In John 21:16, Jesus, after having asked Peter three times if he loved him, told Peter to feed my sheep.
While a bit out context, this verse has been on my mind this week and particularly today, Easter Sunday, as MJ and I have been bottle feeding two lambs rejected by their mother(s).
It all started a week ago as several people joined me in ear tagging a set of twins born the day prior. As we finished tagging, we noticed a new mom in the next paddock south of where were (we are set up with 1-acre paddocks, for the most part). We walked down to check on them and at the same time move the dog feeder and water trough up to the north paddock, to keep the lambing in a smaller area, rather than spread across 5 acres.
It was a great idea, just a few hours too late, unfortunately. Turned out three ewes lambed, one of them with triplets, which of course were in the farthest paddock back. So, to get them moved up with the sheep, we tried to slowly move them by walking behind, but she did not cooperate (the other two mommas ran straight up with the sheep, no problem).
Unwilling to leave her by herself, even with gates open to allow our LGD’s access to that paddock, we instead picked up a lamb apiece and carried them up to the north paddock. Momma followed along, but seemed confused once they were back together, trying to figure out who was who and if they were hers. We worried we were touching them too much on the day they were born, and as you’ll see below, we were right to worry.
Long story short, if it’s not too late, when we out to ear tag those new ones, we found two lambs by themselves and obviously unfed, one to the point of being barely able to raise its head (we’re pretty sure they were lambs from the triplet momma). I called our local farm store, Orscheln’s, only to find out they had just closed for the day. However, when I explained the situation, the lady agreed to stay there for the ten minutes it took to get there and I bought two bottles, a bag of colostrum, and a big bag of milk replacer for kids. Turns out they saved our lambs by staying late.
My wife and I, with some occasional help from friends, have been bottle feeding them three/four times a day for 7 days now. They went from weak (one we really thought would die) to healthy looking, if a little small, lambs that are now gamboling around the pasture with their other newborn lamb buddies. We did have to put them in the shop for a couple of nights under a heat lamp as it down into the twenties.
Our two LGD’s have become their foster parents. The lambs split time playing with the others and curling up with our two dogs. When the dogs roam around to check on things, the two lambs follow along right behind them. It’s really funny to watch.
We are grateful for the late availability of the milk replacer and thank God that these two little ones seem to be on their way to health. And that on Easter Sunday, two more sets of twins were born.
Lesson learned: have milk and bottles on hand when lambing season starts.
BIGGER LESSON LEARNED: do not handle newborns on the day of birth, let nature take its course.
Video from Day 3 of feeding: