Willow went into the lambing pen on the evening of March 5th, because she was clearly uncomfortable with contractions, stretching, and pawing the ground. I checked her hourly until midnight, then at 4 am, and John checked around 7:30, and there was no evident progress. Here she is in her “confinement’.
I spent time with her during the snowy morning, and she was very agitated, pawing the ground and circling the pen, but never lying down to push a lamb out. I went inside around 10:30. John checked on her a few minutes later and came back to say, “she’s really into it, you better not get on your exercise bike just yet.” Turns out she was lying down, pushing with all her might. I got in the pen but just observed several big contractions. Then I noticed a foot. Just one foot and no nose. So I put gloves on and began to help. Pushed the leg back in, gently, to try to find its mate. Watched for a nose–oh my gosh, it is big. Got hold of both front feet and pulled gently with a contraction. Stretched the opening to allow the head to slide through. Aah, there it is. Seconds later, about 11:00, a very big female lamb was lying at her mother’s nose. She weighed in at 14 lbs.
After the birth, Willow rested for half an hour and allowed her new baby to feed. She did well with licking and calling to her lamb. With encouragement, she got up, but then began pawing the ground again, circling the stall. This went on for hours. There was a thin white cord hanging from her vulva, which did not look like an umbilical cord to me. Here is a little video of Willow’s pawing.
Finally, it was almost 3:00 and we needed to have some lunch, so I went into the house. 45 minutes later, I headed for the barn. John made the pointed comment that I was going “to see if the afterbirth has come.” He did not believe there could be a second lamb with such a big first one. But a quick glance showed me there was another lamb in the pen. I went back to the house and said to John, “that is the biggest afterbirth I have ever seen, and it is walking around. You better come and see.”
Though he weighs 10 1/2 pounds, he looks scrawny next to his big sister. He has more of the Blue-Faced Leicester look, with gray ears, a narrow head, and those big eyes. Willow got busy licking him, but soon she was pawing the ground again! We thought maybe this time it would be the afterbirth. There were cords, veins, and other tissues hanging from her vulva. But soon she laid down and began pushing. A bulge emerged, but I could find no feet, no nose. The third lamb was coming breech. And when it was finally expelled, we could see that it was not viable. So the little 7 1/2 pound stillborn lamb was buried. How amazing that Willow, a first-time mother, was carrying over 30 pounds of lambs. In a way, the loss of the triplet is a good thing. It is much easier for a ewe to feed and care for two lambs, given that she has just two teats.