Our last house sitting assignment was probably the best we could have. We did it here in Australia on a family run cattle farm, where we learned a lot of new skills and had heaps of new experiences. Not only did we have to occupy ourselves with the pregnant cows, but we also started bottle feeding a newborn lamb, twice!
Besides the cows, a couple of sheep also gave birth to some baby lambs. We went to check them every day and noticed that one ewe (a mother sheep) always ran away when the baby lamb wanted to drink. So we decided to catch her, hold on to her and put the lamb underneath to let it have some milk, as it was super skinny. It drank a bit for 20 minutes, but when we let go of her, the ewe immediately walked away from the lamb again.
It rained the whole day and night, and it was freezing cold outside, so we went the morning after to check on the lamb. The entire herd of sheep was there, including the mom, but the lamb wasn’t. We found it underneath a tree, shivering from the cold, and continuously bleating, probably calling his mom.
A decision had to be made. It was clear that the mother rejected him. We could get them in a small pen, to get used to each other. But if that wouldn’t work immediately, the lamb would die that night from the wet and cold. Or we could try to save him by heating his body temperature back up and start bottle feeding the lamb ourselves. We chose the latter.
Thomas took off his sweater to wrap it around the lamb, and we hopped on the motorbike to bring it to the house. Once there, we put on the fireplace, wrapped him around with some towels and blankets in a box and let him warm up. Meanwhile, Thomas went to the store to buy a baby milk bottle and a pack of diapers. We got some milk replacer from the cousin of the owner, who also got a farm in the neighborhood.
The first day, he was too weak to drink properly, so we gave him some milk with a syringe. There was a big chance that he wouldn’t survive, so the first hours and night were crucial. We got up multiple times that night to feed him a little bit so that the little lamb would get a bit stronger again.
After a few days, he looked like an average lamb again. He was running around the garden with us, helping us with some weeding in the veggie patch, etc. It was like a real baby, as we gave him a diaper a few times a day because otherwise, the house would have been full of pee and poop.
We did this for almost two weeks until the owners came back home. The day they came home, an other ewe gave birth to a twin. One was perfectly healthy and had the first colostrum from the mom, the other one was way too weak. It was a lot smaller, skinnier and couldn’t even stand on his legs. We found him lying on his belly trying to stand up, but it was impossible for him.
We decided to take him home, trying to get him stronger. Again, the weather was wet and cold so he was shivering and his body temperature had to heat up. The owners gave him 10% chance of surviving that night. But we got up two times that night to check on him, and that night, he started drinking well and could already stand for a second or two.
That morning, the little man was already a lot stronger! He could already stand up on his wobbly legs by himself. The whole morning we did some ‘exercises’ with him in the garden. We let him walk around a bit. The contrast couldn’t be bigger from the day before. We were all completely surprised of all this.
In the afternoon, we separated the ewe and the other lamb from the rest of the group and put them in a pen. We put the baby lamb that we saved together with the mom and his little brother and gave them some time to get to know each other again.
The day after, we were super happy to see that our previously weak lamb was now drinking milk from the mom and could run around the paddock without a problem! Now, after a month, he can easily keep up with the herd of sheep and is becoming the same size as his little brother.
Bottle feeding a newborn lamb was a completely new, and awesome experience for us. Who can say that they did this during a house sitting, or even in their life? We are proud of ourselves that we could save both of the lambs!
What’s your craziest experience you had during a house sitting?
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