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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 all was well, we headed back to the house, husband and I returning later to check on the ewe (whose name is "Fatty", owing to her generous proportions), only to find that she had since had another lamb - "triplets!" I exclaimed, excitedly, but rather redundantly.

The night had set in by now, and we were a little concerned that Fatty didn't seem to be getting up to feed the lambs as much as she should be. One lamb was lying on the ground, struggling only to lift his head when we approached. He was breathing in raspy, laboured breaths. It was clear that he hadn't had his vital first feed of collostrum. So, we decided to take him inside to feed him in front of the fire. Within minutes of his first bottle feed, he was like a new lamb, active and alert (and quite vocal during the night).

Morning came, and we decided to try to see if we could return him to his mum. She immediately accepted him, giving him a vigorous lick. With this, we made an important discovery - under certain circumstances, mother sheep will accept their babies back after they have been bottle-fed. All three lambs seemed to be doing ok now, but our concerns remained for Fatty. She only reluctantly got up (usually encouraged by us) and lacked energy. Uncharacteristically, she was not interested in the sheep nuts we took her. Nor was she talking to her lambs as most sheep mums do. In fact one of the two lambs that had remained with her overnight had wandered off through a fence and if it were not for husband's persistence would certainly have perished on the other side of the fence, unable to get back to mum.

Tune in for the next instalment of "The Sheep Diaries" to find out how Fatty and her lambs fare.

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