OK, I won't lie, Autumn is my favorite season. Sweaters, hot apple cider, all the beautiful colors. I love fall. It seemed to skip us up a bit this year. We got tossed whole heartedly into Winter, weather we liked it or not (did you see what I did there? That was on purpose, pun intended).
But winter brings on a special season around the farm. Aside from January heralding the stocking of our freezers with bacon and sausage and pork chops, it also brings little lambs onto the farm.
I'll talk more about my entertaining, goofy, stinky, destructive pigs on another day. Today, I am trying to convince myself that the bitter cold is worth it. That there is a reason to get my tooshie out of bed to do farm chores, sometimes in knee deep snow. It's the love of lambs!
I mean, look at this sillies!
January is the undisputed month of lambs. It is the reigning champion, and often the coldest time of year. This is how my flock performs.
You can see the ramp up through fall, and this year, we only had 1 lamb born in October, and none in November, and so far, none in December. It looks like January is going to be a busy month.
There are pluses and minuses to this, let's take a look.
Weather - of course, having babies when it is so cold does carry some risk, I'll tell you how we accomodate that in a bit.
Feed - with no fresh pasture grasses, the mamas are on hay, and boy are they hungry! This raises costs on the farm, and keeps Larry busy with the tractor on weekends.
Feed - having mamas feeding right near the barn from a big hay feeders means the babies don't get lost trying to follow mom around the pasture. And the moms stand still while feeding, allowing baby to nurse and then run off to play, always knowing where mama is!
Weather - since they are born in the cold, it's a lot easier to make a nursery stall in the barn. That way we can keep them inside with mama and make sure they stay warm, and also ensure baby and mama have a strong bond before facing the world together.
That's what you see in the video above, on a very prolific winter where most mamas went into labor within days of each other. Since we have a lovely barn, we can put mama and babies in what we call the nursery stall. We close it off from all other sheep, fill it up with hay and water buckets for moms, and the lambs get to stay inside for typically their first 3 days of life, depending on the weather. If it's sunny, we can open the top of the stall door to let in some sunshine. But this allows baby and mother to bond before being let out into the world. If a big snowstorm hits, they may stay longer. That being said, when big storms hit, we put hay in all of the stalls and allow all the sheep to stay inside if they choose.
Our sheep are pretty coddled. They get a barn to sleep in any time. During the summer, they use it for shade for napping during the day, and generally sleep outside at night. But in winter, they get closed up into the barn at night. Since it's lambing season, that also helps ensure the lambs are protected from predators!
We have many visibly pregnant ewes right now, and I just can't wait for baby season. I check the sheep daily for any signs of lambs, and keep getting my hopes up. There are some full udders out there, but no babies yet. Hopefully, before you know it, I'll be posting baby pictures on instagram!