427, The Night Lamb
Sunday morning, the news wasn’t good for little 427: he was hungry, he was thin and he was crying. 94 had dried blood on her hocks indicating that she had recently lambed, meaning she was probably the mother of 427; but she butted him away when he tried to get to her teats.
I can’t fault a ewe who has had a hard time lambing for refusing her lamb, most don’t refuse them no-matter-what, but some do. Perhaps 94 will reconsider caring for 427 if she is confined with him in a jug, a small area (~24 sq. ft.) that is private and away from the other sheep. Sometimes after several hours the ewe’s maternal instinct returns, the pair bonds and all is well.
We moved 94 & 427 to a jug and made them comfy by putting out hay, water & a little grain. The next, and perhaps the most important, order of business, was to get 2 ounces of 94’s colostrum into 427. Delivery with a stomach tube is the most expedient way of getting colostrum into a newborn. Colostrum, the first milk from the udder, carries antibodies that will ward off disease for 6 weeks until the lamb’s immune system develops.
Fortunately 94 had a good full bag; some ewes are dry at birth and you must use colostrum from another ewe who has recently lambed, if you have one.
Dominique tubes 427, or places colostrum into the lamb’s stomach with a tube connected to a large syringe.
Then as insurance against the possibility of 94 continuing to refuse 427, the lamb must be trained to a bottle with a nipple on it; this is easy with a day old lamb but the older the lamb gets the more difficult training becomes. 427 took to the bottle better than any other lamb I’ve ever had; he was a real goer and filled himself quickly. And this was good because after a day together 94 still ignored 427.
Dominique even smeared 94’s afterbirth on 427 to enhance his scent. This is a modified slime graft, an old-world technique, which usually involves a ewe who has one of her lambs die. The shepherd skins the dead lamb and cuts leg holes into the pelt; he places the legs of an orphan lamb, like 427, into the holes making a Persian lamb coat for the orphan. This familiar smelling pelt fools the ewe into thinking the orphan is hers and she cares for it. After a day or two when the ewe has accepted the orphan the pelt coat is taken off and discarded.
But no slime luck with 427; he was going to be a new-age bottle baby, a fat and friendly little guy whose mother is the world.