Yesterday morning Melinda and I were just finishing rounds when we heard a loud baaing coming from the shelter in the middle pasture. We went up to investigate and there was Snagglepiece, one of two East Friesians we have been expecting to lamb any day, baaing her head off. She had a broken water bag. Her baas were not from pain but from her instinct to talk to her new lamb, who hadn’t quite been born yet. We walked her to the barn to watch her, and Melinda got alfalfa to do the noon feeding. I stayed with Snaggle and she delivered a beautiful white girl.
Melinda returned from feeding the group in the middle pasture and I burst out of the barn with my news that we had a girl. Melinda didn’t seem didn’t seem to register my news, and said grimly, “Good Girl has a bloody mucus string.”
Good Girl was the other East Friesian we had been expecting to lamb for days. She was huge, and I was afraid she would have quads. A bloody mucus string is terrible news before a ewe goes into labor–it can mean a uterine torsion, which is generally fatal, or a damaged placenta or placenta previa (placenta coming before the lambs) which generally means all the lambs are dead, and getting them out can put the ewe’s life at risk. I thought of Good Girl’s big brown eyes and really worried about what was ahead of us. We brought her down from the pasture to the barn.
We were both faint from hunger, and while Melinda went home to make us both sandwiches, I watched Snaggle for more lambs, and called Dr Harlan, one of our vets, to review what my options were with Good Girl. He said if she had multiple lambs, it would be difficult to correct a uterine torsion, but he recommended going in to see if she was dilated and whether I could find live lambs in there.
While Melinda was making lunch, Good Girl went into hard labor, and pretty much at the same moment, Snaggle went into hard labor with her next lamb. Both of them had adopted what I’ve been calling the “dead-ewe” pose, which is very alarming. I had never seen before this year, but this year lots of our ewes seem to be doing it, laying out flat on their side, head thrown back, legs sticking straight out, looking like giant bloated carcasses. I was alone in the barn with two ewes both doing this!
Melinda returned and I gobbled the sandwich she brought, which may have been the most delicious sandwich I have ever eaten. I brought her up to date on what Dr Harlan had said. Good Girl suddenly showed a big water bag, which was good news. It meant she was dilated and so didn’t have uterine torsion. I scrubbed up and prepared to investigate. Meanwhile Snaggle delivered a beautiful black boy all on her own. Lolo came in to assist and Melinda held Good Girl while I reached in to see what was in the birth canal. The very good news was that I could feel a lamb, and not a placenta. There were two lambs in the birth canal and it took me a while to sort them out and pull one, a big black girl, alive! I went right back in and got the second one, which came backwards. It was a smaller black girl, who was very weak. I didn’t think she would live, and as I was convinced Good Girl was going to have quads, this might be a blessing. But Lolo would not give up. He massaged and worked with that lamb, and soon she was breathing well and raising her head. Meanwhile I reached in again and pulled out a black boy, also backwards, who was strong and lively. I went in one last time to see if there were more and there were not, thank goodness.
Lolo milked some colostrum from Good Girl to feed the weak lamb with a bottle, but even with a full tummy she was still shivering, so we wrapped her in a towel and put her under a heat lamp. Last night Lisa watched over her and named her Little Feather, and today she is doing fine.
Snagglepiece wound up with triplets also, two girls and a boy, like Good Girl. Good Girl’s lambs’ father is Dale, so they are adding to our “Friedale” (Corriedale x East Friesian) flock.
The paternity of Snaggle’s lambs was in question, because she had been part of an unfortunate mixup right before breeding time. Our two East Friesian rams, Pistol and Joe, were pastured together, when Pistol had an accident, couldn’t recover and had to be put down. This left Joe all alone, just three days before we were due to put the rams in with the East Friesian ewes. So Lisa and I decided to grab one of the ewes due to go in with Joe and put her with him right away so he wouldn’t be alone. We picked Snugglepiece, Snagglepiece’s daughter. We had made a very, very bad choice of names for these ewes, and what’s more they look a lot alike and we are always mixing them up. We grabbed the wrong ewe, Snaggle instead of her daughter Snuggle. Snaggle is Joe’s daughter, so we accidentally bred her to her father. Not cool. We realized the mistake 3 days later and put Snaggle where we had intended, in with the Corriedale ram, Dale. But when Dr Dotti did our ultrasound in December, he said Snaggle was in the group who were due to lamb first, so we figured her lambs would be in-bred East Friesians, instead of the “Friedale” crosses we wanted.
But Snaggle didn’t lamb in the early group. And when she lambed yesterday with two white lambs and one black lamb with minimal spotting, I had a strong feeling these lambs were not Joe’s. Joe is black with spotting and so is Snaggle, but Dale is white and lacks the spotting gene. These really seemed like Dale’s lambs. Today in my office I did the calculation, and Snaggle lambed 154 days after we put her in with Dale. East Friesian gestation is usually 142 to 152 days, so we are quite sure her lambs are Friedales and we will be keeping the girls!