“Baa….baaa…..baaaa,” rings out across the field. The ewes intensify their call if I happen to be within their sight. Their complaints ring loud and clear and my heart feels their concern. This weekend, we separated the lambs from their moms and several lambs left for their new homes. Contrary to the old saying that “sheep are not smart”, our ewes display intense memory and concern for their young.
|Ina naps with Faith.|
On Sunday we brought all of the sheep down to the barn to make it easier to catch the lambs. A couple planned to pick up four lambs in the afternoon. Tess, our border collie, helped drive the ewes and their lambs through the pasture and to the barn. Once there, we were able to snag the lambs and put them in a stall in the barn. After having time to wander around the barn yard, we took the ewes back up to the field, leaving the lambs in the barn. For two solid days, the ewes have stood in their field, looking back at the barn calling for their lambs. They know that they did not return when they all went back to pasture and they know exactly where they were left. One ewe named Bonnie, has called relentlessly day and night. When I wake in the night, I can hear her hoarse call above the fan in the window. There seems to be no way to console her.
|Clover cleans off her lamb moments after being born.|
It is amazing to watch the bond between mother and baby on the farm. During lambing season, when in labor and before the new lamb appears, the ewe begins to talk to her new baby. She nickers in between contractions as if she is calling to the lamb and encouraging it on its journey into this world. Once on the ground, the moms begin their concentrated efforts to clean their new lamb talking softly to them while they lick them off.
|Faith enjoys playing on Ina’s back.|
The early days of life keep the ewe quite busy tending to her young one. During the first few days of life, the mom wakes the lamb at nursing time by pawing at them as they sleep.I am sure their full udders remind them to wake their lambs. In the afternoons, the ewes cuddle with their little ones, exhausted from their work. When they wake up, the lambs are ready for play and mom provides endless entertainment.
|Clover keeps Fia right next to her in the field.|
Our ewes have proven that they know how to count as well. If they have twinned and we remove one of the lambs, the ewe frantically calls for and looks for the second lamb. When the lambs and ewes go out on pasture, there is much baaing as the moms try to keep their young right next to them. If one wanders away, the ewe calls as she nibbles grass.
The strong family ties and bonding linger well beyond lambing as well. Our wether, Bob, has his mom and sister here on the farm. Bob has not lived with them in the same field for the past three years when he joined the ram in the boy’s field. Last year, for the first time in two years, Bob went in the same pasture as his mom and sister Bonnie. I stood in amazement as Bob walked directly to his sister where they stood nose to nose for what seemed an eternity. I felt certain they knew each other and had a special bond between them. Bob did not do this with any of the other sheep, just with his twin sister.
It has been two days now since the lambs left. The moms call less frequently but they still seem to protest any time I am out in the yard. “Where is my lamb? I have not forgotten them,” they seem to say. But somehow, things will settle back down and the ewes will get back to their routine of eating and lounging and they will forgive me for taking their lambs away.