I have been raising sheep for over 30 years. The oldest Dutch native sheep breed is called Drenthe Heath Sheep.
Drenthe Heath Sheep - Drents Heideschaap
I'm breeding this Drenthe Heath Sheep for over 30 years now and each year it's a joy when lambing season starts. Not only because little lambs are cute, but mainly because I can add a new generation to an almost extinct old Dutch sheep breed.
These sheep roamed our country as early as about 1300 and the farmers in the Province Drenthe selected the most hardened ewes and rams to fertilize their poor soil. When people invented the artificial fertilizer, this breed became of much less interest for the farmers and they cross bred it with other sheep breeds to get more meat and thus more money.
The result was that the pure old breed type was disappearing fast. In 1984 an Association was founded with only one goal: to preserve this oldest native Dutch sheep breed. I was there at the start and I'm still here 30 years later, keeping the pedigree book and being an inspector for this breed. In summer I travel throughout my country to inspect the sheep of our members to see if they pass the guidelines set for this rare and old sheep breed.
Meet the Parents of the New Lambs
Last year in mating season I had three groups of ewes, each with a different ram. I did that in order to keep the breed healthy and to avoid inbreeding.
In this breed both ewes and rams are horned, however ewes can also be without horns or wear short sticks.
Group 1 = Group of the Ram Eddy
Group 2 = Group of Ram Maupie
Colors Are Not Fixed
This sheep breed is what they call multi colored, which means their color is not fixed. Each combination can give all colors available. Black x Black can give black, but it can also give white, brown, spotted or any other color. Quite often the lambs change color when growing into adulthood.
Not that a fox colored lamb can turn into a black sheep, but what seems to be black as a lamb can easily change into a mix of fox colors.
In 2011 the Smallenberg virus was discovered in Germany. This virus can affect the unborn lamb when it's about 2 months old. It's transferred by tiny mosquitoes called Knut. Infection can result in deformed lambs or spontaneous abortions of premature lambs who are either already dead or die right after birth.
Once stung by this Knut, the ewe develops resistance. The Knut can't survive cold, but last year the temps were way too high in late fall, so they kept flying until the midst of December.
Alas, this year one of my ewes got infected and she delivered her premature stillborn twins a few weeks too early. The lambs were not deformed and therefore I dare to show you the photo I took of them.
Premature Lambs of the Ewe Lady Lotus
The first lamb that got out was the bigger lamb above; the lamb below was second but had died way before its brother. As you can see it didn't even had hair yet. Both lambs were male lambs.
It wasn't the start of the lambing season one wishes, but those things happen and there's nothing we can do to prevent it, other than hoping that this tiny mosquito has gone before the second month of the ewe's pregnancy.
Lamb #1 - Smart&Fun - born April 1, 2015
Last night I noticed that ewe AuntieGreet kept herself on a distance from the other ewes and when ewes do that, it's a sign that giving birth is not far off. This morning it was obvious that she had gone into labor, so I put her in the barn, because it was storming outside.
Within the hour she delivered this beautiful female lamb in the color Mixed Fox and within 15 minutes after birth the lamb tried to stand and was searching for moms milk.
I will add more photos when the weather has calmed down and the ewe will take her lamb outside.
Guarded by Mom and All the Aunties
Smart&Fun at the Age of Two Weeks Old
Update November 12, 2015
Smart&Fun has been sold to a big herd up North along with 4 sisters.
Lamb #2 - Cooper - born April 2, 2015
I left the house tonight for about 2 hours and when I came back, there was a surprise waiting for me in the barn. Black female lamb Cooper was hopping around and she wasn't much older than about 1 hour I think because she was still wet. Cooper is the twin sister of ram Brad (below). Their mom is the ewe LilyMom. Cooper will stay black. She's a very lively little lamb, ready to explore the world around her.
April 6, 2015: Update on Cooper
The next day after birth, Cooper's mom Lilymom decided to raise only one lamb and she rejected Cooper. Why ewes do that I don't know, but it happens. So Cooper is bottle fed from now on and she is doing very well. Whenever she hears me open the barn door (it squeaks) she comes running in to get her milk.
Cooper Being Bottle Fed by Daughter Iske May
Cooper 6 Days Old
Update September 25, 2015.
Last week I noticed that lamb Cooper wasn't well. She had diarrhea and the flies had found her and had laid their eggs on her (myasis). I took her home along with three other lambs for company. I cleaned her behind until all maggots were gone. Luckily the damage wasn't too bad.
I kept them in the barn, feeding them some sheep muesli which is full of vitamins, gave her some medicine with a vitamin B12 boost. She seemed alright, but then after a few days I noticed that she wasn't getting any better, rather getting worse. She obviously was in pain. So I took her to the vet. He said I had done the right thing with treating the myasis, but noticed that her breathing was somewhat irregular. He listened to her lungs, but they were alright.
It could be her heart, it could be a lot of other things causing her present condition so I decided there and then hat it was best for her to put her down and end her misery.
Lamb #3 - Brad - born April 2, 2015
The twin brother of lamb Cooper above is a beautiful male lamb. I'm very pleased with his color which will turn into a mixed fox color. It probably will lighten up when he grows older.
Brad has a spotted body (white spots) but in a few months his fleece will turn to a very light grey/brownish white like his mom has. His spots will disappear on his body. He looks like his dad, the ram Christof.
Brad, 6 Days Old
Easter Sunday Triplet Lambs from Mom Lien
Well it was quite a day today. First I had to take a two hour trip to meet up with our youngest daughter Lynn Karijn to hand over the slatted base of the bed my hubby had forgotten to load into the Van last Friday. Anyway, my eldest daughter and my hubby would take care of the lamb we have to bottle-feed. All ewes were at ease, no signs of getting into labor with any of them. So I left early this morning.
At noon I got a phone call from my daughter: "Mom, I'm feeding the lamb, but right next to me one of the ewes went into labor and there's one lamb. I said ok, she can take care of herself. Few minutes later she called again. " Mom there are two lambs now". I said, ok we have a pair of Easter lambs. Few minutes later: "Mom there are three lambs now", and I thought Oh WOW, I don't like triplets, because most of the time one will end up at the end of a bottle with milk, because the two strongest lambs won't allow it to get to Mom's nipple.
One hour later she called again: " Mom the ewe went off to eat and left her lambs screaming, is that normal?" Hell no, that's not normal at all and I asked her to lock the ewe with her triplets inside the barn.
At that moment I wished I was the Hulk, who could just cover the distance in one or to hops, but the reality was that I was two and a half hours by car from home. So the meeting somewhere in the midst of my country with my youngest daughter went as followed: Hi Mom, I gather you want to return home straight away? I said Oh you know about the triplets? She said yes, Iske has put them on Facebook and she showed me the picture, because I still didn't know for sure which ewe it was that had gotten triplets. So I looked at the picture and then I knew. We kissed goodbye and I drove off for a two and a half hour trip back home. I think our meeting lasted less then 10 minutes.
At home I found out that the ewe had a rather too small udder with no milk in it at all. I had never encountered that before, but that opened a big problem because newborn lambs need the first mom's milk called collostrum. If they don't get it within the first 24 hours, they'll get sick and die. I didn't have artificial collostrum and it was Easter Sunday. I called the vet but they didn't have it either but he said that the agricultural shop at 15 min. drive was open today. So I went to get some bottles and the collostrum and finally could bottle feed my triplet Easter lambs.
Lamb #4 - NatureGirl - born April 5, 2015
NatureGirl was the first born and she is a beautiful fox/white colored lamb. The white on her face might disappear or it might stay. We will see in a few months. Her fleece will be white. She's one of the triplets of ewe Lien and she has a sister Favored Fay and a brother DrMark.
Lamb Naturgirl: Let's See If I Can Escape Here
Lamb #5 Favored Fay - born April 5, 2015
Favored Fay is a lovely mixed fox colored lamb with a loud voice, like her sister NatureGirl and brother DrMark. She's doing fine and drinking lots of milk. Funny thing is that the triplets stick together and when one is 'lost' it starts screaming until it finds the others again.
Favored Fay Almost 3 Weeks Old
Update November 12, 2015
Favored Faye has been sold to a big herd up North, along with 4 sisters.
Lamb #6 - DrMark - born April 5, 2015
I'm very glad with DrMark because of his color which is called Badgerface. See the black lines that run from his eyes to his (yet to grow) horns? Badgers have those too, hence the name. Badgerface colored sheep are totally black at the downside of their body. Normally the black runs from the chin all the way to the tip of their tail. You can see that on the photo of ram Eddy below.
He has two sisters, NatureGirl and Favored Fay.
Lamb DrMark 4 weeks old
Ram with Badgerface Color
Not Perfect Videos
I make these videos with my photo camera and they're not perfect, but at least you can see and certainly hear what's on it.
Easter triplet lambs
Triplet lambs outside making a lot of noise
April 7, 2015 Update on Mom Lien
Mom Lien wasn't doing quite well, she is still very weak, but she'll survive. I called in the vet today to have a look at her, because she started to limp with her rear leg too. She had really given all of her own recourses to her lambs. He gave her some shots, something to ease the pain and antibiotics and I have to give them to her for the next two days.
Darn, I breed these sheep for over 30 years and never had this happening to one of them before. I'm still learning new things each year. I know the signs now, so it won't happen again (I hope).
Four Lambs at the Bottle Feeder and Two by Hand
Lamb #7 - Sockii - born April 6, 2015
This Easter Monday morning, Sockii was just born when I went over to feed the triplets. A beautiful female lamb in a grayish/brown color. Her fleece will turn white though in a couple of months and I think her face will lighten up a bit to a pale/brown color. Her mom Katinka is a very good mom, this is her first baby. Alas and totally beyond our comprehension writer Katinka (Spirituality) has been banned from this site.
Sockii with Her Mom Katinka
Sockii Is Already Changing Color
Update November 12, 2015
Sockii has been sold to a big herd up North, along with 4 sisters.
Lamb Nr. 5 at the Bottle
Last night the ewe SusannaDuffy delivered twin lambs, a girl and a boy. This was the second time Susanna got lambs and last year she had been a good mom, so I didn't pay too much attention. However later that evening I noticed she hadn't licked the male lamb quite clean and I saw her pushing him away, which is not a good sign.
I put all three in the barn and forced the mom to let the male lamb drink, because they need that first milk in order to stay alive. I did that several times that evening until late night and again this morning, but it was clear that she didn't want that lamb near her, so from this morning on I bottle feed him too.
It's very strange and I have never encountered this that I had to bottle feed so many lambs. And I'm not the only one it appears. A colleague breeder has already 9 lambs she has to bottle feed and we hear from other breeders that there are many stillborn lambs this year. Something's in the air, but we don't know what and that's scary. Besides that, even though my sheep get fed good hay, I find my ewes being too skinny. So I will call for the vet tomorrow and let him check on all ewes.
Lamb #8 - Lisa - born April 8, 2015
Lisa is a beautiful (probably) Blue Fox colored female lamb that still gets accepted by her mom SusannaDuffy. She's a darling sweet little girl.
The Blue Fox color comes in much variation, from light to dark. The main characteristics of Blue Fox is the lighter color around the mouth and the lighter circle around the eyes and the often orange (fox) colored ears. In English this color is called Red Eye, because the circle around the eyes often is fox color. We used to call it Red Eye too, but as our breed is a native Dutch breed, our breeding members thought they should carry Dutch names for the different colors. The Blue comes from the grey color they will get in their adult fleece. In our country the grey in sheep wool is called blue. So as they have both the fox and the blue color, we call them Blue Fox. Below I'll show you some variations of this color.
Lamb Lisa 19 Days Old
Update November 12, 2015
Lisa has been sold to a big herd up North, along with 4 sisters.
Lamb #9 - Yofi - born April 8, 2015
Yofi is a sweet little black guy with a white spot on top of his head, which you can barely see in this photo. He too was rejected by his mom alas, but he's doing fine and is drinking his milk.
Yofi is already starting to seek the company of the triplets and I'm glad. Tonight I found them in the barn, sleeping side by side all together. In the barn there's a hole in each door so you can stick your arm through to move the bolt and when you're very quiet you can peak inside to see what the sheep are doing. I couldn't make a photo though, because the moment I would open the door, they jump up.
Lamb #10 - Psyche - born April 10, 2015
Today finally a normal and healthy birth of twins, a girl and a boy and they are beautiful and rather big for newborn lambs of this breed. Psyche is a Dark Fox Spotted lamb, looking like her mom Bossy Pants. She was standing on her feet within 10 minutes after birth searching for mom's nipple. The yellow on her back is from the amniotic fluid. Mom will lick and clean her and in a few days she will have a nice white coat. Psyche is the twin sister of Ping.
Psyche, 4 Days Old
Update November 12, 2015
Psyche has been sold to a big herd up North, along with 4 sisters.
Lamb #11 - Ping - born April 10, 2015
Ping is a bit special, he's the first Badgerface lamb I got from the Badgerface ram Eddie.
If Ping grows to adulthood as beautiful as his dad is, then he has a long life in front of him and will be used by different breeders to father their lambs from next year on (if nothing bad happens to him). Ping is the twin brother of Psyche.
Lamb Ping, 4 Days Old
Full Grown Ping September 2016
My Flock of Bottle-Fed Lambs
Problem with these bottle fed lambs is that I can't get any distance between them and me to take good photos. I have to catch them off guard, but then they mostly sleep.
Lamb #12 - Poetryman - born April 12, 2015
When ewe Amkatee delivered her boy and girl twins, I was out of male names, when this black male lamb was born. I only have female names left on my list of writers and what I did was the following: I searched the forum for male names and came across the name Poetryman and I thought that's a good name for this lamb. I send a pm to this writer to ask permission to use his name for the lamb and he wrote back: I certainly have never had a request like this before. What the heck. Go ahead!