How to tell when a ewe will lamb.
I'll never be the type of person that has life in complete order because a) I don't think it's possible and b) even if it was possible, I still wouldn't be the type to have it there. A glutton for punishment, I'm eager to bring on the next madness. That's basically farming in a nutshell: madness.
Thinking about starting a farm? You're mad. If you're okay with that fact, proceed on.
There have been some extreme lows in our farming journey that I certainly am not eager to revisit. Every week, month, and year that we're on the farm we actually do get a bit better. For example, this winter, instead of hauling buckets from the bathtub every single day for all the livestock, we instead invented a system that involved heat floats, heated hose, and a gigantic water tank. And you know what? It worked! No more hauling buckets (one of my favorite doTERRA business sayings).
We're through the worst of winter now so the well is being utilized once again for watering and Hallelujah! the sheep have started to lamb. We've already been blessed with two sets of live, healthy twins on the ground from great Mamas. That is no small accomplishment.
But it isn't all joyful.
Stu and I had to have “the talk” about keeping our animals at a level that our land can maintain. We recently planted and fenced an additional acre of land for grazing, but even with that, it can only support a few animals. Boo! I want ALL THE LAND, so I can graze ALL THE ANIMALS. Actually, I probably don't want that. We've got clear at Le Chalet that our goal is to grow for our family and not the general public. That means we only need to produce as much food as we can eat. One dairy cow and a small flock of sheep provide us with plenty.
So over the past few weeks, I've sold three of my beloved ewes to wonderful homes. They were all pregnant and full-bellied when I sent them off. *Insert tears of sadness*.
I'm left with three ewes and a ram in the flock which is a good amount for our grazing land and our needs. But still. Sad.
Two of the ewes have already lambed. Noel, a notoriously early lamber, has been raising beautiful little ones since late January. Eleanor, our bottle lamb from years ago, is a third time Mom to a set of twins that are only a week old. They're darling. The only one left is our sweet Gwen. And Mama. She's getting close!
For years I had no idea of what to look for in a pregnant animal. People would mention differences but I just couldn't see them! I don't know if it's a trained eye from staring at the animals all the time, but the differences are now clear to me. So as you prepare for lambing, here are a few quick tips on how to tell when a ewe will lamb.
How to tell when a ewe will lamb.
1. Big belly.
Notice Gwen's round shape in her belly. In some ways, it looks like she's swallowed a beach ball! The belly extends further down than normal and has an incredible round shape.
Compare her shape to Noel, who lambed over a month ago. Noel's shape is much more elongated and Gwen's is much more round. If I say round again, will that help? Round.
2. Full bag.
This is an easy giveaway! Get on your knees and get down there to check it out! A good ewe will bag up about 5-10 days prior to giving birth. Again, if you look at her every day, you'll know what a normal udder looks like and thus, you'll be able to tell when it's not normal. My sheep all have different udders, as will yours, so start observing them early. When they get full, you'll know you're close.
3. Swollen bits.
I know it's not on everyone's bucket list to inspect the girly parts of a sheep, but it is incredibly effective. This is probably the biggest sign in how to tell when a ewe will lamb. A few days before, her bits will get very pink, very swollen, and very soft. Get ready for it…
… sorry, but how else am I supposed to explain this? THESE are the bits of a ewe that is certainly pregnant and close to lambing. But not crazy close. 24-48 hours prior, she'll look extremely loose and it will even flop a bit as she walks around. Gwen's is still slightly tight and secure.
Three small tips on how to tell when a ewe will lamb, but easy enough to check on when you're out feeding or milking. And knowing is very helpful! If it's cold, you have a chance to get them somewhere quiet and warm so they can lamb in peace.
We all need a little quiet time – am-I-right?
Someone come and watch my four children so I can have some more of that.