Sunday evening between 8:00 and 8:30 Brennah gave birth to twins, both ewes. It was a terrible night with rain, snow, and sleet being blown fiercely by easterly winds gusting to 30 mph.
For two days Brennah, who is a very quiet and calm sheep to start with, had been more quiet and subdued than is normal for her. She had been staying in a corner of the shed most of the time and did not want to eat much. On Sunday I saw her udder had become very large and taut so I knew that soon perhaps in 12 hours she would give birth.
I was checking on the sheep every few hours on Sunday but by 7 PM with no lambs born I figured that they would be born on Monday. But I decided to check one more time just before the sun had completely set. By then the storm had come and was picking up force. With flashlight in hand I peered into the shed. There was Brennah standing with one black and one white lamb. The white lamb was lying in snow that had blown in through a crack in the wall. She was unable to stand. I dried her off and moved her from the snow further inside the shed. Still she could not stand and was breathing poorly. The black lamb was also weak but could stand and Brennah was cleaning her and giving her lots of attention. She seemed to have given up on the white lamb. She was rejecting the new-born lamb and that meant it would not survive. I stayed in the shed sitting in the hay propped up against a post for a few hours to make sure Brennah accepted her other lamb. When it seemed she would I wrapped the weaker lamb in a towel and went back to the house for some sleep.
The next morning before sunrise I went back to the shed. The white lamb was still doing poorly but the black lamb was standing, although shaky. The white lamb was never able to stand up and could not feed. Later that day she died.
I am not sure why she was partially paralyzed at birth. One possibility was a lack of the mineral selenium in Brennah’s diet. A dietary lack of selenium can cause, among other things, poor muscle and nerve development resulting in paralysis. But it seems unlikely that a selenium deficiency was the cause. The grain mix I feed my sheep is composed of wheat from North Dakota and soy and corn from southern Minnesota both areas known for having adequate selenium in their soils and so in crops grown in those soils. There is also a nutritional supplement block with minerals in the shed that the sheep can freely eat from anytime. It made from soy and corn and sweetened with molasses. The soils here are not seriously low in selenium either so the sheep get enough from the pasture and hay.
Today, the Brennah’s surviving lamb is up and walking. She is also feeding. And now Buttercup, my youngest ewe, is behaving very quietly, not bleating at me for food (although I can hear Dixie hollering now) like she has for the last two months. Her udder is visible too and may be filling with milk in preparation for birth. She has also been sniffing Brennah’s lamb a lot today. So I am anxious and hoping for an uncomplicated birth and good weather.