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Author Topic: ewe not feeding one twin  (Read 441 times)

epherdwicks

  • Joined Apr 2016
ewe not feeding one twin
« on: April 24, 2019, 07:30:53 pm »
A week ago one of my first-time mums gave birth to twins, not the easiest birth, and she subsequently decided she didn't like having lambs sucking her.  With a lot of patience and perseverance I am winning her round, and the boy, much the larger of the two, can now help himself quite happily.  The little girl was doing reasonably well as long as I stood in the pen with the ewe during the feeds, whispering sweet nothings in her ear and scratching her head. (Luckily she is very tame having been bottle reared herself - is this a family failing I wonder?)  Yesterday went so well I hoped we were nearly succeeding in getting her to let the lamb feed  without me being there. Today she has gone back to biffing the ewe lamb away, although if I use the boy as a shield between mum and his sister the girl can get a quick suck in before mum realises what's happening. I had a feel in the lambs' mouths and think the girl has relatively sharp teeth and wonder if she's making mum sore when she sucks. If she's been trying to grab the odd mouthful when I'm not about is she pulling on the teat when mum walks away, adding to the discomfort? Can anyone suggest anything I can do, please?  I really don't want to end up bottle feeding her, nor do I want to give up when I've got this far - and what would I do with her anyway?
Voss Electric Fence

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Argyll
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2019, 07:55:44 pm »
The worst rejection scenario is when a ewe hates one of a pair of its own lambs unless you can put her in a headstock or put a bucket on her head like   the plastic collar you get for your sick dog , so that she can't smell or get at the lamb , then give up and bottle feed the little lamb or sell/give as an orphan to some one else  and then after weaning sell the mother

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2019, 12:35:22 am »
My experience is that you can get the ewe to apparently take the lamb, but when you turn them out, she will favour the one she likes, and the less-favoured lamb will fail to thrive, and/or pinch from other ewes (which may or may not be a problem for you or them, depending on their milk status) and more often than not either perishes at 4-5 months or drags on through the winter in poor shape, taking until next summer to be ready to sell.

I found the above to be particularly true of hill sheep (Swaledales in my case) and crosses thereof.  I’m assuming from your username you have Herdwicks. Hill sheep’s genes survive by making sure they keep themselves alive first, then one lamb.  They’ll only rear a second lamb if they can, and will sacrifice one to rear the other. In a bad year, some of them will refuse to rear a lamb at all.  If you know about how hill flocks work, there is clear evolutionary pressure for this behaviour. 

Sometimes there may be something wrong with the second lamb which the mother can detect and we can’t - but I suspect that the above explanation is true more of the time, particularly with hill breeds and crosses thereof.

Luckily she is very tame having been bottle reared herself - is this a family failing I wonder?

Yes.  They don’t all, some of them make good flock members, but when a bottley does this, time to cull that line.  Assuming you’ve kept them in decent condition so they should have sufficient milk to rear two, you don’t want to be propagating genes which have twins and can’t (or won’t) rear them. Unless it is an actual hill flock, of course ;)

And as to what should you do about the less-favoured lamb?  If you have others you are bottle-rearing, then that’s the probably the safest option. If she’d be the only one, then I’d suggest teaching her to take a bottle, and then turn them out as a family and top her up twice a day in the field.  Once she knows you bring milk, she will come galloping up to you in the field, take her bottle, and then rejoin her family.

Oh, and don’t keep her - or sell her - for breeding, no matter how fond of her you become ;)
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

bj_cardiff

  • Joined Feb 2017
  • Carmarthenshire
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2019, 06:25:32 am »
I have experienced the same, usually with first time mothers. If its a tame ewe you could put a collar on her and catch her 4 times a day and fed her a few handfuls of nuts while the lambs suckle. Or just take the one lamb away. Having a lamb she really hates will be upsetting her and I usually find they trample or keep knocking both lambs over all the time. My experience is that its far easier to just remove the lamb and bottle feed when you have a rejected lamb

PipKelpy

  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with docile cattle and sheep!
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2019, 07:15:16 am »
I had similar problem last year. Chilli, a 6 year old ewe had twins, 1 of each. Never failed me before. But no matter what I tried, she wouldn't let the lad suck. I didn't even have another ewe that could take him as they all had lambs. It was heart breaking to watch as he would run after her and she'd turn and bowl him over. Yet when she had him, she washed him and let him suck. He was a survivor. In the end after a few days, he gave up, yelped when the electric fence caught his ears and came running back to me for a bottle. Little pest is still here. Was going to go to auction (he was!!!!!) but as I keep telling myself, he wanted to live! Besides, when I sheared his butt the other day, he was the only one who didn't squirm and that alone is enough for him to stay, I tell myself!! Mother departed last year. Certain animals get under the skin and stay, no matter what. Yes have pets, but make sure the others can cover the costs!
Halter train the cattle to keep them quiet but watch your back when they come a'bulling! Give them all names even those you plan to eat. Always be calm. Most importantly, invest in wellies with steel toe caps and be prepared for the clever cow who knows where the toe caps end!!

epherdwicks

  • Joined Apr 2016
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2019, 12:15:50 pm »
Really grateful to everyone who replied, thanks, especially the interesting comments about hill sheep which made a lot of sense.  In the end I put out a plea to a few local shepherds to see if anyone had a batch of orphans they were bucket feeding, and the lovely National Trust shepherd at Sutton Hoo took the little girl to bottle feed. She'll be in good hands there, and both she and mum will be much happier in the long run.  The ewe is now out with the rest of the flock and the boy is tagging along behind  and getting fed happily, although she isn't as attentive as the other mums.  I fear no more lambs for her...

bj_cardiff

  • Joined Feb 2017
  • Carmarthenshire
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2019, 01:32:24 pm »
I fear no more lambs for her...

I would give her another chance, young ewes don't really know what to expect so a poor 1st time mother might be a fantastic mother the following year. My sheep are Lleyn and experienced ewes have never rejected a lamb, only first time mums. Glad the lambs are both doing well :D

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2019, 04:12:33 pm »
Sorry bj, but in these circs I think epherdwicks is right.  If she was now an attentive and loving mother I would agree, she’s learned her job now and may repay a second chance. But she’s a lackadaisical mother still, so she’d be for the chop if she were mine.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

bj_cardiff

  • Joined Feb 2017
  • Carmarthenshire
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2019, 05:15:23 pm »
Sorry bj, but in these circs I think epherdwicks is right.  If she was now an attentive and loving mother I would agree, she’s learned her job now and may repay a second chance. But she’s a lackadaisical mother still, so she’d be for the chop if she were mine.


Years ago, one of my Blue Faced Leicester ewes was such a bad mum I had to keep a collar on her and catch her with a scoop of nuts 4 times a day so her lamb could feed. After 4 weeks I noticed she 'allowed' the lamb to drink on its own. It was her first lamb and the subsequent years she went on to have twins (and triplets) and was a great mum. She had quite a difficult birth with her first and I think that prevented her bonding in the first couple of days?

epherdwicks

  • Joined Apr 2016
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2019, 10:55:41 am »
Just to update you, the little ram lamb is doing fine, quite independent but tagging along with mum.  The girl is in heaven (not literally!) being looked after by a lovely lady whom she follows everywhere.  She is definitely more dog than sheep in her lifestyle, living in the house or pottering about with other sheep and chickens and getting into everything.  She's a lucky lamb!

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2019, 06:56:02 am »
We had a weird one this year - a first time Mum was doing fine with twins but then after about a week started kicking one off. The first we knew of it was when we had a lamb that was absolutely starving and stinking of urine because it had been trying to steal from everybody else!


We'll never be totally sure of course, but it turned out that the rejected lamb had ridiculously sharp teeth. I noticed (ouch!) when I was trying to get it to suck on my finger so I could then introduce the bottle. I suspect Mum had just had enough of it.
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: ewe not feeding one twin
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2019, 03:42:43 pm »
Clever Mum, Womble.  Sharp teeth can lead to mastitis and or orf.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

 

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