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A Sheep Diaries' revelation: Sheep are good at maths!

On Tuesday 25th September we had our last lambs. The last of the floppy-eared three had twins: one black and one white. This followed the second of the floppy-eared three having two white twins on the 19th. All are healthy with no assistance required from us. (Our colostrum went back in the freezer for next year.) But these last births also led to an astounding revelation: in all their various configurations, singletons, twins, triplets, all variously hued, we ended up with exactly equal numbers of black and white lambs – seven black and seven white. This is clear evidence that sheep are not only more intelligent than we often give them credit for, but they are also good at maths (well, at l

Sheep diaries: Not so black & white

We had come to the conclusion that lambs would either be born all black or all white, and in an alternate sequence, as it turns out. (The last lot after black triplets Pinch, Punch and Munf were Bunny and Hop, both white, seen here on their first day, making the overall sequence - black triplets-white singleton-black triplets-white twins.) So next, we were due for black twins (+/- 1). But, it turns out things are not so black and white after all. Well actually, they are black and white. What we got around 9pm on Sunday 16th September to one of the Floppy 3 was twins - one white and one black. I was alerted to the fact that we had some new arrivals by the distinctive noise that sheep mums mak

Sheep diaries: Pinch and a Punch!

A picture of Bliss. Mum snoozing in the afternoon sun with Pinch and Punch (or maybe Punch and Munf, or Munf and Pinch ...?) The birth of the first two sets of lambs had happened when we were out, and we were starting to think that the sheep had some kind of secret agreement only to have lambs when we weren't at home. But on the first day of spring, we were in for a pleasant surprise. It was a beautiful day and the family, including aunty and grandad were congregated on the deck playing catch with a bean-bag (a small one, rather than the type you sit on). One of the Pohangina Three looked like she was imminent, and sure enough, at around 4pm, the action started. She had one lamb (black), whi

Sheep diaries: An exposition on bouncing

Next, it was the turn of one of the 'Pohangina Three' (two of whom lost lambs to pneumonia last year [see: Sheep Diaries - the backstory). On 29 August, four days after Fatty gave birth to her triplets, a little white lamb emerged. Which gives rise to the question, of course, why? Our ram is a black Wiltshire from Tokomaru (progeny of the black Wiltshires bred at Blackshire Farm in Bunnythorpe). His name, for the record, is 'Blacky'. I was half-expecting that we would get black lambs with bits of white (which we have, but only small bits), or white lambs with bits of black. But the white lambs are just ... white. And given a white mother and a black father, what determines whether a lamb com

Sheep diaries - Fatty's fate

Last time I wrote [Sheep diaries - Our first lambs], the fate of Fatty and her triplets hung in the balance. We had intervened to save one lamb and successfully returned it to her. This felt like a triumph, given what we had heard about mothers rejecting lambs that had been handled by people. Her familiarity with us may have been a factor in her acceptance of the lamb, but it is hard to know. Sadly, this success was tempered by the discovery of the lifeless body of the last - and smallest - of the triplets on the second morning. And the danger of more fatalities was not over yet. Fatty was not well. She was lethargic, had no appetite and her front leg was obviously causing her pain. This mea

Celebrating 10 years of boyhood

It is a momentous day. Our son, Carter, has reached double figures! Carter was born 10 years ago at Wellington Hospital. At 4.3kg, he dwarfed the little babies in neonates where he had a short sojourn to deal with some fluid on the lungs. He remained in the 99th percentile for the remainder of his babyhood - obviously inheriting the tall gene that skipped his dad! HAPPY BIRTHDAY young fella!

Sheep diaries - Our first lambs

It was Saturday, and we had just come home from an afternoon of geocache-hiding in Rangitikei as part of our Wildbore series. Dusk was setting in, but when I looked out on the front paddock to see how the flock was, I could see that one ewe was by herself under the cover of some trees, and her attention was directed to something on the ground. "I think we have lambs!" I cried, and all members of the family were directed to don their gumboots without delay for an expedition out to the paddock to investigate. And yes indeed, not one - but two - lambs, largely black, with little white tufts around the heads (I realise I need to explain this - will do so later). After satisfying ourselves that a

The Sheep Diaries - the backstory

It is spring! And that means lambing season - an exciting time of us, as near-novices to sheep husbandry. To record our happenings, learnings and disappointments (hopefully not too many), I am starting a Sheep diaries series. But first, let me fill in a bit of background. After moving to our Pohangina block in April last year [see Life changes], and taking a few months to set ourselves up, we decided that sheep were the way to go for us. We are on a river terrace, and our soils have a clay base, so get pretty claggy (technical term) after rain. And located as we are at the foot of the Ruahine Range, there is no shortage of rain either. Having had the neighbour's cattle on our land from time

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