Our First Bottle Lamb


Will was our first bottle lamb.  We had recently switched from Navajo Churros to fine wooled sheep.  Navajo Churro ewes will their lambs to live even in the worst situations.  They are stubborn, fierce mothers and in the years I raised them, never lost a lamb.   (My) BFL on the other hand have been prolific but fragile about motherhood, particularly in their first lambing year.  

Will’s mother, Flora, a first timer, had been nesting that morning but did not appear to be in labor.  I left my job, in town twice that day to drive home to the farm and check on her. The second time I checked on her, she had separated from the herd, a good sign that labor and lamb were on the way.  I couldn’t miss more work so I headed back to town confident in the fact that when I came home in a few more hours, she would be settling in with her new charges (because, that’s how the Churro’s did it).  Not long after I arrived back at work I got a frantic call from my 6th grade son. Flora was in trouble the lamb’s head was part way out and its tongue was black. I was sure we had lost the lamb but suggest some ways he could pull it and save the ewe.  Novice that he was, he managed to deliver the single ram lamb and save the pair. Fresh from a wretched first birthing experience, Flora refused to have anything to do with her lamb. We tried several times and methods to get her to “mother up” but were unsuccessful.  Presto, bottle lamb!


I should probably say here that we had been raising goat kids in the house for a couple of years at that point so house babies weren't a foreign concept, we thought…  Bottle kids live in a stock tank in the house for about a week depending on the weather. After that, they move out to a stall in the barn or the baby pen outside, kinda like human kids.  Give ‘em a good start and then off they go! During their stay in the house the goat kids get to spend some time every day in the kitchen on the stone (easy to clean) floor, bouncing around, stretching their long, newborn legs and tasting kitchen towels and whatever is hanging on the fridge.  When they can reach the number for the local pizza place and attempt to call in an order, it’s time for them to move outside.


Will was different from the beginning. He’d had a rough birth so he was exhausted, had an injured eye (which may have happened in the delivery) and was covered in a goo that newborn goats are not. He did not eat well and was lethargic for the first day or so and there were times when I wasn’t sure he was going to make it. About day three he rallied. A pair of goat twins had been born and he so had buddies in the tank. The day he rallied, he really rallied. Goats jump up, when they are little, like dogs but they don’t generally jump out. Day three Will met me at the top of the stairs when I came home from work. I returned him to the tank but he was out in moments. I put him in the kitchen and raised the baby gate we use to keep then in, to the highest possible point. He was out again and I was headed to the store for premie diapers. Will spent another few days terrorizing our indoor cats, taunting the goat twins who couldn’t get out of the tank or kitchen and doing a yarn photo shoot for me (I had to get something out of this train wreck!). That weekend, Will and his buddies moved to the baby pen with some other kids that had been born a few weeks before. Will was the awkward kid. He never seemed to get invited to the goat kid parties but he tagged right along anyway. He continues to be a very friendly, somewhat pushy, sweet presence in our herd and he paved the way for all the other bottle lambs that have come since (none of which spend very much time in the house!)