I did chores as usual this morning- I fed hay to the rams, bottle fed the two lambs, checked and changed everyone’s water…
But then I noticed that everything was too quiet. Our older bottle lamb,Steven was not baaing for the “cookie” he gets each morning . Usually, he would be insisting on my attention. The cookie has oats, cornmeal, molasses, salt and vegetable oil, so just a bit of extra energy so he won’t have to bad a setback from being weaned off milk.
Today, I found him lying down next to another lamb, looking poorly. When I got him up, he was lethargic and sad, with drooping ears and a sad posture. I’m thinking he has pneumonia and a touch of anemia – just too much stress from weaning.
I brought him in to the house, where he drearily half-followed me. Time for some penicillin, some Nutri-Drench, and a little TLC. I admit that I gave him a bit of milk, hoping that the hit of nutrients and hydration would offset the potential for an upset tummy. And he did perk up with the milk, but he certainly isn’t out of the woods.
So if you have a moment, please spare a thought for Steven. I think he will recover, but nothing is guaranteed. We are watching Great British Bake-Off and petting him on the couch.
Talk of trade wars in the news gave me some thoughts. I’m not going to wade into politics, but I will wade into farming.
Given their intelligent, social nature, I feel comfortable saying that pigs are some of the most abused animals in factory farming. According to a recent article in Civil Eats, 75% of breeding sows in the US live in tiny crates without room to move or socialize
So my first thought about the trade war and possible damage to the conventional pork industry was “Good! Maybe this will decrease the amount of factory farm pork and improve the prospects of pastured pork, where pigs can engage in natural behaviors. As I read more, though, I realized there was a problem. China isn’t buying whole pigs at low-cost. Most of the US pork headed for China consists of offal and parts that most Americans don’t seek out like tails and ears. I considered that even though many cultural groups within the US may seek these parts, would they go to waste without China buying them, downgraded into pet food. That’s part of why pastured pork goes hand in hand with eating nose to tail. Could we convince more Americans to eat ears, tails and offal? I am still enamored of the liver pate that I made last year.
Soybeans offer a similar conundrum. On the Chinese market, they are human food and feed for animals. In the US, most soybeans are fed to animals in confinement. If soybean prices crash, will we increase the amount of meat grown in confinement, fed soy? The answer, according to the recent Planet Money podcast I listened to, is that Europe will buy it to feed their farm animals. Thus, we move carbon and other nutrients around the world using more carbon.
It isn’t lost on anyone that China can read an electoral map and chose to target economic sanctions in areas that voted for the current administration. How will people affected by price changes view this change and how will they respond?
Twenty of our thirty-three ewes have lambed so far at Cloverworks Farm. Thirty eight lambs have been born, with thirty six surviving. One loss was a little BFL ewe lamb who failed to nurse overnight with her mother. Another was 1627’s lamb, whom we had indoors and who just faded away, likely from pneumonia. Though some amount of loss is usual, I am still disappointed with my failure to keep these lambs alive. I’ve been intervening more since the first loss, feeling that I could have done more to warm and feed the lost lambs.
But the sad part aside, we have 34 healthy little lambs in the barn and two bouncy lambs in the house. Due to weather and mis-mothering, we have one lamb each from the recently-born triplets in our custody. With Steven Jr. weaned and on his own, we can deal with lambs in the house again. The lambs in the barn are happy and bouncy. Since the oldest lamb is now four months old, we have quite a range of sizes. Some of the youngest lambs still haven’t figured out how to home in on their mother, so I’ve been helping 123 find her mom, 264, often. All of the adults are struggling to tolerate the shear number of lambs who want to climb on their backs.
We are still waiting for the snow to melt and the pasture to start to green. Not much by way of spring weather yet, other than a few days with highs in the 40’s F.
A year ago, we had a fiasco where several sheep tested as positive or as exposed to CL: Caseous Lymphadenitis. We were never able to determine the source of the disease, but several good sheep went for meat in our effort to eradicate CL in our flock.
Last week, we received our test results back for CL, Ovine Progressive Pneumonia and Johnes (which is kind of like Tuberculosis in humans but not zoonotic). We are clear of all diseases! We have one ewe who came up as “suspect” for CL, (neither negative nor positive) so we are watching her with a gimlet eye. That said, I think we are in the clear, so I am now willing to consider selling rams for crossing purposes. So let me know if you would like one!
So, mismothering: On 3/31, ewe 1627 went into labor. Many ewes chase existing lambs thinking they’ve given birth, but 1627 somehow managed to convince one of 1606’s lambs that he was in fact hers. So when her real lamb was born, she had milk for one but a huge, hungry single to feed. 1627’s real lamb was hypothermic on Monday morning, and we’ve been trying to energize him ever since. He seems to brighten, only to stop eating and weaken again. I admit I am finding him rather frustrating! So we will end up raising him, even though his mother was willing to try, because she won’t give up her stolen lamb and there is only milk for one in her udder.