Beatrice the Bum

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By Leah | Oct 19, 2017

I made a mistake last weekend that every good shepherd knows not to do. I moved a mother and her twins before I should have. You see, when an ewe lambs, she must first clean the lamb thoroughly and expel the afterbirth before you can move her. To do so before either of these things happen is to risk confusing her and having her reject the lamb. Which is exactly what happened. Sheep are not the brightest of animals (as I have mentioned before) and are easily confused and distracted.

My ewe Evie had twins in the upper shed near the feed trough. Instead of waiting as I should, I thought moving her away from the trough would be best to prevent the new lambs from being trampled by the other ewes. In doing so, I caused her to reject the smallest of the two lambs. So now I have a “bum.” That is the term given to lambs raised on a bottle. In days past, when a lamb was rejected, it might survive by darting in and stealing milk from other mothers (or bumming milk from them). Shepherds with big flocks did not have time to devote to a bottle baby, so if they did not put it down, they left it to fend for itself. A surprising amount of them lived to adulthood by doing this.

I am not so hardhearted. When I realized the lamb was not nursing, I brought her home. Then I was off to the Marion County Feed Store for powdered lamb starter and then on to my friend Nancy’s for fresh goat milk. I like to mix the two for the first few weeks. The lamb starter gives the lamb all the necessary nutrients a newborn needs, and the goat’s milk is wholesomeness all on its own.

The first lamb we had, I asked friends on Facebook to suggest a name for her. Her mother is named Honey and I had several suggestions, Molasses and Beatrice among them. At first I went with Beatrice, but then this little one came and the name just seemed to fit her better, so the other became Molasses.

Beatrice is a darling little girl. She seems quite happy on her own, as long as she gets her bottle at the proper time, and some loving attention now and again. She has chosen my dog Huckleberry as her companion and wants to be as close as possible to him.

Bea stays in a pen outside once the sun is full up and the day has warmed. Beauregard and Huckleberry are her guardians. She bounces and kicks up her heels and sleeps in the warm sun. When I go out to give her a bottle, I let her out to run and bounce around the yard a while. She loves to chase chickens.

At night Bea comes in. She sleeps in a dog kennel and Huckey sleeps next to it so she is never alone. We do allow her some freedom in the house. All baby animals need physical contact to grow properly, so we pet her and talk to her and let her follow us around for a bit. She is particularly fond of Greg.

Bea also takes the morning walk with the dogs and me. We go to the barn to feed the sheep and she gets a chance to interact with the other lambs. Once Beatrice is old enough, we will put her back in the barn with the sheep. When lambs reach 3 to 4 weeks old, they begin to bond and sleep together in a pile and the mothers take turns “babysitting.” I will still walk to the barn about three times a day to give her a bottle until she is about 4 months old. Then the lambs will all become “creeps” and be weaned. They will be fed in a “creep feeder,” which means they will be fed grain in a special place that only they can get into. After about three months of this, they will be allowed back with the rest of the flock. And I will have a valuable lesson to remember about moving my lambs too soon.