Monday 9 April 2012

A Shed full of Sheep 1.05am Friday 6th April

As I headed back towards the lambing shed there was a dampness in the air, fine rain accompanied by a full looking moon
Posted by Picasa
in a cloudy sky.

I stood outside the shed and listened, there was a definite grunt, a sound of labour, one of the ‘somethings’ was hopefully up to something!

Sure enough, as I stealthily tip toed into the lambing shed those stupid Cheviots banged to their feet and looked for the exit, not terribly helpful of them but an issue I am getting accustomed to. I stood in the feed passage which is slightly raised above the area where the ewes are held. Scouring the woolly mass in front of me I tried to get my eye on the three which I had noted an hour previous, also looking for any signs of anything else which may be ‘up to mischief’.

There was a ewe standing at the bottom end of the shed, it was from this direction I had thought the grunt had come from which I had heard minutes earlier as I had stood outside in the darkness of the night. She raised her nose in the air and gave a silent push, a birthing contraction, quite a big strain which made me think the lamb was close to being imminent.

Over at the back wall a ewe had lain down and muttered to herself, my view of her was blocked once she lay down by the mass of bodies between her and I, it was however apparent that she too was busying herself.

At the top end of the shed was the sheep which I had wondered whether I ought to have concerns about. I did now indeed have concerns about her, she was standing with her back up, not straining, not grunting, doing nothing other than standing in a hunched fashion. It would seem there was indeed a problem with this sheep.

There is only one entry point into the area these sheep are housed in, it is at the bottom end of the shed. As I entered I noticed the grunter now had a head and two legs hanging out of her backside, another push or two and the lamb would be released from its confines. A problem for me, because if I went to catch the sheep I had concerns about all the other sheep would stampede, this one included. The lamb may well be released into the big wide world and lost in the straw as woolly bodies ran by.

I could give her more time but was keen to get problems sorted, once lambed she needed a few minutes to lick and bond with her lamb, otherwise I would find her running off if I tried to move her too early, it was going to be easier to try and move her as she was. Unfortunately, an attempt to coax her into a pen in the corner failed, a rugby tackle saw her restrained, as the lamb popped out into the big wide world.

What appeared to be a big single lamb (these sheep aren’t scanned), however, it wasn’t covered in the usual lambing fluids, instead it was smeared with brown gunky stuff, there was obviously something else inside this ewe and it was unlikely it was going to be alive. Indeed, quick examination saw a mummified lamb close on the heels of the healthy chap who was already on the ground. Problem sorted and ewe and lamb were put into a smaller individual pen.
Posted by Picasa

A quick look at the second sheep had me conclude she ought to be alright to be left to the job for the time being, there didn’t appear to be anything untoward to be seen at her backside. My attentions moved on to the third sheep, it took me a while to get my eye on her in the melee but find her I did and yet another rugby tackle saw her and I lying in the straw of the shed floor as the others scudded around our lugs. Give me lambing outdoors any day!

A quick inspection below her tail told me all I needed to know. The stench which was released with my hand is a smell you never really get accustomed to and can often leave you gagging. They all smell the same, rotten lambs carry the same smell from every sheep I’ve ever been unfortunate enough to deal with, it has its own unique aroma.

I quickly realised this was not going to be a speedy procedure and took my jacket off and covered the ewes head, tucking the edges in around the sides of her head to prevent any light seeping in. Sheep will generally remain quiet if left in darkness, this tactic was used to give me the opportunity to open one of the bigger individual pens, leaving the sheep lying prone in the straw, lying quiet for a second or two whilst I got organised for moving her.
Posted by Picasa
Upon my return, as soon as I removed her ‘blindfold’ she banged up onto her feet, it took all my strength to keep a hold of her as we bounced off in the direction of the individual pen. Even though she was in a potentially serious predicament she still wanted to take flight – these cheviots really don’t help you to help them!

It was indeed a time consuming procedure, the lamb was coming arse first (breech), with a twist, as the rump of the lamb was presented first with both back legs tucked forward and as is often the case when badly presented the ewe hadn’t opened up properly so a little gentle manipulation was required. Concern was rising as first one back leg came out, followed by the second leg, the skin was coming off as pressure was applied, inevitably the legs came away, released themselves from the body.......

Not a good place to be.

String tied around the spinal column of the torso found that also came away from the rib cage.

It was somewhat gruesome and would be extremely unpleasant for the ewe. Much lube was used. Lambing lube, a gel used for lubrication. Fortunately the bottles have a long pipe on the end of them allowing the stuff to be released into the insides of the sheep by putting the pipe into the sheep and then squeezing the bottle. It was needed as it became necessary to remove a front leg inside the sheep to make the remaining torso and head smaller.

I was truly hoping that the remaining front leg would stay attached to the rib cage and give me something to help release the final remains of the rotten lamb. Fortunately it did and finally all the ‘bits’ were removed from her body. Oh hell! There was another one! This was not as rotten as the first and managed (only just) to come out in one piece. The second lamb would die later than the first and so would be less rotten. If caught in time the second lamb can often still be alive.

So, if caught in time? Does that mean had I investigated an hour sooner the lambs would have been alive? NO.

It is difficult to say how long this sheep had been stuck lambing. She had been moved from a field further away at lunchtime along with all the other second week lambers, she would probably have been in this predicament then, the natural flight instinct would have seen her willingly run with her mates and once in a new field all of the sheep would be unsettled and she was probably acting fairly normally. It has just been unfortunate circumstances which will hopefully have a happy ending.

They are resilient creatures, you just have to take your hat off to them. Poor soul had been stuck with two rotten lambs inside her, followed by an hours worth of gynaecology, she gets a big shot of antibiotic and a live lamb given to her. At the moment she is standing up, licking her ‘new born’. To a sheep there is no better medicine than to have a live lamb to tend to. Time will tell, but if infection can be held at bay it would be hoped this sheep will go from strength to strength as will her adopted lamb.

A keen eye will be cast over her for quite some time, it is always possible the milk may go off her, or she may feel under the weather but they are tough cookies, fighters, we could learn much from them.

Left in her pen to quietly recuperate I set off to see what the other sheep was up to, she ought to have lambed by now. She hadn’t, she was having a gi normous single lamb, an absolute monster he was. Presented correctly, nose and two front feet but he was getting nipped. His nose and tongue were just beginning to swell, yet another rugby tackle, yet another sheep wrestled to the ground, fortunately for this ewe once the front feet were pulled to straighten the legs the lamb came out of her without too much bother, gentle pressure from my part with her natural contractions pushing the beast out.

The night is not through yet. Before leaving the shed and the three new lambed sheep it was noticed one sheep was unwell. An injection of Calcium with Magnesium was administered under her skin to give her a lift. She had ‘dropped’ a sign of staggers, also a sign of pre lambing stress, hopefully the treatment she received will have lifted her back to her feet. There were also another two sheep tweeking their lugs, muttering to themselves................. It is time once again to go investigate and see what them woolly blighters are up to.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog post, and if you don't mind me saying, well written. I'm not a farmer, just someone who likes the outdoors, a bit of a hillwalker too - and I recently read a book from the 1940s called Good Sheep Farming. It was fascinating for me, as I knew nothing about sheep before that. Now I know a bit more about breeding, feeding, illnesses, wool, etc. But I've learnt even more from your post to be honest. Sounded a difficult night!

Unknown said...

Have you heard about Everest GrabLock for turn window? It ensures your safety and comfort. My agent had suggested me while buying the best double gazing glasses. You too can try it.