A Tribute

Big Bertha and first set of twins

I would not be a sheep farmer if I did not have sheep. I strive to become a better sheep farmer each day. There are good times and there are bad times. And some days are just sad times.

My oldest group of ewes is in the process of lambing. I have had the ewes in this group for at least three years. A couple I have raised, but most I purchased. Among those purchased is my second registered fullblood ewe. This ewe has bloodlines from Dell Dorpers in Australian. Her conformation is great. She had a long body, muscular build, a nice neck, correct legs with good bone. At the time I purchased her she weighed 325 pounds, a big ewe. An excellent addition to my sheep flock. I named her Big Bertha.

The first time Big Bertha lambed for us, she had twins. But a few days after delivery, one lamb was not doing well. We learned Big Bertha only had one working tit. I brought the weak lamb inside the house and began bottle feeding. This lamb was named PeeWee.

Big Bertha and triplets

The next lambing Big Bertha surprised me with triplets, two ewe lambs and a ram lamb. I bottle fed two of her lambs, but left them with her. Going out several times a day to bottle feed.

This past fall, Big Bertha once again lambed out twins, a ewe and a ram. I also bottle fed both lambs supplemental feedings, and kept them with their mother letting them nurse as well.

Big Bertha was scheduled to lamb again. She showed signs of labor, but was not really having contractions. I placed her in the barn and waited. No contractions, eating well, and we waited. Then one day she started with contractions, pushing hard. I went to assist, only to be assisting with a dead lamb. I do not know how long the lamb had been dead, but it smelled bad. After two hours of assisting, the lamb was born. I weighed the lamb, not that big, 7 pounds. No swollen head. Why it died I do not know. I treated Big Bertha with painkiller and antibiotics. But within a few hours she was dead.

Some may say, “Why did you not call a veterinarian?” The day she went into labor was a Sunday. There is not a veterinarian close to me who treats sheep. I would have to travel three hours to a sheep veterinarian, on a Sunday, after hours call, to help with a delivery on an old ewe. The three hour trailer ride would have resulted in the same outcome.

Big Bertha was nine years old. She had produced for me seven lambs in four years. My flock has all her ewe lambs, five, she produced on my farm. Of the five ewes, all but the last ewe lamb are producing lambs. I have three of her granddaughters to add to the ewe flock. Her bloodlines and conformation are a major part of my registered fullblood flock.

Daughter of Big Bertha, 104, and ewe lamb

Her contribution to my registered flock is major, since I have purchased only two registered fullblood ewes. The eight registered fullblood ewes she produced is the majority of the registered ewe flock. These ewes will continue to produce and improve my genetics of my registered ewe flock.

Thank you Big Bertha for helping this starting farmer build a good genetic foundation in her Dorper flock.


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