Life and Death on a Small Farm…

Living life with animals, a person will get to experience many of life’s events.  This week we have seen a full cycle of these events, when on Monday while doing a sheep check we found a very sick goat that later died despite our best efforts to revive her.  This made for a somber household and a broken hearted little boy missing his pet.

Compounding things, we all are down with very bad chest colds that just won’t go away.  This has left three little boys on antibiotics to help speed their recovery.  And while everyone seems to be slowly overcoming their illnesses, poor Zayne though,  has not.  He has been running a 101-102 degree fever and was unable to keep his medicine down last night and was up all night coughing and crying.  So he went back to the doctor today where they gave him an antibiotic shot and sent stuff home to do treatments on the nebulizer. So with me getting no sleep last night, Mark did his ususally check on the sheep before he left for work and mentioned that one had a little goop coming out of her.  I told him that she’s had goop coming out of her all week but I would go back up and check her in a little while.  In the meantime Zayne finally fell asleep and so must I cause it 10:30 when I opened my eyes next.

  Now I wasn’t overly worried about this ewe because for the last 2 weeks she has looked like she was about to lamb and has had a little goop coming out of her.  When I finally got up to the barn the sheep where singing up a chorus, telling me how starved they were and how dare I be so late!  Then when I rounded the corner to her pen the first thing I saw was the sheep in question with a head and one leg sticking out of her!  I don’t know how long she had been in labor, but the poor little baby was very limp and very stuck but mom ewe was up and chewing some straw,  I knew that this was not good.  I yelled at Sawyer, who was getting grain for his steer and caught mom and started working on getting baby out.  I tried wiggling baby forward but it was really wedged in there and there was no way it was going to go back in so I could to try and re-align things.  So while thinking about what I should do, I decided to check on baby and stuck my finger in its mouth to see…I’m not sure what made me do that cause I just knew it was dead.  Maybe I read it somewhere or maybe I seen Mark do it, but  it started to suck my finger!  Talk about motivation, knowing it was still alive really puts hope back in a person!  By this time Sawyer was up at the barn and he helped hold the ewe in one place while I pulled on the one leg.  While I pulled on it, I slowly unfurled it’s whole leg, I felt inside her and could not feel the other one. There was not a lot of room inside the ewe so I made the excecutive decision to just get baby out.  Sawyer asked what he could do so I told him if he thought he could, he could try to pull baby out.  So he did just that and made it look so easy, he firmly grabbed the lamb and gently wiggled/pulled it the rest of the way out.  (I’m so proud of Sawyer for stepping up and jumping in where he was needed!  We have been watching the James Harriot movies on Netflix at night before doing our 1:30 a.m. check, they are such great shows and I think  inspired him somewhat!)

After such an abrupt birth, the baby was not too sure it wanted to breathe.  There was a bunch of meconium (baby’s first poo) that followed the baby out in the amniotic fluid, indicating the poor lamb was in distress.  After some brisk rubbing and a couple of quick swings, fluid came out of it’s mouth and it started to sputter to life!  This ewe is a first winter ewe, so she is a first time mother and after being so hands on with her and her little one I was afraid she might freak and run, but after I placed the lamb in front of her she started to lick and talk to it.

Moments after birth, getting to know each other...

Moments after birth, getting to know each other...

There are so many aspects of Icelandic sheep that I love, but one of the major things is how vigorous and hardy the lambs are.  Even after such a rough start with in minutes of birth it was trying to get up and test  it’s legs out  and was up wondering around the pen trying to find something to eat.  So I shortened up the pen she was in with part of a cattle panel, put fresh straw in, and Sawyer ran back to the house to get some warm water with molasses in it  for mom to drink.  After putting some of our best hay in, we stood back and made sure the baby drank those first important drinks of colostrum.  It took it a little while before mom stopped licking it and would hold still long enough for it to get a hold, that’s where the hay and molasses water comes in handy.  As mom busies herself eating and drinking, baby is able to get in a get a good drink.
Moments later up and nursing....

Taking those first important drinks of colostrum...

After things had settled down and mom and baby had bonded well, we clipped the umbilical cord and dipped it in iodine to prevent infection where I was able to get a close enough look to confirm that baby was a little girl!  She weighed 8 lbs 1 oz., not to bad for a first winter ewe!  We then quickly returned her to her mother and stepped back and admired her.  The other pretty cool thing about Icelandics is their coloring, however sometimes trying to figure out just what they’re expressing can prove (to me) to be a bit difficult!  She is a black  badgerface with phaeomelanin(red pigment on her body) that will fade as she gets older, mom is a badgerface and dad is a black spotted.  She maybe co-expressing the grey pattern too because of the white around her mouth area.
A Black Spotted? Badgerface Ewe Lamb...

An Icelandic black badgerface ewe lamb...

She has been quite fun to watch today and the kids (and especially me) are very excited that lambing has finally started, and started off on the right foot!  It has also brought a more upbeat mood to the household as we have witnessed two of life’s certainties.
Egg Count:

Egg Count:

8 eggs