Polly is very independent-minded. She likes to have her lambs somewhere well away from the others – somewhere quiet and sheltered with good grazing, where she can nurse them for a day or two before bring them to show me.
But I was worried about her – I hadn’t seen her for a nearly two days, and guessed she’d have lambed. I found her in the garden ground of a derelict house. I needn’t have worried: two fine ewe lambs, ready for ear-tagging.
Polly followed me, her lambs either side of her, back to the croft store (about half a mile), where I found the black feed bucket and put in it some sheep nuts specially for her. We then continued to a nice little spot by the sea where she could graze contentedly, with her lambs sheltered by rushes from the damp westerly wind.
Yesterday was sunny and dry, but today it’s Windy and Wet. They’re girl and boy twins. Their mum, No 11, can be relied on to give birth on a day like this. She does it for the sympathy – certainly not for the sake of the lambs! No 11 can be relied on, also, to produce twins – and both good-sized healthy lambs, too.
Windy and Wet – brought home in a feed bag. Actually, it’s Wet (left) and Windy (right)
The reason she produces good twins every year is because at tupping time she’s in really good condition – long black glossy locks, an optimum of body fat … irresistable to the ram, and perfect for conception and gestation. The reason she’s in such good condition is because, during the summer, she wasn’t feeding any lambs – all that summer grass was just for her. Just what a girl needs after a five month pregnancy on winter rations, culminating in the trauma of lamb-birth. And the reason she wasn’t feeding lambs all summer? Well, that’s because she worked out the year before that she could rely on us to do that for her!
And so we go on from year to year: No 11 produces two lambs ; we feed the lambs ; she spends the summer restoring her figure and good looks ; and in spring we start over again!
This all started the year No 11 developed mastitis on one side. She’s been lopsided ever since ; and as lambing approaches she’s been so lopsided she finds it difficult to walk. To be fair, she must be very uncomfortable. Whether even non-mastisis side actually produces milk is arguable. When J has tried to get her started it’s produced a little colustrum – with difficulty, but that’s not the critical issue (if you’ll pardon the pun). She just won’t stand still long enough for even one lamb to suckle, let alone two to take turns. We do give her a chance ; but on a day like today (and it’s always on a day like today – wet, windy, and deathly to newborn lambs) the lambs can’t afford to ‘wait and see’. A clever strategy by No 11 ?
Windy and Wet – tummies filled with Colostrum.
I feel really bad carrying those lambs away with their mum bleating out for them – oh I do so! (She does care about them – just not for them.) And this year, I found the lambs before they started to develop hypothermia, so they’ve been strong enough to bleat at full power for their mum, poor things! Help! Mummy! Help! But, you know what, it’s surprising how quickly mum and lambs come to terms with their situation. Her udder dries up, and they learn to love the bottle.
No 11. The Big Garden Croft, Isle of South Uist
Right now, Windy and Wet are dozing under a gentle heat lamp in our garden store, their tummies filled up with colostrum out of a packet.