Then.... just as I was sitting on the couch....the phone rang. It was my sheep land lady.
"Got some blood and string like discharge on one of the ewes." Uhhhhhh...what now? Ewe was eating, acting normal and not in labor. In 7 years of lambing seasons, my easy keepin' sheep were about to throw me a curve ball.
I've never lost a lamb, not in all that time. Nor a ewe either. Our lambing "problems" could be summed up in one previous ewe that required an injection to stimulate enough milk for her twins. She was promptly sent down the road. I cannot live with the sheep, they must be able to raise lambs with little human interference.
But now I was faced with a decision. There were three scenarios, as I understood it.
1. It could be normal discharge and I should receive a call soon that there were lambs on the ground. Obviously, the best case scenario.
2. A lamb could be stuck and need to be pulled out. Oh dear.
3. One or all the lambs could be dead. That could be very, very bad.
Hint: If you are getting a little frightened for the sheep now, read the label of this post..it all ends mostly o.k.
Here is a sneak preview if you don't believe me...
Feel a little better? Good.... my blog is not meant to raise blood pressure or cause Kleenex stock to go up. If things really were that bad, I'd keep it to myself. Promise.
So, after much debate, some online hunting of lambing problem literature and good help from Diane (who asked alot of good questions- most of which I had to guess at, as my ewe in trouble was 45 minutes away), I called my sheep landlady, Jonna, and we discussed the option of interfering vs. the "wait and see" approach. Everything I read, so far, had DIRE warnings about interfering unless ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Every instruction on pulling lambs first underlined that you needed to be very, very sure that you really needed to do it.
As someone who works for a vet, I also know that the "wait and see" approach can be a really stupid way to go. However- the fact of the matter was that ewe was not in distress and if a lamb was dead, it would still be dead in the early morning daylight. If things were just slightly off and labor was just around the bend, I'd be greeted by a ewe and a lamb or two when I got there first thing. Jonna promised to listen for sounds of distress and call me if there were any changes.
Still worried and feeling a little helpless, I switched shifts with one of my employees so I could have an extra two hours to deal with any crisis that might occur.
I woke up at 4 a.m and headed out to Calico Basin, coffee, oxytocin and antibiotics in hand. It was early, and still dark, so I could not expect Jonna to let me know if there were lambs on the ground. I just had to see for myself.
About half way there, the phone rings again. They observed "something sticking out" of the ewe, no lambs. Damn.
Stopped at the store nearby, bought a few supplies I did not have. Imagine the looks one gets when she buys K-Y jelly, soap and dish towels at 5 in the morning.
Drove up to the gate, and I can see right away that the ewe has seperated herself from the rest and is standing alone. There is a dark spot on the ground next to her, but it does not move. Is it a shadow? Keep in mind that it's still, very very dark out. I pulled in and glanced over to her again. The shadow flicked an ear...
An ear! A lamb, thank God! A tiny red ram lamb.
Jonna saw me pull in and headed down the driveway, ready to help me with our little emergency. Even she had not seen the lamb yet. Once I pointed out the little guy though, we both sighed our relief. We decided to give momma ewe some privacy and take a little closer look when the sun came out. Headed to the house for coffee.
When we finally had some light, I went down again to check. Was an awfully tiny lamb considering how large the ewe had been. Then I made a grim discovery.
My first lost lamb, a still born. And probably a blessing- an underdeveloped lamb that never had a chance.
I told you it was only "mostly" ok. Since by now, over 30 minutes had gone by, I did not expect anything more to happen. I gave momma ewe a antibiotic injection, she was mothered up to her lamb nicely and then I decided to go up to the house and finish my coffee.
Good thing I hung around because one lamb became two...
A nice little dark brown lamb was born, another ram lamb.
So although we lost one lamb and had to get up way too early for civilized people, it was worth it. Hopefully I will go through another 7 years with no problems and not have to learn anything about pulling lambs. Not that I would shirk from the task, it's just nice to know that your ewes have it covered!