Rain plus wind plus cold equal hypothermic conditions for newborn lambs. Just as the flock was at its peak of lambing for the first heat cycle, the awful weather conditions hit.
A newborn lamb needs to be licked thoroughly and nudged towards the udder to get a bellyful of warm colostrum in the first half hour, for best survival. If the ewe is birthing twins or triplets, or the ewe is inexperienced, sometimes one or more lambs have to cope with less than ideal mothering. The species has survived through the eons with good instincts.
Unfortunately, one of those instincts is for the mom to save the first born, to put energy into keeping one alive, under cold driving rain conditions.
Its our job to rescue the hypothermic abandoned baby.
Christopher and Jacob and sometimes Ian have been checking each group of the flock, about 5 times a day (which translates into almost constantly, with breaks to deal with problems discovered and for much-needed food for the shepherd.) When they find a lamb that is just too cold, with an empty tummy, they get involved. One technique is to milk the ewe right into a big syringe; stomach tube the lamb; get two or three syringefuls of warm colostrum right into its tummy, then bring it back to the Frame House.
Kyle and Sally are caring for the foster lambs, but others get involved. For the first few days, the big dog cage was in the living room, with a heater and a couple of Rubbermaid containers and a shopping box pressed into service for the coldest lambs as snuggly cribs.
We ran out of old towels, flannelette sheets and old blankets when we were inundated the second evening with a ‘lambalanche’ of cold wet foster lambs. I called a neighbour in desperation. She came rushing over with 10 absorbent towels, sat on the floor in her bare feet and old clothes, and helped rub and cuddle a cold shivery lamb.
She’s an ordained Anglican minister, and as she sat in the midst of our muddle, with Kyle rubbing three sleepy ones to stimulate circulation, and Sally trying to feed a needy one, she said “This is my idea of heaven.”