In life in the 21st century with 24-hour new cycles and supermarkets it’s easy to lose touch with the rhythms of rural life. At Shiloh, spring means the peepers can be heard around the creek, the budding of fruit trees, honeybees emerging to flex their wings in the warming early spring sun. Also, at Shiloh early spring means lambing in our flock of Jacob sheep.
The gestational period of sheep is about 150 days. Hyperthermal in cold spring nights is one of the greatest threats to newborn lambs so at Shiloh we tend to breed our selected ewes a bit later than other shepherds, targeting a mid-April lambing window. While we generally try to shear before lambing this year our schedule is a bit behind. But even with a full coat of fleece its usually possible to assess when an ewe is going to lamb. Normally lambs are born nose and front feet first. Other presentations are possible but the risk of losing the lamb go up dramatically with breech births. Uncomplicated labor is quick – normally 30 minutes to an hour. After birth, the ewe will lick the lamb dry, and gently nudge it into a standing position. Lambs can walk minutes after birth. The relationship between an ewe and her lambs is often very deep and last an entire lifetime. Lambing this spring at Shiloh once again reminds us of the cycle of life and we never cease to be amazed at the resilience, complexity, order and beauty of life.