Some of our animals are destined to die. It’s a hard truth. In order for our family to eat clean healthy food we have to raise it ourselves. We feed them well, we make sure they have plenty of pasture to graze, and a nice flock of friends to hang out with.
We do everything we can to ensure they are healthy and happy for the short time they are with us. And then when it’s time, we do things as humanely as possible with respect and appreciation.
When one of our ‘keepers’ died last week, my world came to a screeching halt.
No matter how careful we are, the law of averages dictates that eventually one of our sheep will get sick and no matter how hard we try they might not recover. We have been reminded of this law recently.
Last Sunday morning my mom came out to get some of our older hens for stewing chickens. After catching the chickens I fed the sheep and opened the gate to let them out to pasture. That was when I noticed a sheep staggering. That is NEVER a good sign.
We had worked in the pasture for hours the day before, and all the sheep had followed me back and forth many times, from hay shed to gate and then from gate to hay shed. I never saw anything that looked remotely out of the ordinary. I looked at each one, as I always do, and looked at all the sheep pellets scattered about, looking for any sign of trouble. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Yet Sunday morning we had a sheep staggering like a drunken sailor tottering along behind the others, unable to keep up, just stumbling along on the ice. We immediately caught her, put her in the small pen and started texting. Within minutes our friend Jenny was on her way with some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory. Our vet was texting dosages and other instructions. Despite our best efforts we put her down within a few hours of the initial discovery.
The state vet conducted a necropsy and determined that her whole body was infected. The most likely cause was spoiled feed. We were devastated. We have always been so careful about where we buy our hay, how we store it, how we feed it, where we feed it. We were determined to learn as much as we could from the loss.
The necropsy revealed that the ewe was very healthy and also pregnant. The state vet explained that good mommas use all their energy to feed and protect their unborn lambs leaving themselves unguarded. Often times an unbred ewe can eat hay that is moldy or spoiled and just get over it. A pregnant ewe can eat a tiny bit of something that might be a tiny bit past it’s prime and simply drop dead. What a hard lesson to learn.
The good news is the necropsy revealed that our sheep was healthy, aside from the food poisoning, with no disease present. It’s his job to test for and monitor these things so he was rather thorough. We will get the written report via snail mail to document the event but it won’t bring our dear little sheep back.
Our ewes are such a big part of our lives. They are literally the first critters I talk to every morning (because my family believes in sleeping past 5 am) and they are my favorite hangout each evening, where I go after work to relax and unwind. They all have names and personalities, some have attitude, others are indifferent. But they are all near and dear to my heart.