On Thursday, March 29th our Jacob Sheep Ewe, Pearl, gave birth to a little male lamb. I came home from work that day and looked over from the side porch before entering the house. I saw Pearl and next to her was this tiny, wiggly, black and white lamb. He was already standing up, which was a good sign. He would take several steps and then fall down again which was very endearing to watch. I ran inside and got my phone so I could take some pictures.
The majority of the time, ewes do not need any help with the birthing process. Lucky for us, this was the case with Pearl and her lamb. The most important thing that needs to happen immediately after birth is the bonding between ewe and lamb. If a ewe doesn’t bond with her lamb immediately, she will refuse to let it nurse and abandon it. We were given the advice to keep our dogs away from the lamb immediately after birthing. The ewe needs to smell herself on the lamb in order to claim it. If a dog or other animal were to lick the lamb and spread its scent on the lamb, abandonment would be likely. If a lamb is abandoned, the only alternative to keeping the lamb alive is to bottle feed or try to bond the lamb with another ewe. Since we only have one ewe, fostering the lamb to another ewe would not have been an option. Luckily, Pearl and her lamb had already bonded by the time we found them.
The second thing that must happen after birthing is that the lamb needs to be cleaned off. This is one of the biggest indicators that your ewe and lamb have bonded, because the ewe will usually lick the lamb clean. One thing to double check is that any mucus is removed from the lamb’s nose so that it can breathe easily.
A third step that must be done is tending to the umbilical cord. I waited until Matt arrived home from work to help with this step. It’s recommended that the umbilical cord be snipped around 2 inches from the lamb’s body. Using a dull knife or scissors is preferable, because it reduces the chances of bleeding. Next, the cord is dipped in iodine to disinfect and help it dry. Pearl was not crazy about us touching her lamb, but she allowed us to quickly complete this step while she stood next to us.
The final step was to figure out whether the lamb was nursing. We could tell that the lamb was trying to nurse, because his little tail was whipping back and forth as he was sucking. However, we wanted to make sure he was actually getting milk. While a ewe is pregnant, a waxy plug forms over her teats for protection. When the lamb is born and starts nursing, the plug usually breaks free. We decided to make sure the plug was removed so Matt held Pearl while I examined her teats quickly. Luckily, I didn’t feel any plugs, so it seemed that the lamb was probably getting milk while he nursed.
We felt very blessed to have such a good first time mother in our ewe, Pearl. She has been taking care of her lamb like a seasoned pro! We are thoroughly enjoying watching our little guy (we named him Turner) grow up. Stay tuned for more updates!