Voices From the Farm: Getting into the Swing, More Lambs and a Blizzard, the Last Battle Ends in a Victory

A Future Ram

March, 1979

The second group of ewes would not resume lambing until March 22, which allowed time between the two lambing groups for me to “get into the swing” of my new job, Secretary/Treasurer of the South East Minnesota Sheep Producers Association (henceforth known as SEMSPA).

It was a learning process! I was busy getting membership cards printed, signing up new members, sending out copies of our Articles of Incorporation, By Laws, Minutes of the Organizational Meeting, etc. Also, I was answering a lot of letters from people who had heard about the new sheep organization, and wanted more information.

At the time of that first meeting, we had 21 member families and 3 junior members join, but our membership was growing fast!

I also attended a SEMSPA Board of Directors Meeting in Rochester, on March 12. Traveling up I-90, in my little Datsun pickup truck, I had the strong feeling I would be meeting myself coming and going on the 130 mile round trip, “thumpety, thumpety” all the way. I-90 was not in the best condition at that time, and my truck was a rough rider to say the least, so those trips were not exactly a joy ride.

March 22, and lambing of the second group began. Everything was going smoothly until March 25. when a huge blizzard hit us. Lisa had left for the “Cities” with the Jazz Band on Friday. They got as far as Cannon Falls, where they were snowed in and had to bunk in the City Hall that night.

Ewes Out on Winter Stroll

They were due to get back home on Saturday night , but with the roads being barely passable in most areas, I had no idea when they would make it home, and I could not get out to pick her up at any rate, as our driveway was totally drifted in. All the snow moving equipment was busy trying to keep the main roads open, so there was little hope of getting our drive opened for a time.

We had an agreement with our friend Vickie, who lived in town, that any time Lisa could not get home, she could stay with Vickie. I called Vickie, to alert her that Lisa might be coming in, but really had no idea when to expect her. Vickie said that was okay, as she was not planning to go anywhere until the roads were all opened anyway.

Lisa and another girl rode home with the Band Director, and after a harrowing trip,they made it back to town about 3:00 a.m. Sunday. They passed our driveway on the way into town, but could see there was no hope of her making it in through the drifts, so they went on to the other girl’s house, where Lisa called home and found out Vickie was expecting her, so she was dropped off there and all ended well.

The sheep were very nice about not lambing during the height of the blizzard, but Sunday morning when I went to the barn, “Raindrops” was down in the lambing corner with a nice pair of twins. Many of this second group were first time mothers and were having mostly single lambs.

Breakfast in Bed

There weren’t many problems except for a close call on April 9. Luckily I came out to the barn shortly before midnight to make a last barn check, and feed the bottle lambs, and discovered that a ewe had lambed in the lower barn right next to the barn door, and in the process of cleaning her lamb, it had gone through a small open space at the bottom of the door, and was outside in the cold.

It was amazing, but the wet slippery lamb had simply slid through the small opening. The poor mother was pretty frantic until I got it back inside. Once she got the lamb dried off, and it was able to nurse and get a belly full of good warm colostrum, everything was fine.

That was actually a very easy lambing until the very last ewe started labor on April 20. The first lamb was presented normally, and was born with no problem, but she was making no progress with the second although she was laboring hard. I rather anticipated trouble when she began to be in great difficulty, so I had gone to the house and brought out warm water and green soap in case I needed to enter the pelvic area.

When finally, the only thing that showed was a tail, I ran to the house and alerted Jerry, who searched for my sheet on “Obstetrics in the Sheep Barn,” and then brought it out to the barn. I quickly looked it over to refresh my memory of how to deal with a breech birth, soaped up and while Jerry held the ewe’s head and steadied her, I proceeded to enter the pelvic area.

Big Honcho of the Chicken Coop

The lamb was presented butt first, and all four legs were turned toward the ewe’s head. I had to push the lamb back through the pelvis, then get my hand and forearm past the lamb’s butt, then along the legs, then one at a time, catch hold of a hock joint and slowly and carefully turn each leg so they pointed toward me.

The pain to the ewe, and also to me, was excruciating, as the pelvic muscles were pinching my hand and arm so hard that I could barely move my fingers as they were so numb. However, I at last got both legs turned without damaging the ewe’s pelvic area and was able to pull the lamb, as in the case of a lamb simply presented hind legs first. All ended happily, beautiful twins, and the mother recovered quite quickly, with a little extra TLC.

We did not lose any lambs in this second group, and only one in the first group, so I was getting very close to my dream of “No lambs lost!”

It helps to have doors on the barn!

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2 comments to Voices From the Farm: Getting into the Swing, More Lambs and a Blizzard, the Last Battle Ends in a Victory

  • What ever is green soap? Fantastic that you can birth babies with only a sheet of instructions- what an accomplishment- if you ever wanted a second career, you could go into mid wifery! I really enjoy reading your stories as they just make appreciate my food sources even more. Take Care,

    • Lea McEvilly

      Sands,

      You are, without a doubt, the most faithful commenter… and a good one! I enjoy your comments, as much as you enjoy the stories!

      What is ‘green soap’? It is just an antiseptic soap to add to (hopefully) warm water, and scrub your hand and forearm before entering the pelvic area to facilitate a delivery of a lamb, or whatever animal requires assistance in birthing. Not a good idea to get the lamb delivered safely, but give the ewe an infection. Also the soaping up makes your hand and arm slippery and aids in the process of entering the pelvic area, which is a pretty doggone tight fit!

      So exciting to be writing about the long awaited remodeling of the barn! Definitely a huge help in the future years!

      Lea