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Lambing this year resulted in a foster lamb then lots more. At Topsy Farms, our official count was 1457 lambs, born in May and early June to about 1100 ewes. Despite very regular checking of the 6 groupings of birthing ewes, perfect parenting does not always occur.
We often have triplets, and some mamas just can’t raise all 3, especially if they are of very different sizes. Sometimes a ewe ‘loses count’, nurturing the first lamb born and neglecting the second, who becomes weak and hungry. For those and other reasons, the occasional lamb is brought to the house for bottle rearing, becoming a foster lamb.
We had just two for the first couple of days – but one evening six suddenly appeared, the result of a bad mama muddle when some ewes moved to new pastures. We’ve had up to 16 at a time in the outdoor pen.
The foster lambs are bottle fed 4 times a day, with a powdered sheep’s milk formula that approximates ewes’ milk. It takes surprisingly little time for the lambs to learn to come running, blatting and eager, when our grandsons appear with their bottles. Some lambs learn quickly to follow at heel, seeking food and play.
A few foster lambs may be adopted back into the field – our shepherd is good at persuading a ewe that this is the one upon which to dote. The rest stay with us for a few days until strong enough to go to a new home.
We have adoptive families lined up to provide a home for the foster lambs once they are strong and well-established on the bottle. They will raise a small flock, or just keep them well and happy for the summer.