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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), which she licked vigorously and nudged onto its feet. About half an hour later came another one, also black. Splendid, we thought - a set of black twins! In honour of it being the first of the month (and the first day of spring), we decided to call them "Pinch" and "Punch" and got on with eating our bbq dinner.

Except that... about 45 minutes after Punch was born, another shiny black shape appeared on the grass - just a ripple of movement, like a piece of kelp being tossed around by the tide.

A review of our nomenclature was necessary ... so the three became "Pinch", "Punch" and ... "Munf".*

All that was left was to monitor the situation to ensure that they all got that first vital feed of colostrum in the first hour of their life. Like anxious parents, the Husband and I were out with our head torches, watching furtively from a distance checking that all the lambs had found the teat (this can take an excrutiatingly long time at times). At last, they all seemed to find the magic organ (and the right place to suck on it).

Sheep have only two udders so only two lambs can feed at a time. A weaker lamb tends to miss out and this can have fatal consequences, as we saw with Fatty's triplets. For this reason, some sheep farmers (I suspect a minority) have a policy of taking away and hand-rearing the third triplet. But Pinch, Punch and Munf have thrived, and mum, one of the "Pohangina Three", like Bounce's mum, has proved to be an excellent mother.

* "Pinch and a punch for the first of the month" is a saying in Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Said on the first day of a new month, while pinching and punching someone as a prank (especially by children). The victim may respond with "a flick and a kick for being so quick!" and the original attacker may reply with "a punch in the eye, for being so sly".

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