Udders have been on my mind the past few weeks. Our 7-month old ewe lambs were still nursing on their overly indulgent mothers. I will be separating the ewes in a few weeks, because the ewe lambs are going to pair with a different sire than the older ladies. I figured it would be good to get weaning out of the way before then; both so the mothers could start adding some condition (though none of them are thin!) and so the ewe lambs wouldn’t be stressing about weaning during the week they should be breeding. So, a few weeks ago, I split the hotwire enclosure into two halves.
It was a small trauma, the ewe lambs could still see their mommas a few feet away. But they complained nonetheless. The mommas were probably secretly relieved, because at this age, when a pair of twins simultaneously butts the udder to nurse, it lifts the momma off the ground! (That’s #33 and her triplets above, still nursing, though they are as tall as she is!) I didn’t anticipate any issues with the weaning, since the mommas have been tolerating only a small amount of nursing anyway, they were well on the way to drying up. Like this one, that looks nicely shrunken after her week’s separation:
Except #33. As many of you know, though we don’t officially name the sheep, she might as well have a name, she’s our favorite dorky sheep. She is an older lady, six this year. Her udder is big, like a dairy cow’s, and it shows that it’s had a lot of mileage! Textbooks tell you to value udders that are smooth, tight and evenly sized. #33 didn’t read the manual, as her udder is lopsided, warty, saggy and downright unlovely looking. But, it sure is functional, she raised triplets that are as big as any of the twins out there; and she’s still in very thrifty condition herself! Here is her not-quite-Dolly-Parton-anymore appearance after one week of trying to dry out:
Still plenty full of milk, and both teats working like faucets! This got me worried that she could develop mastitis, not having successfully absorbed the bag. Mastitis can ruin an udder for good! But, it all felt smooth and supple inside. So, I decided to leave her be for a few more weeks with her ewe lambs, and let nature take its course. I’d rather have her dry herself out in her own way, than try to force it and cause her problems. She seems to be drying up now, so maybe the week off from mothering has encouraged her to finally draw some boundaries with those enormous babies of hers!
And, a parting shot. #33 is very pragmatic. She is good for stock dog schooling, because she does not put up with a dog over-pressuring her or getting in too close. She will knock them right over! Here is is, giving Maggie the business, and you can see Maggie giving in and turning her head away. I still have to remind Maggie a lot to get off of #33 to get her moving, but she’s starting to learn to be smoother with her. #33 will move nicely for a dog, but only a polite and respectful dog! I’ve been amused to see her triplets have all learned the same thing; none of them put up with a pushy dog either!