Bonus!

Imagine Jake’s surprise when he found an “extra” lamb! Freshly cleaned off and “baaing” for its mother.

Sunday mornings are generally when we let ourselves sleep in a little bit and last Sunday was no different. But, upon waking we realized with a groan that it was daylight savings time! Already feeling late, we rushed out to begin chores. We arrived at the barn and Jake went over to check the nursery, the area where we put ewes and lambs after their time in individual lambing pens. Everyone in the nursery has bonded and know who belongs to whom. Imagine Jake’s surprise when he found an “extra” lamb! Freshly cleaned off and “baaing” for its mother.

Immediately we suspended normal chores and with the lamb tucked into my jacket, began a search to figure out who the likely mother might be. We assumed one of our first-time moms had this lamb and somehow (as unlikely as it seemed) it had made its way from their adjacent paddock into the nursery. To do so, the newborn would have to maneuver through multiple locked gates. After twenty minutes of “hind-end” reviews and doing a full headcount of ewes, we concluded that none of the first timers had given birth. I returned to the nursery area and noticed that a pretty brown ewe, named Peppercorn was stretching her neck over the nursery fence and calling to the lamb. “Just being friendly” I thought.

At this point, knowing the lamb had been out in the cold for at least an hour and unsure if it had eaten, we decided to take it indoors and get it some packaged colostrum. Inside I trudged with the little lamb who by now was quite cozy in my jacket. I tubed the lamb as Janet and Pete stood by scratching their heads; as confused as us. Once he got the warm colostrum in his belly, he was quite happy. By this time, Jake had examined all the ewes in the nursery and determined that Peppercorn had blood on her tail, a sure sign she had given birth. The only problem was that she had already given birth, a week prior and had delivered twin lambs!?!?

Jake came into the house to let me know. Janet then produced her iPad and did a quick google search, turning up results in the British Isles of this condition called (without much flair) “delayed birth.” It is not unheard of in other species and with sheep it generally results in death for “delayed” lamb.

Still dumbfounded, we returned the lamb to its mum, Peppercorn. She was removed from the nursery with her twins and placed back into an individual pen. The twins seemed delighted to have a new playmate rather than grumpy with their new, younger sibling. Triples are not uncommon in sheep but with only two teats on a ewe’s udder there always tends to be one of the three lambs that doesn’t grow as well as the others. Survival of the fittest I suppose.

I am proud to say that little Bonus is doing well. He gets supplemental milk daily from a ewe that lost her lamb at the start of the season and nurses vigorously from his mother. Despite his age difference he is bouncing around with his brother and sister enjoying being a lamb and Peppercorn continues to be up for the challenge of caring for her triplets.