Our spring lamb from last year has entered that awkward teenage stage. Like all teens, our lamb, Alice, only cares about “fitting in.” The only problem is “fitting in” means wedging her head through the hay bin bars and getting stuck until someone unscrews the bars around her! EVERY SINGLE MORNING she does this and every single morning either Larry, Al, or I, have to free her. No matter who ends up with this unconventional farm chore, we never get annoyed at this cute little face. How can we? Just look at her!
Alice was born during the first chilly days of last April. From the very start, her mother cleaned and nursed her twin sister, but ignored little Alice who laid wet and shivering in the hay. Each time Alice tried to nurse, her mother headbutted or kicked her away. I couldn’t help but think up a few choice names for her in my head!
To help Alice nurse, I tied the mother on a short rope so she couldn’t headbutt. It was essential for Alice to drink the antibody-loaded colostrum that her mother would only produce for the next 24 hours after birth. Since the ewe STILL kicked Alice away, I milked the colostrum out myself and bottle fed it to her, (not before recruiting Al to help hold her still). Soon, Alice became a child of the farm staff, fed by everyone, and trailing at our heels during every job we had to accomplish.
Every couple of years, a ewe on our farm will reject one or both of her babies. Each person I talk to has a different theory as to why this happens on farms. Some say when a ewe has twins, she doesn’t always realize that she gave birth to a second baby. Others just believe the domestication of sheep has reduced their mothering instinct. As for me, I think the answer is much simpler: as with humans, sometimes you have loving moms and sometimes you don’t.
Lucky for Alice, she has us!