Bebe is one extraordinary ewe, and one of my all-time favorites. Her name (BB) stands for Bottle Baby, because she was rejected by her mother (who we named Psycho, because of her complete lack of mothering skills) and we had to raise her on a bottle. I originally decided not to keep Bebe, because poor mothering can have a genetic component, and I sold her as a pet. But that didn’t work out and she came back to us. By then, Psycho had proven to be the most productive ewe of her age-group, so we kept Bebe. She was the friendliest lamb in the bunch, always happy to be gathered up into my arms.
From her first year in the milking string, Bebe was a top producer–second only to the legendary Panties. She was such a proud and beautiful working girl. Paige Green took this lovely photo of the ewes coming up the alley to the milking parlor in the morning, with Bebe in the lead, stepping out like she couldn’t wait to get to work.
A year or so later, I took this portrait of Bebe in her prime. She was always a devoted mother—making me so glad I didn’t reject Bebe on the grounds of her mother’s deficiencies. In 2014, at the age of five, after giving birth to triplets, Bebe became paralysed in her rear legs. She was down and unable to get up for 5 days, and our vet held out little hope that she would recover. But Bebe was eating voraciously, and feeding her triplets even though she couldn’t stand up, so I decided to refrain from putting her down and wait to see what happened. Eventually we were able to get Bebe up, and she was able to stand on her own for a few minutes. After a few days more she could get up on her own. Pretty soon she was walking out to the pasture with her lambs. I told her she could retire to my back yard and raise her lambs, which she did. She loved those lambs and was inseparable from them.
When we weaned the lambs, Bebe still had so much milk that we returned her to the milking string, and she valiantly climbed the ramp to the milking platform twice a day. After that season we never bred her again, but Bebe has continued to live happily in the “pet flock” of retired and non-milking ewes at my house. She is still a little weak in her rear legs, but she can keep up with the flock with little problem.
I keep a couple of younger ewes as pets (Gracie and Maybe) and let them raise their lambs at the house. This year, Bebe has assumed a very devoted “auntie” role with Maybe’s ewe-lamb. They are always together. Bebe calls after Little Maybe as if she were her own daughter and the lamb comes running just as if Bebe were her mother. This evening I was sitting out on our deck enjoying watching the sheep in the evening light and got this photo of Bebe with her adopted “niece.” It warms my heart to see what a devoted mother and auntie Bebe has been. She didn’t get much love from her own mother, but she has been one of the best mothers in the history of our flock.