This morning we were presented with our first lamb, a little chocolate-brown female. We were woken up at 6am by Omar’s mother Fatma, calling us from downstairs. Throwing on some clothes and without even washing our faces we raced down, camera and phone in hand. All of the kids were up, and Aya, Omar’s niece, was the first one to see her. She picked her up and brought her our of the enclosure, where all the animals are kept. Mum came too…naturally.
This is Dolores’s (sheep) first lamb so we did not know how she would fare, but she seems OK. She was rather nervous about having so many people around and kept making little anxious noises and checking her lamb. Before the lamb was born we had speculated which one of the rams was the father, as we have two. One of them, the white one, is ours and the other one, dark with a white tip on his tail, belongs to Amer, Omar’s brother. Well, judging by the colour, we are guessing that Amer’s sheep is indeed the father! Damn…I was hoping for a white lamb so I could dye its wool! But with two males and one female it was touch and go as to who the father was.
Here in Upper Egyptian homes, when they have sheep, they tend to have males. They buy them at the souk for around 500-650 LE, then feed them for a few months and sell them on at a profit. Although they are not actually accounting for the price of the food they have fed them with, so the profit is very little. That to me made no sense. Buying a female was a better option. More females, less males. One male is more than enough for any female! But they didn’t see things like that. Now, of course, that we have our third sheep ‘for free’, they are beginning to recognise the sense in it! Unfortunately, as soon as it was born it was its financial worth which made it desirable, not the fact that it is an animal made of flesh and blood like us!
As much as this has been a good lesson for all, I wish we were in our own house so that we could raise the animals as we want. Everyone gets involved here and it is impossible to get anything done without chaos and noise! All the kids are shouting, Omar’s older brother is picking it up and trying to get it to stand, and checking to see what sex it is, giving Mum no real opportunity to train it herself. As a result of all of this the lamb won’t suckle. Mother blames ‘bad eyes’ (jealousy) and burns incense to ward it off and Omar and myself try to get her to suckle and end up resorting to expressing her mother’s colustrum ourselves and bottle feeding her! She seemed to be quite weak so we put her in the sun and fed her little and often. She appears to be improving, but we will have to train her to find her mother’s teat!
It is now late evening and she is much stronger but still struggling to find milk. She is moving in the right direction, following her mother, tottering around, her little tail shaking, but she is still confused as to where the milk actually is! Hopefully by tomorrow she will have found the way, but until then we will have to feed her beside her mother and hopefully she won’t get too cold, as the weather has dropped by about 6 degrees and it feels really cold for a little lamb that has just come out of her mother’s warm womb.
31 Oct update: This morning, after spending an entire night worrying about whether the lamb would make it through the night, we awoke to a lamb finally suckling for itself! Now her main issues are the incessent biting flies! But she knows that if she hides under her mother’s thick wool she can escape the worst of them!
Here is a video of her this morning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBWeaGWflQU&feature=youtu.be