Last year on the 17 of December we put Ramstein, our ram in with the ladies.  Viking, or wild sheep, have a slightly longer breeding window than regular Norwegian white sheep.  Breeding so late would ensure that our lambs would be born in the middle of May where the weather would be warmer and sunnier rather than the beginning of the month.  Just two weeks makes all the difference.

Because we used a natural method of breeding (rather than artificial insemination) the due dates are hard to tell.  In fact, for a time we weren’t sure if our yearlings were pregnant at all because they weren’t showing.  Normally sheep are shorn in spring before they give birth which enables you to see the pregnancy, even twins.  Having our sheep outside in the winter meant they needed to keep their fleece on.  We were sure our two year old ewe was pregnant as she was bulging but even feeling the tummies of the yearlings didn’t give us a clue.

We decided to make a lambing shelter for all the ewes anyway.  Villsau are good at natural birthing.  They normally leave the flock to a secluded area to give birth.  They return about a week later.  Unfortunately we have seen some dogs running loose in our area and so didn’t want to risk our sheep lambing without protection.

We set up a wire dog cage and made pens with wooden pallets.  We had ordered steel gates from the farmers store (along with 50 other farmers) but after three months they still hadn’t arrived, so we had to make do with what we had around the farm.  I must say the shelter was lovely – sunny and fresh.  In went the pregnant ewes.  Ramstein and our little ewe-runt, Ba-Ba, was left out.  Even though everyone could still see, smell and touch each other they did not like to be separated.  However, having the ram on the outside of the shelter actually created a natural guardian to watch over our pregnant flock.  Ramstein visits each ewe as he walks round and round and round.  At night he lays next to Josie, our two year old, on the other side of the gate.

A few days later we noticed fur scattered around the paddock.  A predator, probably our fox, had ripped apart a wild hare and the birds probably spread out the remains.  This gave us confidence that we were doing the right thing.  Villsau lambs are half the size of a regular lamb.

It is hard to tell when villsau will give birth.  I’ve spent many days lifting up tails and looking at vulvas.  (The change in size and colour of the vulva is an indicator of approaching birth.)  The ewe-lambs have not developed their udders, and likely do it after birth.  Finally, Cinderella’s water burst.  As soon as we saw it it was time to leave.  Sheep, and other farm animals, don’t like to give birth in front of people.  If people hang around sheep can hold off their birth for days.  There was one instance of a Norwegian reality show called The Farm where the farm novices kept checking the birthing cow every 15 minutes.  The cow held the birth and calf ended up dying inside as it took a breath and took in amniotic fluid into its lungs.

After an hour Moose checked on Cinderella and she had already given birth to a tiny little Viking girl.  Cinderella is an excellent mother.  She guards her little lamb very well.  She had even cleaned up after herself.  I was certainly glad that we had put the ewes in a pen as our first lamb on the farm was smaller than a Trønder rabbit!

We are thinking of names now.  We will be naming our sheep after the first letter of their mother to help us keep a naming record of lineage.  Any ideas on a name for Cinderella’s little girl starting with C?

 

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