Tag Archives: sheep

Welcome to the World, Baby!

Posted on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 by Sarah

Warning: I talk about bodily fluids in this post. It’s natural, but not necessarily pretty. You’ve been warned.

Who wouldn't love seeing these faces everyday?

Who wouldn’t love seeing these faces everyday?

 

Sunday afternoon I was at home, two hours away from Guelph. I had been out with my friends all weekend and I was tired and ready to get home and rest. My plan was to leave at 1:00pm. 12:45 rolls around and my car is packed. I was ready.

But as per usual on the farm, my plans changed.

Mom had just left to go away for a week and my dad and brother were planning on going to London for the afternoon to see a London Knights playoff game (Go Knights Go!). But March is the time when lambs are born, and as with any pregnancy – when its time its time. Dad had made a few trips to the barn already that morning, and it was time. We were about to get a new baby lamb. I was tasked with staying home for a little longer, and making sure everything went smoothly.

The signs were all there; she didn’t eat her breakfast, she was restless and she was keeping her distance from the rest of the sheep. Now usually, sheep have little to no problems when they lamb. You can leave for a half an hour and come back to a few fresh faces in the barn. We don’t often like to interfere, and I’m sure the sheep like to be left alone during this time (I wouldn’t want onlookers during this either!).

Welcome baby!

Welcome baby!

Unfortunately, this time an easy birth wasn’t in her cards. By 2:30pm the she was pawing, panting, lying down and getting up and generally looking more and more uncomfortable. This is when I decided it was time to lend a hand. And that’s exactly what I needed to do.

Normally, when a lamb is born, its two front feet will come out first with its head between its legs. This time the lamb was “supermanning” as I like to call it. One foot out straight, then a head, then a second foot tucked back. If a lamb is positioned like this inside the ewe, the chances of someone getting hurt during the lambing process is really high.

I’ve never been to vet school, the closest I have come is taking an “Animal Structures” course at school which I dropped after the first midterm because it would have been a guaranteed fail. But I’ve been in the barn hundreds of times during lambing, and I’ve learned how to help.

I had the barn supervisor there to help me!

I had the barn supervisor, Harley,  there to help me!

Helping a ewe lamb definitely isn’t pretty, as with any pregnancy there’s blood and a lot of “goo”. That’s a nice name for it. If the lamb is positioned incorrectly, as this one was, it has to be re positioned and that can’t be done from the outside. I had to find the other leg and pull it forward. Off came the rings, up went the sleeves and inside I go (yeah, in THERE).

I can’t tell you how many times I told the sheep “I’m sorry girl” or “We’ve almost got it”. It took me longer than I was planning on, but I couldn’t exactly see what I was reaching for. Not to mention the ewe was unable to stay still, which I can’t blame her for. Somebody poking around inside me wouldn’t be the most comfortable thing in the world. It was a tough, dirty, uncomfortable job. I almost had myself convinced that this lamb only had one leg, because I thought I searched everywhere. But then I felt those tiny little toes. I finally found the other leg, and was able to pull it forward. I was wet, shaking and almost in tears because I knew the ewe was in pain and I wanted it to be over for her.

It almost was. One more big push and out came the lamb, a little ram lamb. We were both ready for it. I picked up the lamb and cleaned off its face so it could breathe, then I put him at the moms nose. The ewe started to lick the lamb off (this is a bonding process for both the lamb and mom) and she hopped right up as if she just came in from outside.

Momma and babies are up and ready to go!

Momma and babies are up and ready to go!

Within 15 minutes, she had a second lamb (another boy!). This time there were no complications.

I’m happy to report that all are alive and well. See for yourself!

 

Winter, spring, summer or fall – its always the season to farm

Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 by Sarah

Sheep in Barn DoorLike every other person in Canada right now, I am so unbelievably ready for summer, its almost painful. I’m ready to take a vacation, to sit back and relax, and to not need to wear 16 layers just to go outside and still freeze.

The thing about summer though is when you’re a farmer, it’s actually the busiest time of year. Starting in about April, farmers are getting antsy to get out in the fields to start planting their crops. But planting isn’t the only job, once the crops are in the ground you have to fertilize, spray for weeds, monitor for disease, maybe even spread manure on the field, and if you’re on my farm, drive by the field everyday just to make sure it didn’t disappear.

When we aren’t focused on the crops we could be cutting grass, fixing machinery, putting the sheep out to pasture, fixing electric fences, cutting more grass, cleaning manure out of the barns, cutting, raking or baling hay, picking stones or maybe cutting some MORE grass!

 

My dad out checking on the girls, just because it was hot out.

My dad out checking on the girls, just because it was hot out.

The point of all this is that farmers work every day and they don’t get vacation days. 365 days a year a farmer is on their feet. On the sunny, hot, hazy days when you want nothing more than to be laying on the beach, a farmer is out working. On those minus 40 degree nights that we saw last winter where you didn’t want to uncurl from under a blanket in front of a fire, we went to the barn to make sure our sheep were okay. And we are okay with that.

We don’t get sick days either. We can’t wake up and play hooky from work, or stay in bed when we have the flu. We feed our sheep twice a day, once in the morning, once at night. There’s no back up plan. Lucky for my parents they had two kids, I got suckered into doing some chores around the farm when I was younger if my parents were sick. But you know that saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? It is extremely relevant to farmers, especially the older ones! Even when you help them, they supervise, then double check your work to make sure its done right.

I think this commitment and responsibility gets forgotten a lot of the time.

Think about it.

On those cold February days, when you were inside eating your dinner, did you think about how lucky you were that you were inside and out of the cold? Probably. Did you think about the farmers, who are braving the cold to feed their livestock? The farmers who didn’t get to stay inside where it was warm? Probably not.

I hate the cold, but its never too cold to stop me from getting a selfie with these cuties.

I hate the cold, but its never too cold to stop me from getting a selfie with these cuties.

What about on those hot, humid summer days, when you can come home from work, crack a cold drink and take a dip in the pool? Did you think about the farmers who are riding the back of a wagon, stacking hay bales so that their sheep or cows or whatever it may be, can have their own dinner when winter comes around and they can’t get to the grass in the pasture?

Being a farmer can be relentless. It can seem like the work never ends, and your to-do list just keeps growing and growing. But its worth it. Providing food for families across the country, giving a safe home to our sheep, that feeling of accomplishment that is felt at the end of every single day makes it worth it.

There is no greater thing than being a farmer. I challenge you to find a happier or more grateful person than a farmer.

Stats Canada says there are over 200,000 farms in Canada, 97% of those are family owned. Over 195,000 farming families in Canada working everyday. 365 days a year.

Of course I love the saying “If you ate today, thank a farmer”, but what I think everyone needs to remember is not only to thank them, but also to appreciate them, because they appreciate you.

Decking the Halls….on the farm!

Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 by Andrew

Written by Kim Waalderbos of Farm & Food Care

b2ap3_thumbnail_MilkingParlour.jpgFor farm kids, there’s one thing that stands between them and their Christmas celebrations – farm chores. That’s right, farm animals take no holidays. However, Christmas day is far from an ordinary day for these Dinner Starts Here bloggers.

For Ontario dairy farmers Justin Williams and Andrew Campbell, Christmas morning starts long before the sun rises while so many others are still snuggled in bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. 

 

“Christmas morning starts at 4:30 a.m. when we wake up and head to the barn for milking,” says Justin, adding that despite the early hour the barn has a festive spirit. “Christmas morning always seems to be more cheerful in the barn.”

Across the province, at Andrew’s family farm, it’s all hands on deck too. “Christmas around here is pretty wild!” says Andrew. With everyone in the barn, chores go by very quickly with some milking cows, some feeding them, and others laying down a fresh bedding of straw. “It’s the chores we do every morning, but because the whole family is out, we get done much faster.” Then it’s in for coffee, breakfast snacks and of course – opening presents. 

On Christmas morning you’ll also find sheep farmer Sarah Brien in the barn. “Christmas morning is a busy time,” she says. “I think it is for every family, but especially when you have 150 animals in the barn that you have to feed before you eat, open presents and visit family.”

It’s divide and conquer for Stephanie Campbell’s farm family. “First dad goes out and does his early barn chores in the hen barn while mom and I start to get things ready in the house.” Stephanie squeezes in a trip to town to pick up her Grandma just in time for the family to gather and open presents. Then it’s back to the barn to gather eggs and finish up chores before the extended family arrives for Christmas dinner. 

“Our chickens still need to be taken care of on Christmas morning, and so they are part of our routine,” Stephanie says. “I have great memories of doing chores around Christmas time because everyone pitches in and helps.”  

The wait on Christmas morning for the food and presents is almost unbearable most farm kids will tell you. “My sisters and I would be vibrating with the excitement of Christmas morning being so close,” says beef farmer Scott Snyder. “Overall though, Christmas morning is likely my favorite morning because it is relaxed, filled with family and the atmosphere it creates is just plain peaceful”. 

For many farm families, Christmas dinner takes place mid-day. “Because we have to head back to the barn late in the afternoon for another round of milking and feeding cows, we’ll have our Christmas dinner at noon,” says Andrew.

“You don’t really get to take a day off and relax when you farm, but I think everyone would agree that we don’t mind it,” Sarah says.

This blog first appeared at Let’s Talk Farm Animals, and was re-printed with permission. You can click here to view it there.

A Clean Room Makes a Happy Mom….In All Species

Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 by Sarah

Remember all those times when you were younger (and probably even some of you who are older) When your mom would walk into your messy room and ask “Were you raised in a barn?” when referring to the mess? In my case, most of my childhood I probably WAS found in the barn,  though I think most people are ill-informed.

b2ap3_thumbnail_bale.jpg

As farmers its our job to make sure our animals stay healthy. This job entails making sure they have the proper diet, aka no junk food! It also means they need clean water, the rule of thumb on my farm is if you wouldn’t drink the water available to the sheep, why should they? Lastly, it means making sure they have a clean ‘room’! This doesn’t mean you pick up their toys and clothes, it means giving them fresh straw so they aren’t eating and sleeping in dirty conditions.

It only takes a few hours a few times a month to “bed the barn” (which means putting down the straw in all of their pens), but you can tell everyone enjoys having a clean ‘room’.

Here is a frequent reaction we get:

 

 

New Lambs on the Ground

Posted on Friday, April 12, 2013 by Sarah

When lambing season comes on our farm, it is all hands on deck.  Lambing season is a month-long period when all are ewes are having their lambs. It can be a hectic time on the farm, filled with late nights, early mornings and many, many trips to the barn.

A typical day starts with someone (and I’ll admit it’s usually my dad) getting up at 6a.m to go to the barn and make sure that if any lambs had been born through the night, that they are content in their surroundings and healthy.

We take the lambs and their mothers and put them in a pen by themselves so they can bond and have their own space so the lamb can learn to eat, walk and get to know what their mother smells like.

Knowing their mother’s smell is important because when they are turned in with other lambs and ewes they need to know who their mother is. Lastly we give them a shot of Nutri-Drench or “Wonder Juice” as we call it on our farm. It’s a liquid molasses mixture filled with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, it really works wonders on the lambs, hence the name! The lamb should be up and trying to drink within ten minutes.

  

Their first steps are always a bit shaky, but they get the hang of it in no time. This picture was taken about 10 minutes after he was born.

We also check that there are no ewes giving birth then, if they are then we’ll usually help with the birth (called “pulling”). Pulling a lamb doesn’t hurt the mother; it just speeds up the process. This also allows us to check and make sure there are no complications with the birthing process. Just like in humans, lambs can be positioned incorrectly inside the mother, which means they need a little bit of help.

Lastly, you take a look for and ewes that look like they will lamb soon, there are a few signs we look for when doing this. If she stop eating, or is off in a corner by herself, or even her skin colour can get brighter pink. These animals are the ones that we watch when we come to the barn in the future.

Once everyone is content we go on with our day but be sure to check the barn every few hours even in the middle of the night. It means long days on the farm when the lambs come, but completely worth it, especially when you see how cute they are! J