Last week was not a good week sheep wise, the end of it especially.
At the start of the week Briony’s black ram lamb got knocked down and killed, Briony has done so well with her triplets. They have all grown well and she hasn’t spent the whole time leaving one or two on their own all over the place like Cobweb, the other ewe who has had triplets, does.
Flattie out on the common with her lambs - 28th March 2010
Then early on Thursday morning we got a call that one of the ewes had impaled herself on a fence and was in a bad way. We jumped in the car and raced off to see what could be done, we thought that we would arrive to find it was either Briony or Lupin as it was the area that those two almost exclusively haunt with the rest of the flock prefering the grazing nearer the house and the other side of the village. It was a complete shock to find that it was Flat Lamb.
Flat Lamb is a much more ‘human’ sheep, she seems to have an understanding that even if she couldn’t see any good in what we were doing it would work out for the best for her, her lambs or the rest of the flock. She also had a more daring personality, often being one of the ring leaders in leading the rest of the flock off into trouble or areas they are not meant to be. This time she had tried to jump through a garden gate, the space between the bars didn’t look nearly big enough for her to fit and god only knows why she thought she could make it through. Half way up the gate there was a bar across the middle with spikes coming up off it, it was one of these that she had impaled herself on when she tried to jump through.
The house is a holiday cottage and the people staying there, together with a neighbour who use to keep sheep, had very carefully got her back through the gate bars and off the spike. When we got there they were holding her flat on her side so as she couldn’t harm herself anymore but she had a small wound on her belly and her insides were coming out.
It looked terrible.
There wasn’t any phone signal so I rushed straight off to call the vet out, it was still early in the morning so it was still the on call service which meant I had to wait for them to phone back. The nine minutes it took them to call back felt like forever. I explained what had happened and arranged for the vet to meet me by the local church as she wasn’t outside our house or near one of our fields so he didn’t know where he was going. I went back down to Flat Lamb and arranged that my brother would meet the vet so as I could stay with her and mother.
Mother was holding her by now so as she couldn’t stand or do anymore harm, and after sitting with her it didn’t all seem as hopeless as it had first looked. Yes, she had a very nasty wound and yes some of her insides were on the outside but she was very bright and after having a look it didn’t look like she had done any damage other than the wound on her stomach.
I wasn’t glad that it had happened to Flattie but I was very grateful that it hadn’t been any of the other sheep, out of all of them she stood the best chance of recovering from this whereas I am sure any of the others would have gone into shock by this time.
The wait for the vet was long, my brother had gone to the wrong place to meet him and so after waiting for ten minutes the vet had decided that where we were couldn’t be that big a place and asked directions in a shop. Our vets are amazing and have never treated anything we bring to them as ‘just a sheep’, etc. unlike some vets we have had.
After having a quick look he agreed that there wasn’t any noticable damage to her insides that would stop her recovery and so they just needed to be put back in. He gave her a local anaesthetic and a course of antibiotics when he had finished and explained that the biggest risk was that her gut would go into shock and shut down. If this happened there was nothing they could do as even with cats and dogs who have much smaller guts they rarely recover and with sheep’s guts there is too much of them to be able to keep them clean enough, even in a sterile veterinary surgery.
We took her home and put her in a shed with her lambs, to encourage her to live. She spent the day looking uncomfortable, which is understandable and was looking a little more uncomfortable, but not in pain, during the evening and at bedtime but that may well have been the anaesthetic wearing off. She died during the night though.
The next morning was just as bad, with Flat Lamb’s dying just adding to it. Mother was up shortly after 5am to do the morning checks and found wool all along one of the lanes, Cobweb had been attached by a dog. The trail to her was at least a mile long and although bitten and swollen around the neck is ok after being treated for shock. Normally dog attacks have signs of bits and injuries around the back legs as the dogs catch up as they run away but she doesn’t so we think she turned round and attacked the dog back to protect her lambs, who are both fine.
Flat Lamb’s accident wouldn’t have happened if our sheep weren’t freeroaming but I think in Cobwebs case it saved her, and the others, as she was able to get away and wasn’t just trapped in a field.
I hate writing about things that have gone wrong and sometimes it feels like I spend far too much time writing about things that have died, but if I didn’t then this blog wouldn’t be a true reflection of keeping animals or growing vegetables, it isn’t easy and unless it is something you really want then it would be so easy to give up trying. I think because no one in this country really needs to keep animals or grow their own food to survive, many people really don’t understand, especially when I am so angry about a dog attacking sheep (and that’s any sheep not just ours) or I am upset that Flat Lamb died when I know her lambs are intended for meat at the end of the year.
It is so hard to explain, hence the title ’A Life Less Simple’.