Ewes have calls that are as individual as mothers calling their children by name in the playground.
It is not unusual for any shepherd with a large number of sheep to have a lamb in a box to be fed. We have many different ways of ensuring a lamb has a mother and is out in the fresh air getting the exercise it needs to stimulate good growth and health. The first trick is to try to ensure that each ewe has the right number of lambs for her milk. This can mean adding or taking away a lamb. If a ewe does not have enough milk for two you can supplement one or both lambs, which we often do with triplets. She has two and I have one part time. This is a win-win situation as I don’t have to feed as often (middle of the night) and she raises three good lambs.
If you have a ewe that has lost a lamb that is not milk related then we have a head gate system that will often in two days have a ewe adopt another lamb as long as the lamb is healthy enough to suck. After that step we usually put the ewe and adopted lamb in a small area where they get used to following each other before going out to the large group. This also works for adding another lamb to a ewe that has a lot of milk, but only had a single lamb herself.
Often it will take a day or so for the ewe to have her milk come in fully. Sometimes especially with a first-time lamber it is a good idea to carefully watch the mom and lamb to ensure that both are doing their part – ewe providing milk and lamb getting up under there and sucking. I often walk the pens with a bottle and quietly check to ensure new lambs are staying strong. Most ewes soon figure out that you are helping and now I often have ewes that can’t find their lamb come and holler at me to help find their wayward lambs.
Ewes have calls that are as individual as mothers calling their children by name in the playground. Some have a deep voice and short call and some are high-pitched screamers.
I was surprised the other day by one of our very old faithful ewes (twins consistently and never a problem and comes for a scratch all the time) calling her lambs. One didn’t come right the first time so she hollered in her deep voice, usually two short “baas.”
When it did get there, she let go a tirade the likes I’ve never heard from her before. You just knew that lamb was in trouble with mom!
Lambs are equally individual and have their own little variation of voice. You can even tell who is calling if you pay attention. Unfortunately that means you spend a lot more time in the barn than in your house. Sheep also remember faces and understand when you call them by name. The lambs I bottle all answer their name (number on their eartag) when I call them and most continue to answer their name even as they get older and have lambs of their own.
Pete and Lorna Wall raise White Dorpers, Black Dorpers
and Katahdin Sheep as well as border collies
in Poplarfield, Man.