We haven’t had a chance to weigh them, but they are on the smaller side. She went over on her side with the girl after delivering the boy easily, but rallied and now both are walking and nursing properly.
ETA 1:30pm: The girl is named Katara and weighs 6lbs, and the boy is Zuko II and weighs 8lbs.
This past weekend we did maintenance for all the sheep, with some much-needed assistance from a local acquaintance. It was the first time for the lambs. They all got their very first vaccines and hoof trims and dose of wormer. From the look of things, we will need to do some soil testing, as the lambs grazed in a pretty different area to the ewes and the FAMACHA checks were quite different in both groups. We also found out Bucky has better parasite resistance than Shaft, though Shaft has clearly better fleece. Something to keep in mind for the future.
We had a couple cases of lamb hoof scald from the lambs grazing in the running seasonal stream. Scald is a precursor to hoof rot, but is not necessarily a sign that there is rot in the field. We foot bathed and are doing very clean straw, even out in the muddy entrance. We weren’t skipping straw before, we’re just doing the recommended extremely dry bedding level for scald/rot in the flock.
Anyway, since there was no limping (the scald was mild enough that it could have been missed in a larger hoof trim group), we didn’t bust out the antibiotics. We’re really trying to keep use down to a minimum where that makes sense.
There was a plan to do more fencing, but hitting a water line derailed that and the time was instead spent fixing that problem.
The lambs had some odd growths from walking and skipping on uneven terrain, nothing bad, very likely just the normal course of things when there aren’t enough scraping rocks around. We are working on putting some out in the field to help reduce having to trim by hand.
Nobody looked nutrient deficient, so that was nice.
So far it looks ok. Our biggest (ram) lamb looks to be pushing 50lbs or so, and the rest are 35-40lbs, which is about right for this breed. Optimally they’d all be up another five or so pounds, but that is with excellent pasture and our pasture is definitely not there yet, although there’s no signs of deficiency or inadequate forage in the sheep. It’s just not at peak condition since we didn’t take care of it properly last year.
So if we want to slaughter as early as possible, the two oldest ram lambs should be 90lbs+ by July and the other two should be there by August. We’re still going back and forth on it, we might just wait until September, but we’ll see how they look through the summer.
The biggest lamb is comically huge because he was greedy and with only one teat, he got a majority of the milk. His brother started focusing on grass at about 3 weeks of age or so, which is definitely not something we want to repeat in the future, since that little guy is about 30% smaller despite being 25% larger at birth. We’ll have to look into how to manage our one-teat ewe to equalize the milk, if that’s possible. Thankfully she is plenty milky and has had no udder issues.
Our bottle lamb should be 18-20lbs by now, but I haven’t weighed him in almost 2 weeks, so I’ll have to take care of that by this weekend. We’ve dropped him down to a morning and a night bottle this week and he complains mightily around this time of day (such as right now while I write this).
All the lambs are good foragers and doing well and getting quite big. There are some nice fleeces coming in as well. So right now things look ok.
Finally, after some challenging times and a three week spread, all the ewes have delivered. Eight lambs, two born around midnight this morning. Five boys, three girls. I did not expect everyone to twin this season.
The bottle ram has been able to get up on his own, and is probably going to be introduced to the other lambs today or tomorrow. He’ll probably be out on pasture before the weekend.
The two ram lambs are growing about 1lb per day per lamb, based on the weighings we were able to manage. They are increasing in vigor and size visibly. They’re also darkening up, with a lot more brown than when they were newborn. They are not likely to have much white, that is both recessive and not heavily selected for in the American Icelandic genetic pool. As far as I’ve seen, shepherds of Icelandics in America cater to wool buyers who want a range of colors and not just white dye-friendly wool. White wool isn’t rejected, it’s just not necessarily as sought after by people who want this fleece. Also, many Icelandic-raising shepherds like working with wool themselves and also have a personal preference for the color variety of brown, black and spotted that is typical for the breed.
I think the other ewes must have been covered later than my recollections. I looked back at my posts around that time and it looks like the first week of November might be when they were bred and not the very tail end of October. The grey ewe was settled very quickly, which is surprising given that she remains our most skittish and feral ewe herself. But I thought the gap between her and the others was just two or three or maybe four days. If it was a week or so, then we could be waiting until the first few days of April for all the lambs to finish making their appearances.
We’re going to see if we can put together a permanent ram pen rather than a temporary one. Even though Icelandics are not prone to out of season conception, their season goes through April, and they return to fertility during that time. So it will be easiest going forward to keep the rams completely separate from the girls, especially since it will mean less work separating ewelambs from breeding ewes. It’s too bad, it would be easier if they could stay in all summer with the ewes and the new lambs. But our rams do better without the distraction of the ladies, surprisingly. No dominance fighting, sharing food occasionally, and generally calmer.
Both lambs and their mother are now out in the main pasture and Bucky, the father, is actually showing fatherly behavior, gently nudging one of the lambs back towards mom when it tries foolishly to get milk from him. Both lambs were able to run, and the one I thought was on the weak side climbed right over a big branch the sheep use for hoof scratching. They both also got through the muddy entrance to the barn (yes, we put straw down, but it’s just a lost cause with all the rain we get).
So I have a little quick food ready, and will make up a bottle if need be, but they both look ok. I haven’t tried to touch the lambs or the ewe, although before bedtime husband and I will try to catch her for a quick udder check. She isn’t showing any signs that there’s inflammation or soreness, but if we can grab her for a quick once-over, that wouldn’t hurt.
And now I will try to not create a cause for intervention and let the lambs and ewe hang out for a couple hours and get more settled. It’s hard to remember that going up to ogle them is also a form of needless interfering if they are getting along.
The flock is very protective and extremely gentle with the new lambs. No sheep is butting the lambs or making the mother nervous/defensive. It’s really interesting, I had no idea what to expect as far as flock behavior.
My only worry is the seasonal flooding the pasture gets, but I think the sheep can keep the lambs safe, as they’ve been avoiding the flooded area on their own for quite a while now.
Two little white lambs out of the grey ewe I am always fretting about. She only has one working udder (shearing accident took out the other one), but she’s previously nursed twins with no issues.
The lambs look pretty fresh, both are standing up and didn’t look weak or wobbly and seemed to know where the milky udder was, so I am going to give them a little time right now while I take some time to wake up myself. She ignored all the fresh dry straw we put out in favor of the soggy grass (it was pouring rain all night long), which is just so typical for sheep.
Still waiting on the other three ewes, though. Bucky, Shaft and the other ewes are being very protective. Not so I couldn’t get to the new mother and lambs, but definitely not their usual (lack of) flocking behavior. Icelandics tend to have poor flocking, but our experience has been they remember how when they think the flock needs protection.
It’s a pretty special day, hopefully the lambs continue to have a good start.