ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – A sure sign of spring is lambing season, but until recently many newly born lambs were cooped up inside barns. The snowstorms of March and April made it too cold for them and delayed the growth of new pastures for them to graze on.
On a rainy morning at Shelterbelt Farm, Brooktondale, NY, the large barn for newborns and their moms seems more like a bouncy castle for lambs. The lambs are hopping over each other, bouncing on their moms and leaping onto hay bales. There’s the constant sound of bleets between moms and their lambs.
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Every few minutes they slow down to nurse or nibble some hay.
The newborns are a variety of colorings from creamy whites, dappled brown, and some truly black sheep.
Within two weeks of the first birth, farmer Erica Freney had almost 60 new lambs. She follows a specific routine of care.
“Every new lamb that’s born, within it’s first 24 hours gets ear-tagged,” she said. “I have to write it down so I keep track of who was born to whom.”
Lambing season only lasts a few weeks. During that time, Freney checks the flock several times a day for newborns and to see that everyone’s well. Sometimes she has to help with the births. Like this year when one or two ewes rejected their newborns.
“She was a first-time mom and she rejected him,” Freney said. “I came in to do chores one morning and he was there still in the sack. He had picked his head up, at least his mouth was clean so he didn’t suffocate but I had to clean him off and figure out who his mom was.”
Freney looked around and found the mom munching on hay on the other side of the barn.
To bring them together, Freney uses a wooden frame structure to hold the mom still. Then, the baby can nurse and mom can still eat and drink water.
Freney and her husband also have a small flock of ducks, a few head of cattle and a small orchard. For all the challenges of raising livestock, Freney has no problem explaining why she raises sheep. “I raise sheep because I just love them!”