Daria’s mother is still on the farm. We decided to give her a second chance. The issue would be if she had twins. A single, hopefully, would not be a problem. After all, she had managed to nurse Daria’s brother for a short time.
Two weeks ago, to our great relief. she gave birth to a single ewe lamb, Anest, happily adding to our registered Black Welsh Mountain stock. The lamb seemed healthy and robust, got to her feet almost immediately and started nursing. Success! They were both moved to a lambing jug where all seemed peaceful. Mother and newborn were bonding just fine, or at least it seemed that way. In the next day or two, Anest was both gaining weight and full of energy. Our fears were put to rest.
It probably wasn’t until day four that we noticed that something was seriously wrong. Anest had developed an eye infection and had stopped gaining weight. Her mother started pushing her away every time she tried to get close. It soon developed into open hostility, and, for Anest’s safety, we had to remove her from the pen. We took her to the house and started bottle feeding immediately.
Fast forward a few days, and Heidi, our second Icelandic, gave birth to 12 pound Hagar. We saw it as a perfect opportunity to try grafting. We had seen how gentle and caring Icelandic ewes are with their newborn lambs. Gretchen was proof of that with her twins. Why not give it a try since Heidi had just given birth to a single. For a successful graft, the ewe has to believe that the lamb is hers. One way of doing that is by covering the lamb to be grafted with the mother’s placental fluids. We did just that with Anest. Heidi seemed confused at first, looking from one to the other, as though she were seeing double. Eventually she started cleaning Anest. We placed her in position to nurse and she did. Anest was getting plenty; unfortunately, it was at the expense of Hagar. She was being much more aggressive than Heidi’s newborn. Hagar never stood a chance. The most important thing to remember when trying to graft a lamb to another ewe, we now realize, is to make sure the lambs are both newborns, or at least very close in age. The risk is that the ewe will reject her own lamb in favor of the stronger grafted lamb. So Anest came back to the house. We have nicknamed her Quinn, after Daria’s sister in the cartoon. She is now walking with us down to the barn every day, just as Daria did a year ago. Two sisters, two orphans, and Daria’s mother is still on the farm.
As a footnote, when I arrived at the barn this morning, I was greeted by what sounded like a foghorn, the loudest and deepest baa I had every heard. It was a little foggy outside, but I didn’t think that sheep needed to announce that fact! Sure enough, it was Daria, rambunctious, neurotic Daria. She and Darius had been put back in the big barn last night and were wreaking havoc. She kept looking for him even though he was right behind her. If Darius in any way takes after his mother, he was gladly playing into the frenzy! It wasn’t long before all the sheep in the barn were on their feet baaing. Even the lambs with their high pitched baas had joined in the chorus. This was way too lively for first thing in the morning. I much prefer the sleepy, tranquil scene that usually greets me at this time of day. Thanks Daria. Your presence has been duly noted.