Our ewes are starting to take on that look they get after a long winter inside followed by a lamb or two and now constant milk production. Its a hard time of year. There is a cycle that begins when they hit the ground in the spring, they begin to build back up their condition and their systems. So we are essentially at the tail end of this cycle, when they look their worst. Its not so much about how much food they are getting either, its more about their ability living indoors to convert and maximize the dry forage that sustains them. When a small animal, a ruminant, spend five months building its offspring, so to speak, the draw on the body, the demand on the system is very high. It amazes me though how much more the demand seems to be once the milk starts flowing.
Right before lambing they all look so big and full. They actually have a glow of sorts, like any expectant mother. But once that pup comes out, or pups as the case may be, their milk production gets all the food. Do you know that a healthy and perfectly normal look for a dairy cow is to have some ribs showing? Nature and man have combined to push these animals to convert all they eat into milk. That’s essentially what we are seeing now with our sheep... its all going into the udder. Its hard to see, some of them look so pathetic, especially the older ones. We know they are healthy, and we know we could spend additional money on highly concentrated feeds of various kinds. But we also know that they will make it, and rebound nicely, once the grass greens up and they hit the out of doors.
So I call these long and slow weeks where spring comes into focus the “Last Mile”. Its soooooo long... between March 1st ( when you feel like the worst of winter HAS to be over) and when the grass is ready for the animals... mid to late May. Long not only because of how you are starting to see the impact of winter on the critters. But long too because you are just sick of it all... lugging the hay and water, dealing with the ice and cold, slogging through the mud. You start to fret and worry too, at least I do... can we make it? Will the hay last? Will the pastures come back to life? Will the animals rebound?
Then it comes into view... unannounced... the finish line... just over the horizon.