Baa-lancing Act:

Baa-lancing Act:

The Joys and Challenges of Raising Sheep

December 2023 vol. 3

Lamb is my favorite protein. It’s hard to beat grilled lamb chops, and I really love doing lamb kabobs alongside tzatziki, kalamata olives, and tomatoes.

But raising lambs is another matter.
On the positive side, sheep are easy to handle, they don’t test fences, they come when you call, they are prolific propagators, and they complement our other livestock.

However, keeping them alive is a constant battle.
Sheep, being especially tasty, are a favorite for coyotes and bobcats. Their smaller size makes them the ideal snack, and a pack of coyotes can wipe out an entire flock in no time.

And if the four-legged predators don’t get them, the parasites will. All animals have internal parasites, but sheep are especially susceptible as they graze very close to the ground where the nasty critters dwell. These nasty things feed on the animal’s blood, making them anemic. Once heavily infected, it’s hard to cure, and the sheep slowly succumbs. This is especially challenging in our humid environment that rarely experiences the hard freeze needed to set them back. Sheep are most susceptible during later stages of pregnancy and while nursing as the lambs are demanding more energy.

As I mentioned, sheep are prolific propagators, often having twins and occasionally triplets. And though lambs are a joy to watch, their frolicking feats often put them in perilous positions. Their seemingly uncontrolled bouncing is often the root of their demise. I’ve had to free several lambs that have gotten caught up in a fence or stuck in some bramble, and unfortunately, I often arrive too late.

So far this year we’ve been blessed with 5 sets of twins, but unfortunately only 7 lambs remain. One just disappeared, likely having gotten stuck somewhere and snatched up by a hawk or owl, and two didn’t make it past the first few days. These little ones were unable to latch on to their mother, who had exceedingly large teats and low hanging bags. She was an older ewe, and like the rest of us, couldn’t defy gravity. I tried my best to resurrect them, but I believe I was too late, and they were already seriously dehydrated and malnourished.

While raising lambs brings its share of challenges, the experience is deeply rewarding. We are constantly reminded of the delicate balance in nature and the privilege we have in nurturing these animals. Lambs are one of the many facets of Amber Oaks Ranch, grounding us in the cycles of life and the responsibilities of stewardship. Despite the challenges, our love for these critters, and the fulfillment they bring, makes the effort worthwhile

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