VISIT FOSTER LAMBS FROM MID-MAY UNTIL EARLY JUNE
May 14 to June 5, 2016
Bring cameras, big and little kids and casual clothes
Cuddle or bottle-feed a lamb
See hundreds of lambs in nearby pastures
PHONE/EMAIL IN ADVANCE FOR AN APPOINTMENT
613 389-3444, 888 287-3157 email@example.com
These foster lambs have been rescued as their moms can’t raise them. One may be smallest of triplets; another a twin of a young mom with insufficient milk. Please come to help us nurture them.
Adopt a Foster Lamb to help a baby lamb survive and thrive.
Our flock of 1000 ewes birthed over 1400 lambs last year. About 30 – 35 lambs can’t stay with mama, and must be cared for. Otherwise, they’ll die.
Will you help save a baby lamb?
Do you want to be a (virtual) foster parent?
The cost is $45 before March 1st, 2017. After that, it will be $50.
For that donation you will:
• Name the lamb – we’ll use your chosen name from then on
• Receive a photo of the lamb so you could find yours in a group
• Learn all we know of its birthing history and reasons for needing to be fostered
• Be encouraged to come to the farm to help cuddle and bottle-feed during the time that it is here
• Learn about health care and needs of small lambs
After a week or so, most lambs ‘graduate’ to small farms where they join small free-range flocks.
• You’ll get a report of your lamb’s progress as it learns to become a sheep.
By registering and paying, you will be on a ‘first come first served’ priority list to adopt. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You do NOT take your lamb home.
People who don’t want to adopt can reserve a time to visit. If you wish, use our site to subscribe to the mailing list for Family Visits.
The males will live on pasture in their new homes for the summer then will go to market; the females will stay with the flock, bearing babies of their own for years to come.
If you adopt a foster lamb, you will help a caring, busy sheep farm nurture the most vulnerable to enable them to survive.
Two foster lambs entertain visitors to the Wool Shed at Topsy Farms each year.
This year, from spring until Thanksgiving (when they retire to a smaller free-range farm) Wee Lassie and Littlefoot have helped make a visit to our farm and to Amherst Island more interesting. Here’s how.
In spring, when about 1300 lambs are born at Topsy Farms, there are always a few problems. The ewe forgets she had two, or she may have 3 or even 4 babies, and just can’t raise them all successfully. That’s where the Rescue Program for foster lambs fills the gap. Cold, hungry lambs are brought to the barn ‘playpen’. The lambs are cuddled and warmed and fed a powdered ewe’s milk substitute. As the lambs thrive, they move on to small free-range farms whose owners are building a flock (but can’t afford adult sheep).
This year, Wee Lassie came to us, May 14th. She was about 10 hours old when she first warmed up under my sweater, ate well, then fell asleep in my lap. She came just in time for the Victoria Day flood of visitors, winning hearts and teaching young people about the realities of baby animals on a farm. She was joined over the next while by about 30 fosters, all of whom found new homes except Littlefoot, chosen as her companion.
The public is invited to come and participate during the spring nurturing season.
The lambs grew fast and learned new skills. They enjoyed playing king of the castle on a big rock with grandsons and visitors, and nimbly climbed straw bales, stacked for bedding.
They adapted easily to wearing dog harnesses and walking on a leash – we just reinforced nature’s instinct of sticking close to mama’s heels. They even managed to walk in the Canada Day parade.
They can quickly distinguish peaceful people, enjoying massages and armpit rubs especially. Wee Lassie even put this visitor to sleep!
They adapted early and easily to visiting dogs deemed safe. Some interactions were a great pleasure to watch.
Even wee children can ‘take a lamb for a walk.’ It’s a pleasurable experience for all, as ‘the girls’ get to graze and explore a new area.
We’re saying goodbye to them after the Thanksgiving weekend however. They’ll retire to one of the great free-range farms we know. They will be the most chubby and affectionate lambs in the flock.
Watch a 6 second lamb and child interaction at a daycare picnic at https://youtu.be/kb7cH7slmDM
I’m writing with a shivering lamb on my lap. Soon he will be one of the gang for family outings to visit lambs.
A lamb can lose its mama for many reasons. Triplets may be born, and the ewe may have only enough milk for two. The ewe might seek shelter in a storm, and the stronger lamb, perhaps older by less than half an hour, will stick to her heels and the younger lamb will get lost. Two ewes might lamb close to each other, then later claim all but one of the lambs for their own. Hypothermic conditions aggravate the vitality of the newly born.
So the shepherds check the fields several times a day and bring to the homestead any who are lonely, hungry and very cold. When a foster lamb is first introduced to the warmed reconstituted ‘milk’ it doesn’t taste right; smell right; feel right. Usually the first reaction is either passive resistance, or ptoooey.
Their instinct is to go under a warm ewe’s belly, to find a full but flexible nipple, to bunt hard if necessary to encourage the milk flow, and to sip often. Instead they are offered a powdered ewe’s milk substitute reconstituted with warmed water, a black rubber nipple & a beer bottle (old ‘stubbies’ which fit nicely in the microwave; they are of strong glass so easy to clean).
But hunger is a wonderful motivator to accept change; to learn new skills.
We encourage family outings to visit lambs and to discover our Wool Shed. In our urban, disconnected world, people like to have a chance to nurture small animals, and to learn about the source of what they purchase. Folks prefer to know that some farms care a great deal about their animals.
It is fun for kids to cuddle and bottle feed a lamb.
After a couple of small feedings the lamb’s natural vitality almost always helps it to revive. Cuddling and insulation help. Soon they join the bouncing 3 or 4 day old lambs in their pen, who yell for food whenever someone passes.
Lambs will follow at heel, gluing to the person who is now the source of all good things.
This Spring the lambs have been a wonderful source of entertainment for family outings to visit lambs.
You are invited to pet and feed the lambs. We will keep two fosters on the farm for the pleasure of visitors during the summer. The others go to small farms who are building their flock by bottle feeding orphans, sometimes on goat’s milk.
The one on my lap is shivering less, and starting to holler for food. Perhaps this year’s Lazarus.
Lambing this year resulted in a foster lamb then lots more. At Topsy Farms, our official count was 1457 lambs, born in May and early June to about 1100 ewes. Despite very regular checking of the 6 groupings of birthing ewes, perfect parenting does not always occur.
We often have triplets, and some mamas just can’t raise all 3, especially if they are of very different sizes. Sometimes a ewe ‘loses count’, nurturing the first lamb born and neglecting the second, who becomes weak and hungry. For those and other reasons, the occasional lamb is brought to the house for bottle rearing, becoming a foster lamb.
We had just two for the first couple of days – but one evening six suddenly appeared, the result of a bad mama muddle when some ewes moved to new pastures. We’ve had up to 16 at a time in the outdoor pen.
The foster lambs are bottle fed 4 times a day, with a powdered sheep’s milk formula that approximates ewes’ milk. It takes surprisingly little time for the lambs to learn to come running, blatting and eager, when our grandsons appear with their bottles. Some lambs learn quickly to follow at heel, seeking food and play.
A few foster lambs may be adopted back into the field – our shepherd is good at persuading a ewe that this is the one upon which to dote. The rest stay with us for a few days until strong enough to go to a new home.
We have adoptive families lined up to provide a home for the foster lambs once they are strong and well-established on the bottle. They will raise a small flock, or just keep them well and happy for the summer.
Funny, Caramel and Trina provide wonderful entertainment for young families visiting Topsy Farms and the Wool Shed www.topsyfarms.com Please phone ahead if you can: 613 389-3444/888 287-3157.
We have three healthy foster lambs now. (We lost a couple, and 6 have gone to another home on the Island where they will be raised all summer.)
They stay in a big blanket-covered dog cage on the verandas at night. The wind still blows cold off the lake, and this gives them warm cuddle space. I move out there about 6:30-7 am, with my coverall pockets stuffed with warmed milk replacer, and my balaclava on my head (almost the end of May!).
When I opened the cage this morning, two lambs jumped into my lap in the big old scruffy armchair. The whiteface lamb is a Cheviot cross, whose sire breeds smaller lambs than the others we seek. We always put him to the first year ewes, for easier birthing. Another characteristic of this breed is their feisty, eager life force. This little guy sucks so hard he tends to aspirate the liquid, so I had to change to a new hard nipple with a tiny hole to keep him from drowning. He is thriving now, and almost too eager to get what he wants. After a few minutes intense pushing, he settled down on my lap, downing his bottle.
The black faced lamb is a Suffolk cross. They tend to make good calm mothers, and are very steady. A Suffolk lamb tends to be a bit dozy at first, slow to learn to recognize the nipple, and to open his mouth. Once I convince him that this IS what he is looking for, he’s like a steady little vacuum.
The third lamb this morning was new yesterday. Mom had three, and he just wasn’t getting enough milk. (That’s our most common reason for getting fosters.) He didn’t recognize me or the bottle yet as the source of all good things, so I had to burrow into the cage to lift him out. The best position for feeding a lamb is to tuck him under your left arm (if you are right-handed) with your hand under his chin, and thumb lightly around his nose. Usually I have to tuck a finger into the side of the mouth of the learner, as the rubber nipple doesn’t feel right to his instincts. Nipple inserted, I hold his muzzle gently but firmly, so he can’t lick or chew, but has to suck. Sometimes I’ll squeeze just enough to trickle a bit of milk replacer into his mouth. Today, that did it. He was off and sucking, and downed the entire bottle.
The other two meantime were kicking up their heels on the veranda, cavorting in that utterly joyful lamb-like way.
The three are outside now, wind-protected, enjoying morning sun. They’ll be calling for more in a couple of hours.
During lambing at Topsy, we often have ewes who birth triplets-potential foster lambs. Some ewes who are in great shape and have lots of milk, are able to raise all three. This only works if the lambs are of similar size. If one is much bigger, or more frequently, much smaller, one must be taken away for the health of the others. Chris, our main shepherd, has been very successful in arranging adoptions with a ewe who only had a single lamb. Occasionally, a small hungry lamb has no acceptable mother. So, our son Kyle and I are back in the foster lamb business. One Mother’s Day present was sitting with a blatting baby curled up on my lap (butt end wrapped in an old blanket) learning to suck, then proceeding to do so, busily. I started at 5:30 am on a gorgeous spring morning, sitting outside, listening to the dawn chorus of birds and watching their busy mating rituals and (for the early birds) nest building and/or feeding squawkers. There is so much COLOUR right now. Our huge wild plum tree is a mass of white flowers, that are just starting to scatter its confetti-like petals when the breeze hits. We have a big wire dog cage set up on the front verandah for overnight warmth for the foster lambs, and put the babies outside in the daytime in a small pen with the front yard ewes and lambs nearby. The second day, a couple of three year olds and their moms came to visit the Wool Shed. Kyle gave them all bottle-feeding lessons, then they trailed after him, Pied Piper-like, as I visited with their moms in the Wool Shed. Grandson Nathan was leading the tour to visit the egg-laying hens, but stopped at the highest point of interest, a parked tractor, and announced “that is the Alice Chalmers 185 but we don’t climb in it as it has a tippy seat.” (He just turned three.) Day three, we have 5 healthy fosters.