Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Still waiting

The south wind had filled the path to the barn with snow. On my 10:30 pm trip out to check the ewes, I stumbled in the dark through the drifts.

In the barn I turned on the over head lights and began working my way through the flock. Available was standing, looking pretty good for a skinny, lame, very pregnant ewe who might have ketosis.

But Number 4, Maybe, didn’t look good. I’d been watching her because of her girth and her huge udder. If her belly dropped much further, her udder would be dragging on the ground. I couldn’t get her to stand up, no matter how hard I tried. So I tried to check for ketones in her urine. I couldn’t get her to urinate. The best technique is to hold a keto stick under their vulva while someone else holds their nose and mouth closed. Urination seems to be a reflex when you can’t breathe. I positioned the keto stick on her udder under her vulva and then moved to Maybe’s head. I wrapped my hands around her mouth and nose and held on tight. She struggled, wrenching her head back and forth and finally, out of my hands. When I checked the keto stick, it had fallen to the barn floor and was completely dry. We repeated the process twice and she finally urinated. Negative for ketones!

I slid a finger tip into Maybe’s vulva to check for lambs. I could feel my finger pass through the one centimeter ring of her cervix. She was dilating! I might be spending the night in the barn waiting for her to lamb. I trudged back to the house.

Dave was in bed waiting for me, he drew back the covers. I shook my head. “I think she’s in labor.” I explained about the cervical opening. “I should probably go back out in an hour.”

“I’ll be checking the sheep in three hours,” he said. “She won’t have lambed by then.”

“Yeah, but,” I said. We had slipped into our lambing ritual – me cautious, Dave logical. Finally, he persuaded me to climb into bed and turn off the light.

At 6:30 this morning, she still hadn’t lambed and was walking around the barnyard with no problems. At 10:30, she hadn’t lambed. At 1:30 she hadn’t lambed.

The sheep are much better at waiting than I am.

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