What happens after a baby lamb is born…

Lambing (when the ewes (aka mamas) are having their babies) is always a fun and exciting season, albeit exhausting too. My parents are involved in the day-to-day tasks as the sheep ranchers, I get to help on weekends and when there are bigger tasks to do, like when we wean, tag, and worm the lambs.

Today I want to talk about what happens in the first few hours and days of the lambs’ life.

There are visual signs from the ewe when she is nearing lambing (I will go into that in another post), we keep a close eye on the ewes and check on them several times a day. Sometimes if we catch them early in the birthing process we will put them in their own private pen, and sometimes they have their lamb(s) in the bigger shed or outdoors, and we later move them into a private pen. We really try not to hover over them while they are birthing as it makes them nervous, and can delay the process. Instead we let them do their thing for about 30 minutes, then check on them, give them another 30 and check on them again. At this point if no progress is made we catch them and perform a pelvic exam to ensure the lamb is coming normally. A normal birth in the livestock world is both front feet and head coming first. Any other version of that usually results in us intervening.

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Source: Ethiopia Sheep and Goat Productivity Improvement Program (ESGPIP)

Also, depending on the age of the ewe and the size of the lamb she may need assistance having her lamb too. Unless there are complications we try to let her have the lamb on her own.

Once the lamb has been born, the ewe’s natural instinct is to get up and start licking the lamb off. This is a bonding process, but more importantly this dries the lamb, which is essential for survival if they are born outside in cold temperatures. At this point, if we see the birth we check to make sure that the nasal passages of the lamb(s) are clear and free of the amniotic sack or any any other blockages.

Almost immediately the lamb will try to start standing on wobbly legs to nurse. It is important that the lamb get the first milk (aka colostrum), which helps them get a good start on life. We watch closely to make sure they have figured out how to nurse. Sometimes they need a little help learning to latch on, and sometimes the ewe has so much milk that her teat is too big for the lamb to latch on, making it difficult for the lamb to nurse. Once the lamb gets older it has no problem keeping up with the ewe’s milk supply, but in the early days it can be challenging. Also in the first few hours we put iodine on the lamb’s navel, which helps decrease the chance of infection or illness. If the ewe is going to have another lamb, she will usually start birthing again shortly after licking the first one off. Sometimes however, she has a second one quickly and doesn’t have a chance to lick the first one off immediately. We hope that she comes back to clean both of them after the second one is born, if not we try to dry it off with an old towel.

As mentioned before, if the ewe and her lamb(s) are not already in a separate pen, they get moved to one. All pens have fresh straw, water for the ewe, and a heat lamp for the lamb. Also, when the ewe has finished lambing and taken care of her lambs (i.e. licked them off and let them nurse) we then provide her with hay, so can get her energy back up after the tough experience.

Depending on weather and how the lamb is doing, they will stay in this pen for about three days. Before they are turned out with the rest of the flock, the ewe receives her spring vaccinations and a paint number is put on her back that matches the number on the lamb’s eartag. The lamb will be weighed, given a unique eartag (that matches the ewe’s back number and her eartag number), and an elastrator is put on the tail. An elastrator looks like a green rubber cheerio. Essentially it cuts off the blood supply to the tail (or if applicable, the testicles – but that elastrator doesn’t go on until they get a little bit older).

At this point the ewe and her lamb are ready to join the rest of the flock. It doesn’t take long before the lambs are running and playing with other lambs and then eating hay out of the lamb feeders. At our ranch, the ewes and lambs are locked up at night to help keep them safe from predators (i.e. coyotes). We are careful to make sure these new little babies are in this space every night, as they start to learn the routine.

What didn’t I cover that you want to know more about?

sleeping-lamb


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Lambs: Weaning, Scrapie tags, and worming

This past weekend I headed out to the ranch to help wean lambs. Weaning just means that they have become old enough and/or weigh enough to be able to flourish on their own, so they are separated from their mothers. For lambs, our rule of thumb is 60 days or 60 pounds, meaning they must be at least 60 days old to be weaned or weigh at least 60 pounds.

The ewes (the mamas) can start getting thin at this stage because these bigger lambs are still nursing and the ewes have a hard time maintaining their body weight and condition with these big lambs nursing them. The lambs at this age and stage are also eating hay and can graze, so it is time for them to be weaned. Plus, in a few short weeks excited 4-H members will come and select the lambs they will raise and show this year.

We sorted the lambs into two pens, one pen held lambs that met the 60/60 requirements and the other pen held the lambs that still need more time. Twenty-nine lambs were sorted into our wean pen and everyone else was let out to go eat their morning hay.

Luckily we started early enough in the morning the ground was still frozen and we could get the horse trailer backed up to the shed. We have gotten so much moisture in the last month that there is mud that is at least ankle deep. Once the horse trailer was in place we let the lambs out of their pen and they ran right to the trailer and loaded (yay for this going so well).

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Kelsey helping make sure the lambs stay put

Now since we had them in a confined space (i.e. the horse trailer) we wormed them (they can get internal parasites from drinking out of running water sources, worming helps keep them healthy) and they got their Scrapie tags. Scrapie (pronounced scrape – e) is a fatal, degenerative disease of the central nervous system of sheep and goats, of which there is no cure. Other animal species can get a form of this prion misfolding disease too. In cattle it is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “Mad Cow Disease”), in people it is variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has a national scrapie eradication program, and each state department of agriculture has a premise identification program. In the premises ID program, each animal rancher/farmer verifies what their address is and what species they raise. Before sheep (or goats) can leave where they were born they must be tagged with one of these tags, if there ever was a Scrapie outbreak, the animal could be traced back to its home ranch/farm. Fun fact – it is illegal to remove the Scrapie tag before an animal is harvested. That tag must remain in the animal’s ear for its entire life.

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Scrapie tags

Once each lamb had been wormed and tagged with the Scrapie tag, the lambs were taken to their new home. A pen near where they had always been. They will stay in this pen until they go to a new home with the 4-H members, until any replacement ewes are big and mature enough to rejoin the flock, or they are harvested for meat. In this pen they have access to alfalfa hay, grain, and fresh clean water, as well as two sheds.

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The weaned lambs settling into their new home

It usually takes a couple of days for the lambs and ewes to recover from weaning. The lambs learn how to eat hay and grain out of feeders and the ewes have a chance to start putting some weight back on that they may have lost while nursing. If the ewes get too thin they have a hard time cycling and breeding again.

Weaning lambs is a lot of work that requires all of us to get it done. But it is also rewarding because you can really see how well the lambs are doing and have pride in knowing that under your care they will reach their full potential.

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The lamb weaning and working crew

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Reflecting on a year in Nevada…

Happy 2017! I cannot believe how quickly 2016 came and went. So many people talked about what a terrible year it was. I thought it was a pretty great year. I thought I would take a moment to reflect on some of the 2016 adventures.

In December 2015 I announced in The Book of Life I had accepted a job with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and would be moving back home closer to my family.

We had some time in-between leaving Nebraska and when my new job started, so naturally we stayed with my parents. We were involved daily with the chores and animals on the ranch. And boy did it get cold, caring for baby lambs in freezing temperatures was certainly a priority.

The weather actually ended up delaying our moving truck, and needless to say we had to camp out in our apartment for about a week until our stuff arrived. It was kind of awkward to come home and night and not have anything (nothing) to sit on. But we survived and spent the next months unpacking…

We spent much of January and February settling into a new normal. The Hubs looked for work, and was actually able to get employment with the same security company he was with in Nebraska. We went to the ranch when weather permitted and enjoyed being able to help out my folks.

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Because who doesn’t need a sheep selfie?

After almost six years to the date, the Hubs became an American citizen. Whew what a process that was. If it wasn’t for a fantastic immigration lawyer (and money, and time) we could not have done it. Hindsight is always something, but we put together a list of 10 immigration tips in case you ever need to go through the process yourself (or know someone who is), as knowing some of these things upfront would have been helpful.

Tony
Becoming an American!

I became an aunt! My Mom and I made several trips to Wyoming to help my sister get ready for his birth, then to meet the little guy, then to spoil and cuddle him. He is seriously the most adorable kid ever… ok, I am probably biased, but he is pretty great, and cute. The whole family was able to spend Labor Day (for the folks’ 40th wedding anniversary) and Christmas together. We are eagerly anticipating the big cake smash birthday coming up.

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He was so little here…

In March, we headed south and took advantage of the Death Valley Super Bloom. Neither of us had ever been there, but enjoyed the few days we had. Not only was it an excellent place to visit, but one we certainly will return to. Next time we go, we decided we would camp in the park instead of driving to the motel in a nearby town. We would also watch all of the sunrises and sunsets, as the ones we saw were fantastic. And we probably wouldn’t try to see every.single.thing in the park in one visit.

Death AValley Super Bloom

If you know anything about me from social media, you know I like to cook (and eat). I experimented a lot with clay pot cooking, and tried cornish game hens, meatloaf, and chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

In July my office hosted the first-ever youth summer day camp. We spent a week highlighting some of the projects youth can do in 4-H and explored the great outdoors. We had so much fun that we will continue this camp and talked about adding a winter one as well.

Living in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range gave us the chance to hike, swim, and explore areas near us. We didn’t make near enough time to enjoy as much scenic beauty and we wanted, but have been building our 2017 list of places to visit.

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Lake Tahoe

In the fall I had a ton of travel. I was fortunate enough to attend meetings and conferences where I could catch up with friends, as well as make new friends and learn new skills from events like BloggyCon and Top of the Class. I also was able to squeeze in a couple of fun trips too.

We bought a house! Apartment living was not for us. So we bit the bullet and bought our first home. Surprisingly, the process went much, much better in real life than I had imagined it would go. Yes, it seems we ended 2016 much the same way we started 2016, packing and moving. And let me just say that going through a move twice in one year is way too much. Two months later I am finally at the stage where I am hanging stuff on the walls and decorating.

2016 was a year of change and challenge, new beginnings, exploration, and family. I saw my family more in the past year than I had in the last six years. It was great being able to go 4-wheeling in the mountains, celebrate life events and holidays, and just hang out. On the work front, getting adjust to a completely new and different system has taken time, but we are once again full-staffed and everyone has learned their roles and responsibilities. I look forward to what 2017 will bring, and wish you all the best.


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Best of 2016… Agriculture to art

My blogging took a backseat this year after moving from Nebraska to Nevada and getting settled in out west. Resettling took more time than I thought, but that is a post for next year 🙂

I look forward to getting back on track and bringing great stuff to you in 2017. Until then, I wanted to share some of the best posts of 2016, as well as some all-time favorites.

Top 5 posts written in 2016…

  1. Does freezing meat make it more tender?
  2. Meat: To wash or not wash?
  3. Robot butchers? Technology coming to your table
  4. Grain Silo Art
  5. Clay pot cooking: Cornish Game Hens

Reader all-time favorites…

  1. Is the beef industry sustainable: A look at grass-fed, hormones, growth promotants, and more
  2. No added hormones & no antibiotics – meat labeling terms (3)
  3. Chicken ears – the better to hear you with…
  4. Why is there a hole in that steer?… Fistulated Fun Fact Friday
  5. Organic vs. Natural Programs – meat labeling terms (2)
  6. Processed meats and cancer: Fearmongering or true concern?

And because I just like these…

  1. Growing up a rich rancher’s kid
  2. Poop patty… Is there fecal material in your hamburger?
  3. Caring for livestock in cold temperatures
  4. Dark cutting beef… Fun Fact Friday
  5. Butchers, are you talking to yours? 21 conversations you should be having (if you are not already)

I hope you have a happy and healthy New Year!


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Gene-editing: Improved animal welfare and food security?

I recently came across an article from the Progressive Dairyman magazine called Gene-editing tool could improve animal welfare and food security written by Holly Drankhan. I would strongly encourage reading it as it talks about some emerging technology that not only can make great advancements in animal welfare, but also help potentially make cattle more efficient in milk production and rebreeding.

Additionally, CRISPR technology differs from the technology used to created genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and it is important to understand the differences.

As quoted from the article:  “In the same way that spell-check identifies and corrects single-letter errors in a word or grammar errors in a sentence, gene editing can be used to identify and change the letters that make up the genetic code within an individual,” wrote Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal genomics and biotechnology cooperative extension specialist for the University of California – Davis Department of Animal Science, in an eXtension article published in 2015.

One of the major benefits of this CRISPR technology is creating cattle without horns (polled) which greatly increases safety for other animals and people. Check out the video here:

Where else could CRISPR technology be used?

**Note: no compensation was received for this post. I just believe the information was worth sharing.


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Technology: Reflecting on successes and challenges

What if I told you that some of the best scientists in the world have come up with amazing technology? Technology that could potentially save lives? Technology that could decrease water and pesticide use? Technology that would help people make a better living for themselves and their families?

Hopefully you are asking yourself why this technology is not being used? Or maybe you are thinking, get this technology into the hands of the people who can use it most.

Unfortunately, this technology is hung up in the regulatory process. Unrealistic timelines and costs to bring this technology to fruition…

This technology is biotechnology. You may be most familiar with biotechnology when a Vitamin A fortified rice (aka Golden Rice) was created or when biotechnology saved the papaya industry in Hawaii.

To better grasp these opportunities and challenges, check out 20 Years of Innovation: Reflecting on Successes and Challenges of Biotech Crops by Craig Rickard, executive director for plant biotechnology at CropLife International.

**Note: I am not receiving any compensation for this post. I just find the information very relevant and informative.


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Veganism for children?

This morning my husband sent me a link to an article that I thought I would share here with all of you, as it seems to be such a problem that laws in Italy may go into place. Veganism for childrenItaly may outlaw veganism for kids.

As published on The Daily Beast by Barbie Latza Nadeau:

Italians do love their wild boar pasta and thick Florentine steaks. So it is no wonder that not long after Chiara Appendino, the new mayor of Turin, announced that she would like to see her northern Italian town become the country’s first “vegan city,” Elvira Savino, an opposing politician, announced she had a beef with that. Then Savino promptly introduced a law that would make raising children on a vegan diet a crime.

Under the proposed legislation (PDF), which will be debated in parliament this fall, parents who raise a child on a vegan diet could face a year in prison if their child is over three years of age, and two years in prison if the child is younger. The sentence increases to four years if the vegan child develops a serious health condition, and up to seven years if the child dies from anything related to malnourishment.

This is not as far-fetched as at first it might seem. The law has a chance of passing.

Support for it gained traction this summer after two children in northern Italian towns were hospitalized due to vitamin deficiencies thought to be tied to their enforced vegan diets. In late June, a two-year-old girl in Genoa was treated in an intensive care unit of a local hospital after she became unresponsive. Doctors said she suffered from severely low hemoglobin and an extreme B12 deficiency. Her parents were investigated by social services and, though not charged with any crimes, advised that if their child falls ill again under similar circumstances, they could be charged with neglect.

A few weeks later, a one-year-old boy was nearly removed from his home in Milan after a local judge there ruled that his parents’ vegan diet was detrimental to his health and “incompatible” with the growing child’s nutritional needs. The child was breastfed by his vegan mother for most of the first year of his life, and the judge ruled that his mother’s milk was not sufficiently nourishing. The child weighed just 11 pounds, more in line with a three-month old baby, and far less than a child that age should weigh. The parents must now prove that they are providing high protein alternatives and supplements that include meat and fish or risk losing their child to foster care.

For all that, veganism is growing in popularity in Italy. According to the health ministry around 2.9 percent of Italians subscribe to the strict dietary lifestyle which avoids all animal foods, not only meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, but also eggs, milk and honey. (More than seven percent of Italians are vegetarian, which is rather less demanding.)

Italian health authorities do not recommend a vegan diet for growing children. In the Italian school system, parents can only ask that their child be given a vegan school lunch if they have a medical certificate that states specifically the child’s medical condition, which must be an allergy or intolerance, that prohibits them from eating foods made from animals, especially milk and cheese products, which are considered staples for Italian children.

When Appendino, who is from the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement party, introduced her vegan program for Turin, she noted the importance of education in adopting the vegan lifestyle and said she would dedicate her mandate to education in this area. “The promotion of vegan and vegetarian diets is a fundamental act in safeguarding our environment, the health of our citizens and the welfare of our animals,” her program states. “Leading medical, nutritional and political experts will help promote a culture of respect in our schools, teaching children how to eat well while protecting the earth and animal rights.”

The law introduced by Savino, who is from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia center-right party, would not make veganism illegal, but it would make it virtually impossible for parents to impose the dietary lifestyle on children under the age of 16.

“I have nothing against vegans or veganism as long as it is a free choice by adults,” she told Reuters. “I just find it absurd that some parents are allowed to impose their will on children in an almost fanatical, religious way, often without proper scientific knowledge or medical consultation. ‘Do-it-yourself’ on these matters is what terrorizes me.”

The International Vegan Rights Alliance has condemned the proposed law, calling it “unfair, extremely misguided and discriminatory” in an open letter to Savino, and threatening to take the battle for veganism to the European Commission of Human Rights if the law passes.

If the law does pass, it could theoretically also pave the way to other legislation that protects children, including laws that would make a diet of fast food or excessive sweets illegal, or that would prohibit children from sipping wine at their parents’ dinner table. By law, children over the age of 10 in Italy are allowed to consume alcoholic beverages like beer and wine if a parent or guardian is with them.

Andrea Ghiselli, president of the Italian Society of Food Science, argues that any legislation should encompass all bad food choices. “Why just focus on a tiny fraction of society that imposes veganism on children?” he says. “Why not make illegal all the bad food choices parents make for their children?”

 This post is not intended to start an argument. I want to simply shed some light on a potentially serious problem for children. I am not a medical doctor, so I will not issue medical advice. However, if you choose to feed your children a vegetarian or vegan diet, please do careful research to ensure they are getting all of the nutrients needed for their young and growing minds and bodies. What are your thoughts on this lifestyle and the potential laws against it?
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