Monday, January 27, 2014

Emotional preparation for lambing

I woke up yesterday morning worrying about lambing. Last year began so well, two sets of healthy quadruplets. What a wonderful sight in the barnyard.

But from then on our year deteriorated. Our lambs grew weaker and began to die. They didn’t nurse well, they were cold even right after they were born. It was April. We normally lamb in February. There was no reason for them to be cold. We warmed them, fed them colostrum, rewarmed them, gave them antibiotics. Nothing helped.

We lost one third of our lambs before we even finished lambing. In desperation, I took two lambs to see Dr Weckwerth, an amazing vet. I took in a three week old who just seemed to be failing and a new born who just seemed to be failing as well. He listened to their hearts, felt folds of skin, took their temperatures, and drew blood for tests. As we were standing there, talking about what I’d been doing for the lambs I mentioned that several of them had lumps on their necks. He was instantly alert.

Hypothyroidism. Goiter. He still sent in the blood test, but he knew without even looking, our lambs were deficient in iodine and thus had hypothyroidism. I went home to check out our salt. It wasn’t iodized. How many years had we been feeding un-iodized salt. My recipe for mixing the coccidiostat said “mix with iodized salt”. I had always assumed we had iodized salt.

When I called around, only the elevator in Barnesville had iodized mixing salt. So I drove to Barnesville for salt. We began feeding iodine that day. When we were sure that everyone had gotten their fill of iodized salt, we wormed everyone and moved the lambs and ewes onto pasture.

A month later, we started losing lambs again. Lots of lambs had diarrhea. I took fecal samples to the vet. Worms. We wormed again. We wormed four times in a month. Some of the diarrhea cleared up, but some of the lambs were starving. The worms had done so much damage to their intestinal tracks that they lost blood and nutrients continually. DAve did some computer research. Turns out the ewes recover when you give them iodine. The lambs that were in utero while their thyroids were developing, never recover. They just didn't have enough thyroid function to fight off the worms.

Finally, in October, the dying stopped. We had lost over half the lambs and most of the rest never got beyond 65 or 70 pounds. Fortunately our buyers like animals in that weight range for barbeques.

I don’t know that I will survive another year like this last one. Hopefully with all the iodine we’ve been feeding and our move back to lambing in the winter, so we won’t have the lambs pasturing on worm infested ground in May and June - they’ll be out on clean pasture- we should have healthy lambs. We’ll know in 28 days. Lambing should begin February 26.

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