As I mentioned in my last blog, due to the large amounts of twins and triplets our grand old ewes have produced we’ve ended up with a large number of pet lambs. 9 of our 33 had to be taken off their mothers, mostly due to the fact they didn’t have enough milk to rear them, and they have become colourful additions to the family!
Our very first lambs, a set of twins, both ended up being pet lambs. Their mother had been having trouble getting up for a few days before she lambed and when the time came, she lambed two healthy lambs during the night but remained lying down until I picked her up when I found them first thing and proceeded to ignore them completely. The lambs, one ewe and one tup, were tiny but we gave them plenty of colostrum and soon had them drinking Lamlac from the bottle. I’ve found Lamlac to be a really good product. It’s easy to mix and the pet lambs have all been strong, healthy and grown really well. The only thing we’ve noticed, it does seem to make them wee… A LOT!
Our first two just turned 5 weeks old and are now coming off the milk and on to a diet of grass and lamb creep pellets. I popped them out into a small paddock today and though they seemed a bit bemused at first (a fact not helped by the ewe being blind in one eye) by the end of the day they have been nibbling away at the grass and enjoying their feed!
The other 7 pet lambs vary in both age and size, but are made up of twins and triplets that mothers couldn’t look after. As the number of pet lambs increased, I decided to invest in a Shepherdess from our local agricultural merchants. For those who don’t know what a shepherdess is, it consists of an insulated bucket that is filled with water. The water is then heated (you require a source of electricity to do this) and another bucket, filled with milk, is placed in the water. The bucket floats in the heated water, which in turn maintains a constant temperature for the milk inside. The idea of a shepherdess is to enable constant access to milk, much like the lamb would receive with its mother. Unfortunately, our lambs are greedy little buggers and drain the thing dry, so it takes a little bit more management than I originally hoped. It has however, saved us a lot of time when compared with trying to bottle feed 9 hungry pet lambs!
The lambs are still housed indoors but I took down, mucked out and disinfected the lambing pens before rebuilding two larger pens for the pet lambs (one for the younger ones and another for the older ones getting ready to be weaned.).
The pens are bedded with nice, clean straw and contain a bucket of fresh, clean water and a trough of lamb creep pellets, which are refreshed daily to encourage weaning.
There was a very interesting piece in the most recent issue of The Scottish Farmer about a hill farm in Dumfries, who have found keeping and breeding from their pet lambs has made their sheep far easier to work with, especially come lambing time! You can read the article here.
I’m planning on keeping all our ewes, including the pet ones, and raising them as replacements. The lambs are Texel crosses out of Scotch Mules and have been growing at a fantastic rate, so I’m really pleased with them. Also, due to our regular presence and involvement since their births, they are incredibly docile and will follow us around like a faithful hound! I’m hoping that these traits will continue in to adulthood and we will be able to reap the rewards of all the time and effort put in to raising them by having such docile sheep to work with!