Tag Archives: bum lambs
Every year, we end up with a number of bum (orphan) lambs. They are motherless due to a variety of circumstances. Some ewes have more lambs than milk. Sometimes a ewe dies, leaving an actual orphan. Some lambs are weak, or injured, or just lost.
We sometimes are asked why these motherless lambs are called “bums”. It’s because they are “bumming” milk from their compatriots, or at least the most successful ones do.
This year, we have ended up with more bums than usual, partly due to our decision to lamb all the almost two-year-old ewes in the sheds. They did produce more lambs than milk. These are lambs that might have died on the range, so we are glad to have them back at the Home Ranch. This year, we decided to go all in, and raise them in an “organized” manner.
Raising bum lambs involves a lot of extra time, labor and money, as we purchase lamb milk replacer, which costs somewhat more than illegal drugs. This year, our efforts to supplement the lambs has been aided by Lady, the livestock guardian dog mom. We put her and her seven puppies with the multitudes, figuring it would be a good bonding experience for lambs and puppies alike.
Little did we expect that Lady would take her responsibilities so seriously.
For many years, our lambs have been born on the open range, under the care of herders. Lambs usually come into the world under one of three management systems. Shed lambing calls for a lot of management, and a lot of labor, as the new moms and baby lambs are brought into the protection of sheds, and placed in “jugs” (little pens). In the past, we have lambed in sheds in March. We raise our own rams and for a number of years, we have shed lambed our farm flocks of Rambouillet and Hampshire ewes, who are the moms of the replacement bucks.
Most of our ewes “drop lamb.” Pregnant ewes are tended by herders. Each morning and evening, they ride through the sheep and “cut the drop.” This means that the ewes with brand-new lambs are “dropped” back, while the still pregnant ewes are moved ahead to fresh ground. This requires a large landscape, with the ewes scattered among sage and grass. In a few days, the ewes and their baby lambs have had a chance to “mother up” and are gathered into a bunch. When these flocks of ewes and lambs are put together, and the lambs are docked, they will trail on up to the Forest for the summer months.
The third way of lambing is open range lambing. Some producers with large tracts of private land build tight fences, concentrate on predator control, and let the ewes lamb without assistance.
Shed lambing saves the most lambs, due to one-on-one (or two, or three, or even four) attention. Drop lambing still involves a lot of labor, and has the advantage of keeping the sheep on clean ground. The herders ride through the sheep constantly and help any that require assistance. The disadvantage of drop lambing is vulnerability to bad weather, and increased exposure to predators, from coyotes to ravens. The weather has been more volatile the past few years, with spring storms killing hundreds and hundreds of lambs.
In an attempt to reduce our losses to weather, we have constructed a couple of large sheds in the last two years. The investment in infrastructure has been considerable, but our goal is to save lambs, and give ourselves, and the sheep, more protection against the vagaries of weather. This involves a lot of work for us and our employees.
On the range and in the sheds, our employees and family members are working to keep the ewes and lambs healthy. It has rained every day since we started lambing, and we are lambing in the wool, due to the shearing contractor not showing up. Even the ranch cook has helped out, after bringing hot lunches to the shed every day. Way to go, crew!