Douglas CountyEwe with her lamb

Our Ewes are Giving Birth Just in Time for the New Year!

The other morning, I went out and I noticed some new lambs in the pasture. I found five lambs and only three ewes were accepting them. This means there were two lambs that we were not sure of who their mother was. Because of this, we spent some time trying to match them up and pair them, and then, of course, we ended up with a ewe that wasn’t cooperative. It took us almost an hour, trying to put her in with her lambs, and fortunately, we were successful!

Quinn, who oversees things when we’re not here, got to see the birth of a set of twins two days ago and he thought that was the coolest thing since sliced bread because he’s never seen an animal born before. We’ve just been taking them as they come. Mom and baby go into what we call “putting them in a jug”, a little smaller area so that they can bond with each other. They do that for a couple of days so we can make sure that the lambs are all okay. Then we put them out with the flock where they become sheep.

The Delicate Bonding Process

Bonding a lamb and its mother is a very delicate process and sometimes if the process is disrupted, a ewe will end up rejecting her own lamb. Typically, when a ewe is giving birth, she makes certain noises that sound a bit like snoring. These noises are a way for her to talk to her offspring inside. Once the lamb is born, they both make noises. The lamb and ewe have their own specific noise that helps them recognize each other in a big herd. They also recognize each other by scent. Because of this, if you put another lamb in front of a ewe and she will push it away.

Why Lambs get Rejected

Unfortunately, there are a few reasons a ewe might reject her lambs. One reason is that the delivery caused the ewe a lot of pain. Sometimes, a young ewe will connect birth pain with the lamb and this can cause her to not want it afterward. Other reasons include the ewe not having a maternal instinct, the ewe or lamb being sick or weak, and even a person picking up a lamb too soon, which can change its smell and cause the mom to not recognize it. Some ewes develop mastitis, making it painful for the lambs to feed. These orphaned lambs are called “bummers”. We had a set of twins (2) that the mother died and needed someone to care for them. They were fortunate to find a new home! 

Rescuing a Bummer Lamb

Bummers may be saved by human intervention – it requires bottle feeding, much like a human infant. This is no easy task as newborn lambs drink little amounts, but often, so as a start you have to feed them every two hours. Also, for the first days, it can be a bit difficult to get the lamb to drink from the bottle. You have to keep trying over and over until it grasps it. With a lot of patience and hard work, a bummer may return to a flock.

We’re so grateful for our local community here in Gardnerville who stepped up in a big way to help our bummers – lambs whose mamas didn’t accept them and/or who need extra help with bottle feeding. We had three, and all three have been claimed! Thank you for helping us care for these babies!

Speaking of lamb…

Tips and Tricks for Lamb Recipes

For lamb shanks, I like to just sprinkle in some sea salt, cayenne pepper, a little bit of garlic, Italian seasoning and I braise them. Then I just simmer them in water until the meat falls off. Add a little bit of chicken bouillon, then I just pour it over rice. I’ve had a lot of people that have said that they don’t like lamb until they eat this recipe.

For leg of lamb, I like to pierce it and put pieces of garlic and rosemary on it, then you put it in a bag full of apple juice and soak it overnight. Then you can cook it either in the oven or on a barbecue. That’s a real simple, easy recipe, and delicious recipe.

For lamb loin chops, there’s a variety of things you can do when cooking them. Balsamic Vinegar is one thing that I like to use to marinate them. Then I add salt and pepper, and of course, Italian seasonings. And then just slap them on the grill or pan fry up.

For lamb shoulder chops, here’s a recipe I found with red wine and figs. Lamb shoulder chops are perfect for braising – it really gets tender and melts off the bones if you braise the shoulder chops and then bake it.

Click here to get the full breakdown of the different cuts of lamb and how best to prepare and serve them!

 Download the recipe here!