In the glow of the setting sun on Monday evening Dot gave birth to twins. The last lambs of 2008 to be born. Dot is my oldest sheep (to find out more about her click on Sheep Secrets) and quite a character – even Robert has a soft spot for her and he has no time whatsoever for sheep. I was hoping to keep her away from the tups last autumn, but Dot had other ideas. I kept my fingers crossed that at least she would spare herself and have a single – but no, in true Dot style, she was in lamb to twins…yet again.
Old productive ewes carrying twins can run into problems during the later part of the pregnancy. Pregnancy toxaemia can develop as the fast growing lambs take more energy than the ewe can take in. If the signs are not seen early on the ewe can become so depleted she’ll stop eating all together; having reached this point it becomes very difficult to pull her back to recovery.
Over the last month I’ve watched Dot with an eagle eye and as soon as I saw her interested in food was waning I took measures to make sure she had access to an easy unchallenged measure of oats and molasses. Soon she was back to her old self, bright and lively, though still thin.
Dot gave birth on Monday evening with the minimum of fuss and bother. But she wasn’t out of the woods quite yet. With the unborn lambs having used up all her resources and her labour having sapped every last ounce of energy, she had nothing left to make milk with. It’s a fine line allowing the lambs to suckle to encourage milk supply and teaching them to suck a bottle to substitute the ewe’s milk. But with patience one eventually gets the balance right.
Old ewes can crash after the stress of giving birth, and Dot did. The immediate need for energy and the changing hormones can cause digestive upsets and prohibit the liver from working properly. So it’s careful nursing and feeding, letting the ewe have access to ivy and certain plants that will help her rebalance her metabolism. I gave her a multi-vitamin jab as B vitamins help kick start the liver.
We’re there! Today Dot is nearly back to normal and has begun grazing, making some milk and eating a small quantity of whole oats. Her lambs are bonny and bouncy and joy of joy the little ewe lamb is a replica of her mum – a mini Dot!
So here’s to Dot’s last lambs…and a peaceful retirement!