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I’m writing with a shivering lamb on my lap. Soon he will be one of the gang for family outings to visit lambs.
A lamb can lose its mama for many reasons. Triplets may be born, and the ewe may have only enough milk for two. The ewe might seek shelter in a storm, and the stronger lamb, perhaps older by less than half an hour, will stick to her heels and the younger lamb will get lost. Two ewes might lamb close to each other, then later claim all but one of the lambs for their own. Hypothermic conditions aggravate the vitality of the newly born.
So the shepherds check the fields several times a day and bring to the homestead any who are lonely, hungry and very cold. When a foster lamb is first introduced to the warmed reconstituted ‘milk’ it doesn’t taste right; smell right; feel right. Usually the first reaction is either passive resistance, or ptoooey.
Their instinct is to go under a warm ewe’s belly, to find a full but flexible nipple, to bunt hard if necessary to encourage the milk flow, and to sip often. Instead they are offered a powdered ewe’s milk substitute reconstituted with warmed water, a black rubber nipple & a beer bottle (old ‘stubbies’ which fit nicely in the microwave; they are of strong glass so easy to clean).
But hunger is a wonderful motivator to accept change; to learn new skills.
We encourage family outings to visit lambs and to discover our Wool Shed. In our urban, disconnected world, people like to have a chance to nurture small animals, and to learn about the source of what they purchase. Folks prefer to know that some farms care a great deal about their animals.
After a couple of small feedings the lamb’s natural vitality almost always helps it to revive. Cuddling and insulation help. Soon they join the bouncing 3 or 4 day old lambs in their pen, who yell for food whenever someone passes.
Lambs will follow at heel, gluing to the person who is now the source of all good things.
You are invited to pet and feed the lambs. We will keep two fosters on the farm for the pleasure of visitors during the summer. The others go to small farms who are building their flock by bottle feeding orphans, sometimes on goat’s milk.
The one on my lap is shivering less, and starting to holler for food. Perhaps this year’s Lazarus.