Not Your Mother

The ewe knowing who her lamb is, is half the battle, the lambs also need to know who mom is and that takes some learning and experience, and sometimes some hard knocks.

This ewe has a little thief hanging around trying to suckle.  She knows which lambs are hers and the little white one in front is not one of them.


When a foreign lamb tries to suck the ewe will kick a hind leg and whirl around, which puts the lamb out of reach of the udder and / or knocks them over.  If the lambs persist the ewe takes a new approach.   They knock them with their head, letting the lamb know it has got the wrong mother.  This is how the lambs learn who they belong to. 

When lambs are young, the ewes keep them close by, but once the lambs are a few days old, the lambs will nap and the ewe will graze a short distance away.  When the lamb gets up they will often go to the first ewe they see.  It is by doing this, and getting rejected, that they learn who mom is and to call for her.  When ewe and lamb are in proximity again they smell one another. 

This ewe is ornery and making her point.  She has pushed the foreign lamb off a few times now.  This time she knocks the lamb right off his feet, sending him air born.  The lamb is lucky she didn’t follow through with a head grind into the dirt maneuver.


Ewes are not always docile, even when it comes to lambs.  I've had ewes hit me like that when I wanted to get close to their lambs, and it certainly makes their point known.  During lambing Allen had one ewe knock him and paw at him while he had her lambs caught.

The guardian dogs learn some lessons the hard way too.  The ewes will knock the guardian dogs around if they feel they are encroaching and that very thing happened to young Lily this lambing season.  I had just caught a pair of twins and was preoccupied and without the camera, but I looked up in time to watch the ewe knock and stomp Lily repeatedly.  Lily rolled herself onto her back with all four feet over her belly area, and that still didn’t stop the ewe who knocked her again while she was down.   Lily cried, got up and ran.  One of the hard knocks of life around a ewe flock lambing on pasture.


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