Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An experienced shepherd

Nursing more than one lamb is an amazing feat. Nursing three or four is prodigious. When a single ewe raises multiple healthy babies, it’s a boon for the shepherd, but hard on the mom.

When Dave and I left the farm to visit our new grandson, we did it secure in the knowledge that our good friend Glen was taking care of the animals. During most of the year, the sheep are largely self sufficient. But during and after lambing, both the ewes and their lambs are prone to problems. Our normal house/animal sitters do a great job feeding the sheep, Oolong the cat, Gloria and Ted, the fish, and Carly the dog. They make sure that Carly gets outside, or at least clean up after her if she doesn’t.

Right now, however, the sheep need the care that only an experienced farmer can give. Only an experienced shepherd, like Glen, would recognize that a lamb standing with its back hunched is a hungry lamb. Only an experienced shepherd would know to track down that lamb’s mom and get the lamb nursing. Only an experienced shepherd would recognize a tired ewe and when finding her lying in the barn instead of rushing out for fresh corn, figure out what was wrong with her.

Temperature 108º. One side of her udder hard instead of soft. Glen expressed clear liquid with white clumps from one side of her udder instead of creamy milk. An obvious case of mastitis.

Glen dosed Supermom with an antibiotic and rounded up her lambs. They were very interested in nursing even though she was lying down. Glen built a pen around the little family to keep the lambs with their mom. Then he put each lamb on the nipple on the hard side of Supermom’s udder. The lambs could remove the milk and ease the pain much more rapidly than he could.

Even after the lambs were penned with their mom, they still looked hungry. Glen opened the unused bag of lamb milk replacer we had in our freezer, and mixed up milk to feed them. These lambs were too healthy and too big to gavage, so Glen made a trip to town to find a plastic bottle that our lamb nipples would fit. The lambs took to the bottle with no problems. The only problem was for the shepherd. Now instead of checking the sheep morning and evening, he would be checking the sheep and feeding three bottle babies. Perhaps not such an onerous problem for an experienced shepherd.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.