Readers’ guide to the “Lambing” categories

Soay mother and lamb snooze in the sun

Just as lambing is at the heart of what raising Soay sheep is all about, so is the LAMBING category the heart of my blog. It’s the umbrella category for everything about lambing that I can think of and have time to write about.

The eight subcategories under “Lambing” are displayed roughly in chronological order. They will guide you to the posts and also serve as a handy reminder of the order of things in the lambing cycle, something like this:

Flushing Mostly a September activity, flushing is a process used for centuries by shepherds wanting a higher yield (i.e., more twins). Flushing posts focus on philosophy and techniques. Hint: flushing is no more complicated than making and then following a chart of ramped-up food for your soon-to-breed ewes. Flushing is 100% optional.

Breeding During a breeder’s chosen 7-to-9 week span within October, November and December. This category will include links to more extensive treatment of conservation breeding on our farm website.

Gestation The five months spanning roughly November through March. What to expect, both visually and behaviorwise, from your pregnant ewes and, more important, what they should expect from you before lambing. One of these days I will take the time to finish a post about “stink-eye,” and that’s not a disease; it’s a behavior.

Soay mother checking up on her lamb after playBirth About 148 days after conception, usually in within March, April and May or thereabouts, chock full of posts — hence the need for a few sub-categories (below) to keep track of all of it — not in any particular order since most birthing issues either manifest themselves immediately, or they pop up a few days later and in any event are unpredictable.

First-time mothersIn many ways they are our favorite ewes, not the least for their “oh my, what did I get myself into” looks and behavior. But some of them don’t quite “get it” so they warrant extra attention.

BreechAn almost unheard of problem in Soay sheep, but we had one and I wrote about it in hopes it will help other breeders who might encounter a breech birth.

JuggingThe ritual of maneuvering newborns and their mothers into a quiet, private place, straightforward once you get the hang of it, and of course no self-respecting blogger could omit at least a couple of posts about the very best category name.

TwinsPairs of lambs provide a surprising number of blog-worthy topics, from flushing to bummer lambs to wandering first-out lambs, nosy aunts, you name it.

WanderersSpeaking of which . . .

“Working” lambsA priority category with lots of posts (and links to the main website) about how we tag, weigh, vaccinate, and otherwise deal with our newborn lambs. With a huge pat on my own back, here’s where you can find a very helpful, unedited and uncensored video of Steve working a lamb.

Taking temperatureA lamb’s temperature is an important indicator of its health and there are benchmarks for what range you should see, with overlap on how to deal with low body temperatures in lambs.

Baby eartagsThese slick little identification mechanisms are mentioned in lots of posts; here you will find the why and how to use them.

WeightWe used to think weight was a good indicator of health until Peanut and Tiny Tim came along. Besides anecdotes on these little guys’ progress, you’ll find a post or two with data on averages, hopefully to ease your mind.

Naming lambsLast but by no means lowest in priority at lambing time, choosing a yearly theme, selecting which names in that theme to use, and in what order, is great fun and if you can bring yourself to be orderly about it, the naming theme can help you keep track of your flock.

"Will you play with us, big Khloe?"Infancy Defined here as weeks 1-6, so far includes posts about castration and playtime. And no, I did not do that on purpose. The main focus during the first two weeks is, after all, marveling at your adorable lambs and showing them off to whoever you can persuade to stop and admire your growing flock.

A study in Soay sepia-toned serenityAdolescenceRoughly weeks 7-12, a place for posts about weaning once I take time to write about it. I’d get it done but it is more fun to be out with the lambs as they figure out how to eat hay and pasture grass.

Soay ewes and lambs like to nuzzleProblems Encompasses birth through weaning. I continue to agonize about what to call this collection of posts. Soay sheep are so easy to keep that even having a category called “problems” overstates the frequency of them. But there are a few recurring issues that can and should be dealt with: bummer lambs, coccidia, eye crud. Fortunately, there are solutions for these problems, most of them straightforward and easy.

Lambing supplies New year’s resolutions always include an earnestly-expressed plan to inventory and restock during winter downtime, well before lambing starts. Here I’ve put whatever posts focus on a specific piece of equipment or specific medication, etc. Most posts about lambing also include something about supplies pertinent to the topic. This is also where you can learn how to make, and why to use, lambing cards, one of my favorite “tools.”

May all your lambing days be happy days!

May all your lambing days be happy days!