Wow – how scary is this! Today (well actually as I write this was 2 days ago!) I am 66, in lockdown and sitting in bed under a pile of snoring dogs happily drinking tea at 7 in the morning. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and all in all it is pretty good here in our beautiful little wooden house in the Welsh hills. But, I ask myself – how did I get this old? The wrong side of 65! Yikes! but heyho I guess these days that’s not old at all. Anyway they do say you are as old as er…….the man you feel? (or does that just apply to men with younger women…??) oh dear I’m totally scuppered!
John (my Suffolk 70 year old husband!) returns from bottle feeding some lambs one of whom, known now as BillyNoMates, has been rejected by his rotten mother – she favours his twin, Bertie, and the other, Bob, who’s mum adores him but needless to say has no milk!
Oh the joys of sheep!
We have a problem I’m told. Squiggle the ewe (we’ve been anxiously waiting for her to lamb for WEEKS!) who is grossly huge, so huge in fact that she can barely walk and looks like a beast of burden carrying packs on her sides, but these are lambs – inside! Is down, groaning and passing mucus from her back end (sorry lambing is pretty graphic) we must get the vet immediately! Hold on! I leap out of bed, dogs flying in all directions, throw on some clothes – leggings to go under waterproof trousers and a jumper with sleeves I can roll up – as I mentioned lambing is a very messy business. Let me check her out first. We both high-jump (well struggle actually as a 66 year old and a 70 year old’s days of high-jumping are sadly gone!) into our rickety old jeep and speed up to the farm.
Sqiggle is not happy that’s for sure, groaning and pushing but to no avail. The so called mucus is birthing fluid so hopefully not the result of the lambs dying inside. We move her into the barn in the sunshine so it’s easier to help her and the light is good. Time for me to go in and see what’s what. Hand and arm well washed and lubricated I go in. There is a lamb, it’s breech and it’s head is facing backwards – not a good start but explains why poor Squiggle was getting nowhere. When you’re inside a ewe it’s not easy to tell exactly what your feeling – I remember the first lamb I managed to deliver a few years ago was also breech, and I thought its thigh was its head…..You certainly live and learn in this game! So back to the lamb in hand. Gradually, and also somehow, I managed to get the head back to where it should be, got hold of both back legs which isn’t at all easy and then pulled! Even more difficult as the legs are so slippery! Feet out, legs out, pelvis out and woosh! Whole lamb out! Gasp, slight wriggle – it’s alive!! After rubbing it with straw he came to life and was soon bleeting for Mum. Success!! I was exhausted, shaking with anxiety and exertion but Silas was fine and so was Squiggle. Huge relief!
After a few minutes of Mum licking and bonding with her new lamb she starts to push again – time to see who’s there. This lamb was also breech but thankfully his head was forwards. He was a big lamb and hard to manoeuvre, but with John’s help he joined his brother and rocketed into this world! He was very weak and a cause for concern. Being breech I think he’d inhaled a lot of fluid into his lungs. Whilst John worked on the newly named Simeon I checked to see if we’d finished. No, there was one more. A colossal lamb who was actually positioned correctly but his size was a problem. This one took time and a lot of effort, however after another struggle Sebastian made his entry! He was big, beautiful and as strong as an ox! Thank heavens for that!
Mum was delighted with her new triplets, seemed to take no harm from a rather dramatic birthing experience and was happily chattering and licking her new charges. Animals never cease to amaze and astound me. I am completely in awe of their tenacity!
All three lambs were bottle fed with colostrum to be sure they all had a good start, and then moved into a small hurdled pen for initial bonding. Mum was checked for milk which was flowing and they were left in peace. The two strong lambs up and bleating, Simeon still a concern, in the straw and shaking badly. All we could do now was hope.
It was midday! Home for a large cup of coffee and a big birthday breakfast! lots of wonderful phone calls from my most precious of precious daughters, cards presents and messages from family and friends. How lucky am I!
Oh, and Simeon was up and running within a couple of hours and is now the piggiest of the three lambs! mum has loads of milk and is managing to feed them all so far. What an eventful and successful birth-day!!
Interesting thought, this day 39 years ago I was in labour with my first daughter, so the 21st April truly is my birthing day. No foal arrival this year though – but that’s another story…….