While individuals snuggle by the fireplace with hot chocolate watching their favorite movie, I am spending the coldest days of this Missouri winter in the barn. You see, young spring lambs frolicking in the green pastures are only in children’s storybooks, at least in my neck of the woods. Around here, lambs are born during an all-white winter wonderland.
This latest snow blast left my barn with snowdrifts, sub-zero temperatures and wind chills reaching 25 below zero. My 5-foot-1-inch frame battles snowdrifts that reach my knees. My 6-foot tall husband, who appears to be running to the barn, looks back and chuckles. I fight back the wind biting my face and continue uphill to the barn. We have a ewe in labor.
I think that this year God is testing my farmer instincts. Can I truly tell, whether it is a dog or ewe, if His creatures need assistance? And within the last two months, the answer has been yes to both.
As I reach my hand inside the backend of the ewe to feel for the presentation of the lamb, I quickly realize, the lamb is coming sunny-side up. A normal birth consists of a both front feet of the lamb presenting first, with the head nestled right between the hooves, all facing down toward the ground.
Similar to newborn babies, sunny-side births make for difficult delivery. I choose to turn the lamb. It requires a little pressure to adjust the little lambs’ body inside the birth canal, but more than anything, it requires a lot of patience. As I cajole the lamb into position, I am ready to pull gently on the legs with one hand, cupping the head in my second hand.
By now, I believe the lamb will arrive dead. I admit I am never 100% sure of my technique in delivering lambs. Sometimes the outcome is in my favor and other times it is not. This time it was. A ewe lamb, born alive in record setting freezing temperatures is truly a miracle.
While this little black lamb may not be spending its first days of life running through sunlit green pastures like so many storybooks portray, it is warm. She rests in a bed of ivory straw, basking under the glow of a heat lamp while her mother watches nearby.
There is no right or wrong season for the birth of a farm animal. As farmers, we rejoice at the event in all seasons. However, it is more difficult during wet, cold, and windy conditions. As farmers, we must prepare for any weather. And while it might not be a picture perfect, book-worthy, photo opportunity, farmers will brave the weather elements to aid those animals in need, feed those animals who are hungry and provide shelter to those animals who are cold.
After the chores are done--and animals saved--, farmers find comfort in the warmth of the home. Now, it is time to relax by the fire and warm up with hot chocolate because in two hours I will bundle up and brave the weather to check on the newborn lambs in the barn. It is a perfect ending to this real-life farm story.