1980 Working in Burns Lake B.C. Starting collecting some nice sheep. I needed a ram, a nice one. The planner at the Regional District told me about an old Swede, just passed Rose Lake, way in the bush, he had som strange sheep. I found the place, up and down steep hills, just a trail, not a road. The old Swede was a frail looking hermit, living alone, for 100 years it seemed. The whole property had been a nice homestead once, that was many years ago, now it was derelict, he had not been able to do any repairs for many, many years.
His livestock consisted now only of a few dozen sheep running wild on the place. I don’t think he had cut hay for years, the fields looked wild. I thought many times later, that I should have asked him if he had family in Sweden, and any contact with them, but I did not. I should have helped him. I assume he passed away that winter, and the flock of sheep died out, and nobody knew. This is a remote place, nobody would just drive bay or visit.
His flock was a real mix, some black, some white, some chocolate-brown. I liked the chocolate-brown, newer seen a colour like this on a sheep before. He agreed to sell me a small ram, not asking much money, he wanted the lifeline to be carried on. I caught the ram and got him in my pick-up. I could have been the last visitor the Swede ever had.
The ram became very popular with my small flock of ewes and lamb, now may be about 12 in total, all white, all a mix of Corriedale http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corriedale_(sheep), some Cotswold http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotswold_sheep and a few Dorset http://dorsetsheep.org/ with nice horns. I like the horns. This ram had nice small horns. He grew, and before fall, breed the whole flock. Too early.
Sheep gestation time is 5 months, 5 days; and at 5 in the morning, they get you up, even though they do not need any help. But, it is nice to be there, as support if nothing else. The first year my flock got lambs at x-mas time, that was not so smart, I later learned to delay it to about Easter time. Some got one, some got twins, a mix of white and chocolate-brown.
One ewe got twins, one of each color, she liked the white one, that one was up and sucking, the chocolate-brown was laying in the snow, pretty cold I got up, and found them; she did not care. I tried to get him to suck, no avail, no response from her or him.
This happens all the time, and is one of the most heartbreaking of being a farmer, the ewe keeps one, and refuse the other. On larger sheep stations on can try several things, if one have time, place and willingness. If you have a ewe that have lost her only lamb, it is often worth the try. Lock the ewe in a small cubicle with the lamb that the other ewe did not want. Milk her and feed the lamb, or best if you can hold them both and get the lamb to suck directly. Once her milk has passed through the lamb, and the first dropping from her milk comes out, and she will smell that, and accept this one as her own.
Another method is to drape the hide of the dead lamb over the new, and it will smell somehow as her own. The few weeks of lambing is most important, so don’t plan any sleep at that time. most likely you end up with a pen of lost lambs, and buckets full of milk, with rubber teats, and they drink from there, becoming a happy motherless bunch, most likely destined for the easter lamb marked.
Back to brownie. Carried the skinny, wet, cold, miserable, little body with me into the kitchen; what could I do? Found a cardboard box that he fit into, and put some newspaper and hay in the bottom. The wife and kids were still sleeping. Grabbed a pail, milked some drops from the mother, not easy, so I got some milk from one of the goats, that was easier. To milk a sheep; well, it takes some patience, and skill, I had neither. especially at 4 AM on a winter morning. I only got a few drops, and took it back in the kitchen, warmed up a bottle with a smock, and drained it down the throat of the poor lamb. It is of course essential to the success the you get some of the mothers firs milk that has all the nutrients, antibiotics, and genetic ingredients that the offspring needs.
I needed milk, lots; one of the big Highlander cows had a half-grown calf, and lots of milk; that became my solution. I had never reason to milk her before, and she was hesitant at first, but when the calf came and drank at the same time, she did not mind. And, she like the attention I suddenly gave her. I could fill half a pail in no time. The little ram grew like crazy, on could see changes from day-to-day.
After a week he jumped out of his cardboard box, ran around the kitchen and anywhere else if the doors were open. That was fun, but he made his droppings anywhere, everywhere, and that was not fun. Not small dry sheep pearls you would think, more of the wet, runny kind. Next saturday morning I took him under my arms, carried him outside, and said that this is it. Now you learn to drink yourself, or else! A serious man to man talk.
I took him the his mother, she did not want anything to do with this kitchen freak. Next, the Highlander Cow. I held his skinny body up on to the teat, and milked into his mouth. After some tries, and getting the old cow to stand still, it worked. One could see and feel the belly of the skinny brown ram fill up. He could not walk after the first filling, just lying around. That first day or two I milked his belly full as often as I could. His belly became round and later fat.
Monday morning I had to go to work. I told him, while I milked his belly full, that this is it; from now you have to manage this yourself. When I got home that afternoon he was running around the cows. Round and full of milk. He not only drank from the one old Highlander, he went around and tried to suck from all of them; they kicked to keep him away, but he did not care, he went right back for more punishment and more milk.
This chocolate-brown ram became the largest, nicest ram I have ever seen. I had him until he died of old age, may years later, grazing around the home down south in Sechelt.
I could not butcher him out and put the meat in the freezer, I liked him too much. He was the main stud gen to my small flock of sheep for more than ten years. He produced nice offsprings. I never gave him a name, but something with Chocolate would be in it. Thanks also to the old Swede.