25 February 2020

Minus Four

This week is only two days old and already it feels like a week. Today I have said goodbye to four members of my sheep family.

Sunny and Jim headed to the sale this evening, their work done. I have six or seven ewes expecting their lambs and next breeding season their daughters will be old enough to breed so keeping them any longer made no sense. I knew this was their ultimate fate so I'm not distraught over this. They have left a lasting impression on my pet flock.

Sunny and Jim, or SunnyJim, will be missed.

Along with SunnyJim went my dear Bob. Bob was destined for the sale as a young lamb, just like so many others, but after the devastating loss of Nobby I felt like I had to save someone, and Bob was the one. A funky looking fella to say the least, he ignited my love of the Zwartbles cross. His legs, however, were a bit wonky and this affected the growth of his hooves. I've spent the last three years trying to correct them, but he was getting stiffer and stiffer. I put off selling him many times, but my head won over my heart in the end. He was going to end up crippled altogether.

I'll miss the loveable boy and his spots.

With all three of these boys I had foreknowledge and time to mentally prepare myself for saying goodbye, but with Liz it was a whole other tragedy.

Out of the eight ewes that spent the autumn with SunnyJim, Liz was the one who looked due to give birth first. Her elder was the biggest and hardest, and I kept a close watch on her especially. On Wednesday she got up and stretched, the sign of a healthy sheep, but on Friday she didn't get up at all. While the rest of the sheep and Blue Belle ran over to me at the gate, Liz stayed alone at the bottom of the field. I walked down and caught her (which was far too easy). She was lethargic, her breathing laboured. It looked like twin lamb, in which the lambs are taking too much out of the ewe and she goes into something of a stupor. Liz, like all of my other sheep, lives outside and with the wild weather we have been having, she was feeling the drain of carrying lambs and keeping warm.

We brought her inside and gave her glucose to bring her around and an injection of antibiotics as her breathing sounded like she'd caught pneumonia as well. She quickly perked up once the glucose took effect and we kept the treatment up for a couple of days. We eventually injected her with oxytocin to induce labour, as she wasn't getting as well as she should have. On Monday she gave birth with some help from us. The first lamb was dead, the second had "watery belly", a genetic defect that causes the gut of the unborn lamb to fill with fluid, and it was also dead. The third, a little ewe, was alive, but barely. She gasped for air and weakly kicked for a few minutes but she too died.

Liz was in a bad way, but with the lambs now out of her she stood a chance of getting better. Unfortunately it was not to be and she died this morning. The second lamb with the "watery belly" had died inside and poisoned them all.

It was a tragic start to my flock's lambing and a reminder of how risky this breeding business can be.

Today was bad, but tomorrow is another day. I just hope it's a better one.

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