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  • Kristin Ramey

Laverne and Shirley

Our first two sheep were named Laverne and Shirley. This isn't new news, they were such lovely sheep. If it weren't for them, we likely would have given up on livestock, but they made everything easy.

As the stories have been told, Laverne got sick at a young age and didn't survive a surgery to remove a lymph node. But Shirley stuck with us until she was 11.5 years old. Again, she's the original matriarch, the bar with which I judge all my sheepies by. She was calm, gentle, an amazing mother, and produced so much for us. Over the years, I had kept 3 of her daughters - Peppermint Patty, Sharon and Persephone. All three were amazing producers. If memory serves, mastitis took the other two from us early than planned, but I still have Persephone.

She was born in 2014. And I believe even a couple of years ago, her production surpassed Shirley. Shirley's production is now my LOW bar, and Persephone is my high bar. There are a couple of ewes that show they will even surpass Persephone in production some day, and one other, Margaery, that actually has surpassed Shirley. We are creating a more productive flock!

We said goodbye to Shirley, my Grand Dame, when she was 11.55 years old. She had given birth to triplets, but created no milk. None of those triplets were ewes, and we bottle fed them, and knew it was Shirley's last pregnancy. With no viable birth control for sheep, other than isolation from the flock, we said goodbye.

I've been holding out to see who else can make it to 11.55 years to smash Shirley's record. Persephone has already done it, and she's 9.17 years old now. Earlier this fall, her milk started coming in so we knew she was pregnant. And her milk kept coming in. Now, young ewes have small udders when they give birth. My older mamas, especially mamas that have had triplets, their udders get to be the size of a basketball before they give birth.

Persephone shot right past basketball. Her udders are now the size of a cow in full lactation. This isn't good. I realized she was NO WHERE NEAR ready for birth, so I started milking her out to relieve the pressure and the weight. I know this might be silly, as it just makes her produce more. But she was struggling to walk and lay down. She seemed relieved. Her milk was coming out bloody, a sign of mastitis. So I would milk her as much as she would let me, then treat her with intermammary antibiotics. The blood did start to clear.

She went into labor the other night when I was not home. Larry and Shannon were in the barn to retrieve the babies. Twin ewes, so Larry decided to name them Laverne and Shirley, as they are decedents from Shirley. We kind of understood that with her milk bags being large and unmanageable, the babies won't be able to drink from them.

The second issue is that Laverne was born with a vitamin deficiency that gave her wry neck. Both babies came to the house to get warm and get colostrum from a bottle.

Unfortunately, Laverne didn't make it. Even with our best efforts, her little body gave out. So Shirley was put back in the barn with her mama. She is still being bottle fed, but her mama does watch out for her, keeps her warm and protects her. She is an amazing mama.

I have been looking to pare down the farm, for simplicity's sake, and have been looking for opportunities to reduce the size of our herd. Saying goodbye to Ash was hard. Then we lost Snowdrop to a difficult labor (we lost her twins too). She was an AMAZING producer as well. And now, just like the OG Shirley, Persephone is in a spot where it won't be good for her to get pregnant again. Of all the sheep, I did not want to say goodbye to my rock star mama. She looks so much like her mama (unlike Shirley II, who is brown and clearly had Garlic as her papa)

I put it out in the universe that I wanted to reduce my flock, and the universe responded by taking my best ewes from me. Not that I have any bad ones, but damn, I didn't want this. We will keep her while little Shirley still needs a mama. And we will keep Baby Shirley to replace her, and to keep that amazing Shirley genetics in my flock. So take that, universe!!

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