Friday, March 4, 2011

Of birth and death

Tuesday, Dave noticed that the ewe with the prolapse hadn’t come down for corn. He walked around the barn and there she was, a little white hoof sticking out of her sewn shut vulva.

I had meetings all morning, so Dave was on his own. Unfazed, he herded the ewe into the barn, cornered her with a hog panel, and then took her down in an adaptation of a well remembered high school wrestling move. He pulled a hoof shears from his pocket, slid it under a stitch in the suture around her vulva, and cut the suture.

The he pulled the lamb out. She was beautiful! He moved mother and baby into a jug, clipped the baby’s umbilical cord, dipped it into iodine and then stripped milk from each of the ewe’s nipples. No second baby yet.

He fed the mom, filled a bucket with water, and registered the birth in our barn records. Still no signs of a second baby. Dave fed six bales of hay to the rest of the ewes and carried a bale down to the rams. He fed and watered the rest of the ewes in jugs. Finally a hoof showed at the new mom’s vulva.

Dave helped ease the second lamb into the world. It was not a healthy baby. He struggled to get it to breathe, rubbed it’s little body with a towel, blew into it’s mouth and nose, dropped it onto the straw covered floor. Finally the lamb took a shuddery breath and began to breathe shallowly. But this lamb was still in trouble. It didn’t struggle to get to its feet. It didn’t raise it’s head. It lay there.

When Dave returned in an hour, the lamb was shivering. It’s temperature was below 98˚. It couldn’t maintain its body temperature. Dave warmed the lamb in a bucket of hot water. He expressed milk from the mom and fed the lamb with a gavage tube into its stomach. The lamb just lay there, thrashing when he tried to get it to stand.

The beautiful lamb didn’t look very good either. I remembered that we had used an injection of selenium in a similar situation several years ago. We gave both lambs selenium and fed them both by gavage.

The selenium hadn’t saved the lambs the last time we tried it. But I couldn’t find any explanation for a spastic lamb other than white muscle disease. For awhile at least we would treat them as if they had white muscle disease and give them selenium.

Twelve hours later, the second lamb was breathing impossibly fast. It couldn’t stand or raise it’s head. We had warmed it twice now and injected it with more selenium; we knew of nothing more to do. It was dead when Dave did the 3 am barn check.

The second lamb is hanging in there. She doesn’t look healthy; her head droops, but she can maintain her body temperature. She is learning to nurse on her Mom, and she isn’t spastic. She isn’t actively dying. Maybe we will come out of this with one live lamb.

No comments:

Post a Comment