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Author Topic: Mothering Instinct  (Read 1744 times)

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Mothering Instinct
« on: April 24, 2019, 03:00:59 pm »
So you know the rule of thumb that 20% of your ewes give rise to 80% of your problems, etc etc?  Well, meet Caribbean....

One day, I was visiting a friend to see her lambs and remarked on how smart I thought one of them looked. A few minutes later I said "ooh, I like that one too". "That's the same one" came the reply. When I did the same a few minutes later, looking from behind, my friend said "she is for sale you know", and that was that! We actually also bought her Mum too, who gave us some great lambs for the next couple of years, and was a really devoted parent.

Anyway, roll on two years and I was out checking the flock one morning, when I saw what I thought was a feed bucket in the next field. "I'm sure I collected that yesterday", I thought. Then the feed bucket wiggled its ears and let out a meeeeh!  One of the ewes had lambed a week early, and somehow lost the lamb under the gate or through the hinge, where it was being looked after by the tups!  A quick check of ewe bums revealed that Caribbean had a very sticky volvo, and was hence undoubtedly the culprit.

What had happened then? we didn't know. This was her first lamb though, and she really didn't want anything to do with it. In the end, we spent nearly a week with her in an adopter before she finally agreed to let it feed.

The next year we found another early lamb in the early morning, running round the flock, motherless. Caribbean's volvo was duly inspected once more, and the same conclusion reached. Perhaps somebody had tried to steal it from her this time? We didn't know. So, it's back in the adopter for you my dear.....

Roll on to this year, and I was determined I was going to see her actually give birth, to figure out what was going on. Sure enough, two days ago I watched her give birth to a lamb, who she duly licked off, followed by a second, which she completely ignored. We tried the usual trick of dumping the second lamb on top of the first, but then she just decided she didn't want either of them, and went back to eating grass  ::) Eventually, we managed to convince her not to kill them, and even to suckle a little, provided she didn't have anything better to do........ until last night, when I found her alone at the other end of the field, with her lambs snuggled up next to Bossie, who was yet to give birth.

Caribbean was thus incensed when I dragged her into the shed and insisted she take them back, whilst Bossie was convinced she'd lost them, and broke her wee heart balling for them until the arrival of her own lamb this morning, which has taken her mind off it somewhat. I did feel really bad for her TBH, since it's not as if she really stole them; after all, Caribbean didn't want them, and they were looking lonely, so.....

Anyway, all's well that ends well, but it's burgers for Caribbean. Thankfully both of her lambs this year are boys, so that will be the end of that.  Sometimes as smallholders, we're guilty of persevering where we shouldn't. I'm starting to learn that I should trust my gut and cut my losses much earlier when it's not working out. Now I just need to listen to myself more often, and all will be well!

P.S. Caribbean's two year old daughter just had a lamb and loves it to bits! Isn't nature strange?
 
« Last Edit: April 24, 2019, 05:19:34 pm by Womble »
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2019, 05:00:03 pm »
I wouldn't want my lambs if I had a mucking great volvo stuck to my back end  ;D   (I hate volvos, having been targeted nearly to death by one, and my bike written off).  Shame about Caribbean - she might have coped better had she been penned to birth them, but probably not.
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

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Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2019, 05:17:18 pm »
Hi Fleecewife, you could be right. But then again, she was penned and had no interference whilst giving birth to this last pair (and for 36 hrs afterwards) and it made no difference.


One thing I've spotted this year is that we can tell when a ewe is due to lamb because not only does she find a quiet corner to herself, but the others all move away from her. It wasn't so obvious before, since we were lambing in quite a big field. However, we used a smaller field this year and it was really noticeable.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2019, 05:20:27 pm by Womble »
"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
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2019, 12:49:29 am »
We found Zwartbles to be less than ideal in the mothering department, and I have wondered whether itís because they were developed as a dairy breed?  When I asked this question on here, most Zwartbles keepers said they lambed indoors, and penned families as soon as the lambs were born - which would disguise the sort of problem youíve been having, Womble, and we had, lambing them in the field.

Mind, weíve never strapped a large boxy Swedish car to the backside of any of ours, and Iím guessing thatís not too pleasant.  :roflanim: :roflanim:
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

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2019, 12:16:12 am »
Hi Sally,  I'm actually really surprised to hear you say that.

Apart from C, we've only had one other problem ewe - she was too posh to push and then once we fetched the lambs out, didn't mother particularly well. However, whilst she went for mutton (mastitis), we kept her daughter who has been superb. The same is true of C's daughter, so I guess it's just the luck of the draw most of the time?


To give you a flavour, that's fourteen Zs lambed so far this year without us having to intervene internally with any of them (one lamb came backwards, so was pulled, but that's really it). All except C then mothered well and had the lambs up and sucking very quickly. Last year was a similar story - one gimmer had a really nasty uterine prolapse, which didn't end well, but apart from that (and C, as described above) everyone was fine without our help.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2019, 12:22:18 am by Womble »
"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
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2019, 10:24:39 am »
Iím talking from a very small sample, but of our three first timers three years ago, one did everything, and thatís Gwenneth who we still have. One took several days to let her lambs suckle. She loved them and licked them but wouldnít let them suck. Itís not uncommon in first timers of any breed, but usually it only takes one feed for them to get used to it.  Belinda we had to restrain for feeds for several days. One needed a bit of getting the first lamb on while she was distracted with the second being born, which isnít a hanging offence.  But she also had less good feet, so was one of the ones we sold.

It turned out they had previously lambed indoors here, where of course any mothering / bonding issues may go unnoticed, or you may not stop to think about whether itís a good or okay thing that youíve had to help thirty percent of your lambs onto the teat, or whatever.  Of course sometimes we help more and sooner than is strictly necessary, because they are indoors, so it isnít always the sheepís fault.  But again, issues get masked.

Sounds like you sourced good stock, which suit your system and mother well.  And I know there are other Zwartbles flocks which say the same.   But there are also many which lamb indoors ;)
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

Buttermilk

  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2019, 11:19:03 am »
I hold my hand up for lambing my Z's indoors in January and only 10 - 15 a year at that.  Over the last 5 years I have had one ewe that did not want anything to do with lambs, she was served as a lamb.  I gave her the benefit of the doubt and the next year she was no trouble and an excellent mother.  An older ewe that took on two other lambs for colostrum, after her own lambs had drunk their fill.  The mother had mastitis in late pregnancy and no milk at lambing.  The lambs then went onto the bottle but the ewe was still prepared to mother them.

Three times I have had to go in and sort out legs during lambing and once fetch out a dead lamb as nothing was happening.  The only "problem" this year was a ewe lambing a whopper of a ram lamb, cleansed ok and joined the rest outside, only to chuck out another lamb 6 days later.  Unfortunately this lamb died but mum showed not a single sign of being off colour at any stage of the proceedings.

I have had other problems with the sheep especially liver fluke and bad feet, which I hopefully have culled out at last.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2019, 11:39:07 am »
Iíd lamb indoors if I lambed in January!  :D
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

silkwoodzwartbles

  • Joined Apr 2016
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2019, 03:08:07 pm »
I posted on the earlier Zwartbles thread about poor mothering but seem to have overcome that now with a combination of culling out the poor mothers, buying in better stock and really making them take their vitamins (fortnightly oral drenching of a mineral supplement in the 6 weeks leading up to their births as well as ad lib access to a lick. This year I only have one ewe whose lambs aren't doing as well and she's a first time mum so will get another try next year but if hers are still the worst lambs next year she will be culled.

Claire B

  • Joined Apr 2019
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2019, 06:10:46 pm »
We have in the past had ewes with little mothering instinct, but usually we have managed to get them to bond eventually. This year one of our Welsh Black Mountain ewes had a very difficult lambing, needing a lot of help to lamb a single, very large ram lamb. We penned them up together in a field shelter overnight and next day tried to move them to the yard Ďpost-natal wardí in the lambing shed, where we intended to keep them for a day or two before turning them out with the other ewes who had already lambed. But this mum was not having it. She found an escape route and made a bee-line for the rest of the flock of ewes who hadnít yet lambed. She didnít look back even once. She wouldnít come back to the shelter or even go near her poor lamb when he bleated (long and loud) in the middle of the field. We decided not to go straight to bottle feeding but to keep him penned and to keep trying to get his mother interested on and off during the day. She clearly didnít want to mother him. In the meantime, another two ewes had found a spot together, and there were two lambs; each was cleaning off one of them, but one of the ewes looked as if she hadnít lambed yet. Sadly, late in the afternoon she lambed two stillborn lambs. The second was so far back we called the vet. He said she seemed to have given up pushing in the night, and her milk supply was starting to dry up. We decided to pen her next to the orphaned lamb. But from the outset she was Ďtalkingí to him and trying to get to him. He was still crying for a feed. Because he was over 12 hours old by then, we thought it very doubtful she would accept him. We couldnít cover him in the dead lambsí scent in any way because of the risk of infection. But we decided the only other option would be hand rearing. So with bated breath we took down the partition hurdle and let the two of them share a pen. Almost immediately, the ewe started to lick and sniff at the abandoned lamb and he began to nuzzle. Very soon he was feeding. Now, 24 hours later, you wouldnít know he wasnít her lamb! They are both so much happier: she is on her feet, eating and drinking and fussing over him; he is starting to jump around in the pen. We are amazed at this trouble-free fostering. But it shows that in some ewes there is a wonderfully strongg mothering instinct! Does anyone else have experience of such a good foster-mother ewe?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2019, 08:51:40 am »
A bereaved ewe is often so desperate for a lamb she will take anything.  But even though itís not uncommon, itís always lovely when it happens!
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

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2019, 12:23:21 pm »
Hill breed ewes can be so desperate to mother a lamb , my cheviots often take a lamb as soon as you put a hungry orphan in the pen with them but on the downside they can be a pain for pinching new born lambs from other ewes

PipKelpy

  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with Mary, (cow) and sheep.
Re: Mothering Instinct
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2019, 08:39:37 pm »
First time I lambed my greyfaced Dartmoor, Muffin had twins, weedy little things that died. So I nipped up the road and asked a farmer if he had a ewe cade i could buy, but it must be a strong sucker! He gave me a big 3 day old texel X. Put it in the loosebox with Muffin and let's just say they eyed each other up. Dartmoors have long thick fleece and hidden tits (mine did anyway). Mum said leave them to it. After a couple of hours we nipped down and looked in. The lamb was lying curled up on Muffins back, mum said, 'They're fine!'

As I've got older I have got harder and ANY ewe that won't take the lamb, she goes! I have been through the 'oh never mind, I can rear it' stage and LamLac ain't cheap and lambs can slug it down! What really annoys me are the faithfuls that have a good easy lambing, have twins and then look at the one as if to say 'not bloody likely' and leave me to rear it! One did it last year, she's gone though the pest of a (wether) lamb is still here (I got attached to him) and one did it this year, so she's gone too, though she was going to stay.

If they genuinely need help i will help them, but changing their tune, it's a way off this place!
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!!

 

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