When Daria arrived at Black Sheep Meadows with her mother last May, she was starving. At 6 weeks of age, she only weighed just over 9 pounds, less than some of our newborn lambs. In her short life she had somehow survived on virtually no sustenance. Her mother had given birth to twins but only had enough milk to feed her brother, so she had been abandoned. The plan was to bring Daria’s mother to the farm so that she would be able to feed her. We assumed that once we eliminated the competition from her brother, there would be plenty of milk. This did not turn out to be the case. Her mother rejected her, and Daria was again abandoned. She became our first bottle fed baby.
Following our vet’s advice, we gave her raw cow’s milk, but not just any cow’s milk. It had to be milk from a Jersey cow. Apparently, Jersey cow’s milk has a higher fat content than regular cow’s milk. It is also the most genetically similar to sheep’s milk. So we started giving her a total of 100mls a day divided into 6 bottles. In two months or so, she was up to 8 ounces per bottle. She was gaining weight but still had a long way to go to catch up to the other sheep. At first we kept her in the house, but after awhile she wanted to walk with us to the barn just like our two Australian shepherd dogs. In fact, she spent so much time with the dogs that she started behaving more like a dog than a sheep. We knew it was time for her to join the rest of the flock. Even then, she kept to herself for the most part. Whenever she went into the pasture, she was so small that she would completely disappear in the tall grass until we called her name. Then, she would suddenly appear out of nowhere, do her little sideways lamb dance all the way down to where we were standing, gladly accept her bottle and then return to the pasture. While the others were gaining rapidly, she was very, very slowly gaining weight. So slow was her gain that we hardly noticed. We decided that she would never grow to the size of the others and consequently could never become pregnant. We even contemplated her role on the farm and decided that she would be the perfect farm mascot. We didn’t notice at first, but somewhere along the line she started growing. Before we knew it, she was the same size as the rest of the flock, rambunctious as ever, but a much larger version. She would still come running when we called her name, but now she would butt her way to the front of the line to get that much coveted bowl of grains.
At 5am yesterday morning she quietly gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, 10 pound ram lamb. Daria, the little orphan who was rejected by her own mother, had become a perfect and doting mother herself. When ewes give birth, they have a special sound that they make when they are cleaning or caressing their little lambs. It is somewhere between a purr and a low growl and can often be heard coming from the lambing pens. Those contented sounds could be heard coming from Daria’s pen all morning. We have indeed come full circle, and the story is now, hopefully, complete.