So, once again, it’s begun: lambing on our farm. The black cutie in the photo is #6003. He was born on May 14, the third lamb born in 2006 on Rising Moon Farm. On May 13 twins came, signaling the start to Melissa’s favorite time of year (and my most stressful.)
The white Midwestern cutie in the overalls is Melissa. She loves the challenges of lambing—watching a ewe for signs she’s going into labor, then deciding when labor’s gone on too long and whether the ewe might need help.
Last evening this very situation arose, so Melissa called for reinforcements: me. It was raining lightly, but the sky was clear to the west, so the rain would soon end. We surrounded the flock with a portable fence, then Melissa chased the ewe in question, finally grabbing her by one back leg. I watched as the ewe dragged Melissa across the pasture. “Could you stop her?” came the polite request, so I belatedly sprang into action and planted myself in front of the ewe so she stopped running. “Thanks,” Melissa said, face down in the wet grass.
“That’s why I’m here,” I replied.
We got the ewe down on her side, then while I held her, Melissa pulled on a plastic glove, lubricated it, then reached inside the ewe. Chatting happily to the lambs inside, she sorted them out, then pulled out first one big-headed lamb, then the second. I am pleased to report I didn’t cry, but just calmly manned my post at the ewe’s head. At my end of the sheep all you see are long eyelashes and clean wool and nostrils slightly flared in alarm. (At the other end there is blood and mucus and placenta and…oh lord.)
Once the lambs were out and their nostrils clear, we gathered up Melissa’s gear and stepped back, letting the ewe do the rest: licking the lambs dry, getting them up on their feet, nosing them back toward the udder.
A few hours later Melissa returned to perform another favorite task of hers: ‘processing’ the lambs. Here’s how that works. She approaches the nearest lamb (now dry and alert and fed), who looks up at her in total innocence (the last time he’ll do that) then picks him up. The ewe stomps and snorts and bellows, circling nervously ten feet away. Melissa sits down, puts the lamb in her lap, and does her thing: ear tag for ID, rubber band on tail to dock it, iodine on the navel, and a shot of vitamins. The most important step comes just before she sends the lamb back to its mama, and that’s a kiss on the head.
Normally I might be a little jealous of all the kisses Melissa dispenses, but I can’t blame her. It’s impossible to hold a clean, dry lamb in your arms and not kiss its head. By the time lambing is done, Melissa will have kissed 70-80 lambs. I don’t know who is luckier—Melissa or the lambs.