If you have livestock don't let anyone tell you they are dumb animals and don't have a mind of their own. They are creatures of nature, and that means one thing – they are unpredictable. Being a creature of nature and unpredictable gives them an edge that even the smartest livestock person in the world, whom I certainly am not, can't always overcome.
You've likely read of my stories about finding lambs during lambing season that weren't supposed to be born yet, or having one show up unexpectedly in May to a show yearling that wasn't supposed to be bred. But this latest episode might top them all.
There are several sheep running around here right now, some belonging to me and the rest to other people. The goal is getting them bred to one of the two rams who are also here right now. So I've been changing harness markers and writing down numbers of sheep that are bred.
I give them about a pound of grain a day, and grass pasture with some grass hay since the pasture is getting short. They certainly aren't fed like I feed pregnant ewes about to have a lamb.
One morning recently I went to the barn to let the ewes and ram in one pen out to pasture. I hear a faint noise and can't identify it. One of the ewe lambs from last winter gets hoarse and sounds funny, but this was fainter than that.
No, it couldn't be – not a lamb. This ram is supposed to be good, but he's not that good. You don't get a lamb two months after breeding!
Sure enough, it was a lamb, a tiny sucker, weighing in at about 4 pounds, but at least it was a little ewe. It was spry enough to jump up when it saw me. So the question was which of the 11 ewes in the pen somehow got pregnant at some point.
I rounded them up again in the dark – these things always happen in the dark – and started through them. Maybe it was one from my brother's that he sent to get bred to this ram. Maybe they were exposed to his rams. No, no udders, no signs of having just dropped a lamb. One ewe kept fussing over it, but she was from another farmer who doesn't have any rams around. She couldn't be the mom.
Never say never. I felt, and sure enough, she had some udder. She was a yearling that was supposed to be getting bred for the first time.
Then the light bulb went off. The farmer had bought her in late spring from my brother, and I delivered her. I thought I remembered my brother saying something about trying to breed a few for fall lambs, but the one he sold didn't get marked. Well, guess again. It wasn't an immaculate conception – just one that left no crayon mark from the ram's breeding harness!
I called my brother. "Well, she must have been bred after all," he says. "Your friend really got a deal."
Then he paused, "Hmm, I had a couple more like her. Maybe I better pen them up just in case."
As long as you have livestock around, you never know what you will find when you go to do chores. All you know is sooner or later, it won't be what you expect!