Meet Twinkles! She and her brothers were born last night about 11:30 PM and are my first spring lambs! Twinkles will be a bottle-baby because she is only 3 lbs and can’t reach mom’s milk! Normally, my new-born lambs weigh between 7 and 10 lbs. Plus, there are only 2 teats on mom’s udder and her brothers are pretty agressive eaters. When I went out to do my late evening check on my soon-to-be-mom ewes, I heard a faint crying. Thinking it was a stray cat or maybe my first lambs, I walked through the ewe night pen and found Twinkles crying and trying to stand up. Her mom, Honey, was busy cleaning all three lambs off. I knew Twinkles was too tiny to nurse and when every lamb is born, I test their “suck” strength by rubbing a clean finger along the inside roof of their month. If they don’t have a good suck, ewes know immediately and often times don’t give them enough time to nurse–sort of nature’s harsh way of culling the weaker ones out. Twinkles had a very weak suck reflex.
So Twinkles spent the night in a cushy portable dog kennel in my laundry room. Before saying good night, I tried to give her some colstrum from a bottle. I have all different kinds of bottle nipples so I have lots of options to test which one a weaker lamb will use. Twinkles didn’t like any of them. Not good. And, she was falling asleep as I was trying to feed her. So very carefully, trying not to aspirate her lungs, I gave her the colstrum using a small syringe–trying to ease it down her throat with little squirts from the syringe. She drank a very little. I lay her on the cushion in the kennel and hoped for the best. That was a 1 AM this morning. At 3 AM, I heard a welcome sound–Twinkles was crying again! So, I offered her the bottle of colstrum and she sucked really well. Just a little, but with lots of vigor. A good sign! And, she kept crying, missing her mom. To get some sleep, I turned the washing machine on. Also hoping the low noise would put her to sleep. It did until 4 AM. She drank more and I turned on the dryer–we both got to sleep until 5 AM. Hungry again and crying–good.
Today I put her in a small pen in the barn next to her mom and brothers. She can see and hear her mom and see her brothers bouncing around like lambs do. This will keep her happy. I can’t put back her with mom because Honey has decided Twinkles can’t nurse and will butt her until she falls down. As other ewes have triplets, I’ll probably add the weaker lambs to Twinkles pen to bottle feed them too. These bottle-babies will learn to play and eat together and will come to see me as their foster mom! Here is her real mom, Honey, letting Twinkles know she is okay.