Sunday 1 June 2014

Sheep update

It's probably a healthy thing that we've been too busy dealing with the sheep to find time to write about them. All the predictions by the ultrasound man that certain ewes would bear lambs but not have the capacity to give (sufficient) milk turned out to be incorrect. The pair of ewe-lambs, which we had been feeding from the bottle turned out to be getting enough milk from the 'defective' udder, so we left off intervening.  But still got up all through the night in case our eldest ewe delivered her lamb and was unable to run the milk-bar. That went on until the last possible sell-by date for lambs +5 months after the ram was taken off the job.  She still hadn't delivered anything, but we kept watch-on-watch because older ewes (or bloody-minded ewes) can go overdue by a week  . . . or more. Nevertheless you can't go on doing that forever and we eventually decided that she must have dropped a still-born lamb discretely at some time between the scanning and the due-date. Incidentally, hereabouts folk use 'elder' for udder, it's a dialect word from middle-dutch still used in some rural communities in England as well.

At that stage the final count was 14 live lambs.  You'd hope and pray for better than a 1:1 ratio in favour of ewe-lambs, which are the replacement stock essential for a sustainable business plan.  But you'd be content if you got the expected 7M:7F.  What's a little hard to wear ("thank you god, thank you very much" as he shakes fist Cleeselike at the sky) is the fact that we finished up 3F:11M. Which is a significant departure from the 1M:1F expected sex-ratio (ChiSq = 4.6;  df; p< 0.03). Then a couple of weeks ago, the mother of our pair of ewe-lambs upped and died - of death, possibly pneumonia. She looked crappy for a day and we brought her in to shelter with her two lambs and started to give them supplemental bottles again and two days later at first light she was on down and looking real crook and 10 minutes later when I came up with bottles she was dead. The other ewe-lamb was the smallest of the triplets and she was still real small.  On advice I started to feed her supplementary bottle morning and evening. For the first week of this bonus regime, she skittishly obliged me to run her to ground in a corner of the pen but then hoovered up a half-litre bottle as quick as it was possible to suck. The other two orphans were also not of the swiftest intellectually but they made up for that by being real quick at weaving and jinking away from the source of sustenance.  But they're now settled down enough to come to Daddy when he appears with the juice. Regrettably, Daddy only has two hands, so the first two to get their heads up close enough get their gob plugged with a bottle. The last-one's-a cissy won't stand and wait like an Englishman queuing for the train-tickets; no she must get her head in the way and start slobbering on Daddy's hands (eweuch). Another couple of days of this and they'll come bounding across the field when called and we can safely let them out with the rest of the flock.

But get this, the oldest ewe, apparently called Patch, started to deliver a still-born lamb a full four weeks after the last possible expected date . . . and then stopped head-out-shoulders-in.  The Beloved was away off-site for a week so she wasn't available to hold the ewe's head while I pulled at the other end.  But when I called our ever-obliging neighbour he came over after an hour or so and did the midwifely thing, gave her 10cc of penicillin and said "she may come through, she may not, we've done what we can, at least the fetus didn't smell foul", and with that he went back to look to his own stock. 
Sincere thanks!

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