for the love of a lamb

sheep have grazed our pastures here since 2006. our relationship with farm animals has evolved, the learning curve has been steep, but when the sheep arrived as part of a work trade with a neighbor, we were excited and as ready as one can ever really be.

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actually, our flock chose us. and they chose wisely. we have jacob’s sheep, an old time breed whose wool is loved by hand spinners, whose meat is fine textured, and who embody the qualities of sturdy survivalism that have carried this breed through centuries and fit right into our shepherding approach.

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you see, we are pretty non intervention with our livestock here. we expect good mamas to have their babes without our help. we want animals thriving on grass as we do not feed any grain to our farm’s ruminants. we have certainly had our share of set backs with these policies, but for the most part, we have successful lambing (and calving) and have exceptional meat, milk and wool.

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needless to say, with our non intervention stance, we don’t have a flock of sheep that come running at us for attention, they follow paul, the shepherd, because he means fresh grass to them. (or hay in the winter) the rest of us can wish for a wooly cuddle, but it just won’t happen. until now. actually 3 days ago. you see,  the last ewe to lamb this season, a young ewe birthing for her first time, had twins and she wasn’t accepting one: a sweet female. this has happened many times over the years and honestly, we have let those lambs die.  we consider it a natural loss and accept it. (most often during her second lambing season such ewes successfully raise twins).

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i am not sure what happened this time around, but we saw the ignored lamb, we were on our way to town, somehow, some way, we came back with 8 pounds of the sweet powdery lamb milk replacer, sav-a-lam. (the whole way to town madeline whispered, “is dad getting soft?”)

to put this in another context, i have been a quiet but confident breast feeding advocate for nearly 15 years. i know the value of formula when a mama can’t nurse her own, but know also i am so thankful that i have been able to nurse all of mine long and well. no bottles, no formula, no mixing. honestly, i really couldn’t believe that this powder in a bag that smells like a cross of cake mix and pudding stirred with water could really nourish anything. i had to call around and ask, “does this really work?”

somehow, i was left with the final decision. i am not by the way a tremendous decision maker. the libra in me can always see both sides and i prefer to defer on things such as bottle feeding a lamb. weighing in all facts, and i won’t list them here, i ripped that bag open and went for it.

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we have yet to name her.  i warned the children “we really don’t know for sure that she is going to live”. admittedly,  we are already attached. we give lamby cuddles and love in addition to her milk replacer, those necessary gifts that usually come from mama aren’t one of the ingredients in the sav-a lam.  i have questioned the efficiency of this project. you see, for the past days i have been on a 6 bottle a day schedule (all according to the bag!). tomorrow i will shift to 4 larger feedings a day and likely settle into a routine that is slightly more reasonable. this is a love project though and i  have not once regretted my decision.

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2 thoughts on “for the love of a lamb

  1. Well, this animal lover was born “soft” and I am very glad you saved her! I understand there is a difference between pets and animals raised as a “product”. And I can try to understand the philosophy behind letting nature take its course and if an ewe chooses to ignore a lamb, that is the way it was meant to be. But I can’t. To stand by and let something die, when you have the ability to give it life, is what seems rights to me. Along with teaching children the necessary hard skills like animal husbandry and growing their own food, they also need to be taught compassion. I’m sure this is a wonderful learning experience for your kids.

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