Orphaned lamb brings out students’ parental instincts

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Holly Williams lifted the little lamb out of its pen and handed it to Austin Worley.

The tiny creature pushed his head into Austin’s shin, rubbing his furry forehead back and forth.

Austin steadied the lamb as Holly offered a small bottle filled with milk that had been donated by another ewe.

“He was born three days ago and his mother died, so we are having to milk another lamb and feed it through a bottle so he can get the nutrients that he needs,” Holly said. “It’s not that hard getting the baby lamb to drink the milk. You just have to put it up to his nose and let him sniff it, and then it sucks on the nipple of the bottle.”

Austin and Holly are in the animal science class at Beddingfield High School.

“I feel like I’m a part of its life,” Austin said. “Its mama’s gone, so I’m like taking care of it.”

“You build a connection with him.” Holly said. “He jumps up and everything when we are over there by the pen. He responds very naturally when we walk over there.”

The animal science students already care for a range of other animals on a farm behind the school.

“We have pigs. We have a big sow, and then we have baby pigs that we are raising to show for the (Wilson County) 4-H Show and Sale,” Holly said. “We have sheep. We have a ram. We have cows and a baby calf, and we have free-range chickens.”

The students are members of the Beddingfield High School chapter of Future Farmers of America. Several of them gave a presentation at Wilson County AgriBusiness Committee meeting and told the group about the orphaned lamb.

“It’s kind of rare that a mama died, but it’s just a responsibility that you have to take on,” Holly said.

“The people in our class call him Little Homey Lamb or Little Lamb,” Austin said. “The other ewes won’t take care of it because it’s not theirs, so it’s our responsibility to keep it fed and make sure it’s all right and all that. The class has to be the mom.”

Agriculture teacher Rueben Ledbetter said the students jumped right in and fed the lamb every day, and they are eager to get out and see it.

“There’s a lot of different situations that could render a lamb that needed extra care. This just happened to be one situation,” Ledbetter said. “They could have triplets and one of the lambs needed to be cared for because the mom couldn’t make enough milk for the triplets. The lamb could be born sick, and you take care of up until a certain point. Maybe the mom doesn’t reclaim it. So there are several reasons why a lamb might need care and that has happened out here, but it’s very rare that that’s necessary. You always want the mother to be healthy, and you always want the mother to be able to take care of the lamb because that’s the best nutrition and the best care.”

Little Homey Lamb has excellent prospects for survival under the students’ care and may even grow up to be a competitor in a show and sale.

“It’s healthy, jumping around, nursing good, so there’s no reason to think any different,” Ledbetter said.