Friday, February 27, 2015

Lying awake

Saturday evening a lamb died.
Saturday night, a second lamb died.
Sunday afternoon a third lamb died.
They all died for different reasons and they all died for no reason.

First, was the littlest triplet who never stood well. His belly was full and he was standing, sort of, at 7 pm. I was pleased that he was standing. At 10 pm he was dead.

Second was a twin who wouldn't nurse and wouldn't take a bottle. His body was stiffening and jerking at 10 pm. I gave him warm milk by gavage tube, but I had no hope. He was gone by 3 am.

Last was another triplet who cooled from 103 degrees at 2 pm when he was born, to less that 100 degrees three hours later. He wasn't born on a cold day; he hadn't had a hard delivery, he just couldn't keep his temperature up. In past years we would have carried buckets of warm water out to his pen to warm him, but we'd finally learned that unless the lamb is cold because he was outside in the cold for too long without milk, that we can't save cold lambs.

And so I lay in bed, drifting in that half asleep, half awake, 100 percent worrying state that  makes you feel terrible, from 5 am to 7 am. I was afraid to go to the barn, afraid I'd find another dying lamb. In my mind, I went through all the possibilities.

Iodine deficiency like we had three years ago? No. We were feeding iodized salt and none of the lambs had goiter, that swelling in the neck indicative of iodine deficiency.

Copper toxicity? No we were feeding oat hay from our farm and corn from a reputable mill. When we'd had problems with our feed four years ago, the Mill had sent an inspector out inspect our farm for possible problems - no lead based paints on buildings, no contamination of the well from manure ponds, nothing in the hay.

Could it be the hay? Oat hay is lower in calcium than alfalfa hay, but the minerals we mix with their iodized salt should have enough calcium to make up the difference.

Could it be genetics? Last year's lambing had been real good. If it was genetics. we would have had problems last year too because it was the same ewes bred to the same ram.

At 7 am I dragged myself out of bed, warmed up a bottle of milk and went out to the barn. Inside, a lamb was curled up on her mother's back, all the other lambs were sleeping peacefully, bellies round and full of milk. I opened the big garage door on the east side of the barn. The sun was just rising over the trees. Mist hung in the air. I decided to check our barn records to see if the ewes who lost babies in the last few days had lost babies in the past.

I had forgotten that after an amazing beginning to lambing last year, we had lost  lambs in the last week. Dr Weckwerth had suggested that we supplement the newborn lambs with selenium. It had worked.

Dave and I gave selenium shots to all the lambs who looked cold or hungry - who stood with hunched backs. So far, they are fine. They still look cold and hungry, but I think that is because all three suck poorly so they don't get enough milk. We have been supplementing them with lamb milk replacer.

The set of twins born since then are fine. I don't know that we won't have further problems, but having a solution to try means that I don't lie awake at night.

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