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Author Topic: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?  (Read 10208 times)

mijbil

  • Joined Jun 2013
Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« on: May 22, 2014, 07:54:33 pm »
One of my two Herdwicks had twins yesterday and mothered both lambs perfectly, I was there for the birth and saw it all. Both ewes were penned separately with their lambs in bonding pens to ensure they bonded, which they did.

Last night however she decided that she only wanted one, and the second/weaker one was being repeatedly butted away, very distressing to watch. I've been tube feeding it since, but keeping him in with the ewe in the hope that she will change her mind. She only butts it when it tries for milk and it has given up now, it just hides i the corner in resignation, very sad. I did hear that hill breeds can reject the weaker lamb to preserve milk stocks for the stronger one, though she has plenty.

I've tried crating her and pushing the lamb on the teat, putting the dogs outside the pen to encourage protection, and even aftershave on the ewes nose and lambs bum, none of which have worked.

I also can't let her out into my only field, as she is running straight to my other ewe and trying to steal her lamb, even though she has two of her own. Yet when her own cry, she goes running, but just won't feed them.

Any ideas what I can do? I don't want to go out and spend a lot on an adopter crate if there is a simpler solution. Even with a crate, she is so strong and flighty I am sure she is only going to hurt herself, or me again!

Frustratingly, she has two chambers full of milk which flows freely when squeezed, so why won't she feed her lambs? It is annoying that I may have to feed him as a pet lamb 4 times a day from now on when his own mother should be doing the job!

Any help gratefully received!

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2014, 09:47:49 pm »
Yes, it happens.  I haven't had Herdies but I've had Swales, and they do do this yes.

Sometimes they know something we don't, and the second lamb later dies.  Often of no apparent reason.  But she knew.

Sometimes you can work hard and get her to accept it - but later it dies.  Often of no apparent reason.

Sometimes you can work hard and she seems to have accepted it, but later you find it's hungry and she isn't feeding it, either because she doesn't have enough now they're bigger, or because she never did really like it.

And sometimes you can work hard and get her to accept it and all goes well.  But when it's a 'less favoured of two' situation, in my experience, it ends in tears a lot more often than it doesn't. 

You say she is running over and trying to steal the other ewe's lambs...  Are you 100% certain there is no possibility they got mixed up at birth or as you penned them up?  Just for interest, I would be inclined to see if she'd let one of the others suckle - if she will, then there was a mix up.

When they lamb they are full of hormones and love everything.  Later, the mist clears, and they often become aware of which is theirs and which is not.

If you are determined to make her accept this one, here's how I'd try it next.

Take both lambs away, where she can't get at them or hear them.  When it's feeding time, take her the less favoured lamb first.  Hopefully she'll be so pleased to see either of them, she'll let it suckle.  When it's fed, bring the other one in.  Leave them with her for an hour or so, then take them away again until the next feeding time, and repeat.

Good luck.
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

mijbil

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2014, 10:22:41 pm »
Thanks, I will give that a go, it can't do any harm, and may well work, we will see.

It is definitely her lamb, both ewes were penned separately for birth and were never mixed, and hers are both pure black, whilst the single from the other ewe has white ears and white patches. No question of a mix up I am 100% sure of that. I saw which lambs came out of which ewe.

It is frustrating and may not have a happy outcome, but I all do everything I can to make sure it ends well, I owe it that much, and I want to give this little lamb the best chance possible. It is just so sad that the ewe doesn't see ti that way after carrying that lamb for 5 months.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2014, 10:36:35 pm »
I do absolutely understand how you feel  :hug:

I feel really quite cross with ewes who won't feed their own babies!   :rant:  But they don't do it to be awkward, they are doing what their instincts tell them.

Best of luck  :fc:
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 cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Yeoman

  • Joined Oct 2010
  • South Northamptonshire
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2014, 10:37:21 pm »
I had a almost exactly the same situation just over a week ago.

Its probably worth trying Sally's idea as she is full of good advice.

If that doesn't work then you might be able to borrow an adopter - particularly as its quite late in the lambing calendar (most of the commercial guys have finished lambing now).

I had the chance of one but  I didn't fancy putting one of my "pet" ewes in the adopter for 4/5 days so I ended up bottle feeding the unwanted lamb instead.  They are quite quick to get the hang of the bottle and can go adlib quite quickly so it might be something you could consider.

I agree it is very strange why this should happen - particularly as both ewes concerned seem to have plenty of milk.  The lamb that my ewe took to normally is an absolute monster now having started the same size so at least she seems to be taking advantage of a bad situation.

How does your Herdie behave towards the lamb she kept.  Mine is exceptionally protective - more so that most ewes of the same breed.  My theory is that she rejected the second lamb because her protective instinct for the first one was just too strong.  Probably nonsense but the best sense I can make of it!

One thing about this lovely forum is you're never alone.  Let us know how you get on...

langfauld easycare

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2014, 11:03:09 pm »
 :wave: if the lambs stopped tryin there is little point.annoying but just seems to happen sometimes .youd be aswell keeping going with bottle . easycares can be bad if a twin gets lost/separated for to long will not take it back no matter what .bloody annoying to .  :sheep: :sheep: sheep eh ::)

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2014, 09:10:48 am »
We have homemade adopters and pen everything looking likely to lamb down - that way there are no mix ups and the lamb is born onto clean straw, we can do stock tasks easily, give a feed of colostrum and keep a close eye on them all for a couple of days before turnout.  Most hill and mountain breeds would suckle a cardboard box if it were put in front of their nose in the hour around lambing.  First-timers seem most likely to get over-attached to the first or second of twins. 

shygirl

  • Joined May 2013
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2014, 09:29:16 am »
it reminds me of when we lambed our hebrideans. ours were in a tiny field infront of our house and 2 ewes lambed on the same day. we missed the births but found an abandoned twin and couldnt be sure which ewe was his mother as they both denied it.

we were novices then so we just bottle raised him, but in hindsight should have maybe lambed inside, or put the ewes into pens.

mijbil

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2014, 12:14:43 pm »
Thanks for the advice all, glad I'm not alone! I've borrowed and adopter from a local farmer, and now the ewe is enclosed and seems to have settled down, so In will swap out the lambs without her seeing, then put her favourite back in later. Fingers crossed!

Herdygirl

  • Joined Sep 2011
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2014, 12:36:33 pm »
We have also had the same problem with a Herdwick ewe and her single ram lamb. She wouldn't feed it, she battered it and he spent all his time trying to feed but not succeeding. we tried every thing, we checked that she had milk we tried re-penning them, holding the ewe so the lamb could feed... all sorts.  When the lamb was 4 days old she really went for him and battered him in to the ground it took him a few minutes to get to his feet and then he staggered after her...as he didn't know anything else.  I couldn't stand it anymore and he came home and was put on the bottle.  He is healthy and has adjusted to regular meals.  You must do as you think best Mijbil.
The ewe was a second timer, she rejected her lamb last year so now she will be culled.

Melmarsh

  • Joined May 2014
Re: Ewe rejecting own lamb - any ideas?
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2014, 01:37:10 pm »
I have also had ewes that have knocked lambs away, in fact I had a texel cross that had twins every year  one of each sex and every year they were both allowed to suck for 24hrs then the female was butted away. When it got too violent for me to tolerate I took the female and bottled it. This happened for 4yrs running  then I culled the ewe, unfortunately she never had twin girls or boys to see if the reaction was the same. I also had ewes that dismissed a second ewe, that time there was an unperforated anus but the female pooed through here vagina but mum would here of it and butted it away. A third ewe had a lamb that looked perfect but by the time it was 4mths ,having been bottle reared it was abvious it had a gut problem and eventually had to be put down, I think this tells the tale that sometimes nature knows best and the eweshave a reason for behaving in such a way.

 

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