Friday 26 March 2010

Twin lamb disease update

You may remember I mentioned sheep being 'off' one Sunday. My instinct told me it would be twin lamb disease, my optimism remained as I felt I had noticed this problem quickly and hoped it could possibly be resolved.

Unfortunately nature resolved the problem. All efforts failed and the two ewes died.

For all you get hardened to death, it still frustrates you. Days were spent treating these ewes. One went down quickly the other was up and down like a yo - yo, until finally, she too succumbed. You feel as though you've failed, even though you knew the outcome was unlikely to be a good one.

There is absolutely no point in dwelling on the matter, there are many live ones and it is important to maintain their health and well being.

I do however feel that I may have learnt something. Discussing the subject with another shepherd I learnt a different twist on the logic of twin lamb disease.

As explained in a past posting, something triggers the ewe to call upon her own bodily reserves in an effort to 'feed' the lamb or lambs growing inside her, unfortunately this causes problems with her metabolism, a form of poisoning kicks in and invariably they die.

I was truly frustrated as these sheep had been well looked after, they were in good physical fettle prior to going 'off' and ought not to have had an excuse to succumb to this disease.

The shepherd I was talking with was quite adamant that in his mind twin lamb disease was a greater risk to fit (fat) sheep as opposed to lean (thin) sheep. His logic being that a fat sheep HAD reserves to fall back on when needed whereas a thin sheep didn't have the body fats to call upon when necessary. Therefore a thin sheep couldn't go on the downward spiral of draining her reserves as she had no reserves to drain.

My logic has added that if that is the case she'd probably naturally abort or lamb down a very weakly lamb which would most probably die either from being weak or from the fact the ewe would also probably not have sufficient milk to feed it. Again natures way. The result would be that the ewe would live to see another year. For all she was so lean and had no bodily condition once she was rid of the lamb which she couldn't rear anyhow she would then be able to build up her body and thrive and ultimately survive!

I have no idea whether this is fact or fiction but it does sound logical. I know of two neighbours with ewes waiting for the dead cart, both have been fed well and both have had twin lamb disease. Does make you wonder - but then none of us would be happy to see the ewes lean and unable to rear their lambs, we'll just have to put up with the odd ewe going down with twin lamb disease.