It’s very hard to write about an animal’s death. Even harder when you had to make the decision to end their life. And we had to do that for little Thistle, Beulah’s son that she rejected. Our little bottle baby lamb.
I went out to hay in the morning and thought it odd that he wasn’t the first one at the paddock fence. I was a little early, and had woken a few of the sheep up, so I thought, perhaps he was just still sleeping in the sheep barn. I called out for him. Nothing. I have to say, I had a sort of sick feeling in my stomach over this. He rarely didn’t come when you called him. He knew what the food lady brought… yummy milk! Although we were starting to wean him, he still was getting two bottles a day.
So I unhooked the gate and went in to start looking for him and by the time a crossed the paddock and got to the barn door, he appeared, bawling and looking a little sleepy… but then I noticed, he was limping badly. I scooped him up and then saw his front leg was hanging so oddly. It was broken. Oh no… We’ve never had an animal with a broken leg before, but this was so obviously broken, I didn’t need to be a vet to see it.
I carefully lifted it a bit and he cried out in pain. Yet then, he cried out for his breakfast. With tears in my eyes, I carried him back to the house as quickly and softly as I could. I knew that Jessy would be upset, he was her project, her adoption. Yet, when I got to the house and called her, she was all serious and wanted nothing but his comfort. She took him while I called our vet. Sure, money is tight and an extra ram lamb is not a super valuable livestock animal, but I don’t think I’m country enough to be able to put him down. And I’m not even sure how I would since we don’t own a gun. Besides, I’ve never dealt with a broken leg before in our livestock, so I just wasn’t sure. Our vet is a country livestock vet, she’s smart and perhaps a little cut and dry, but she knows her stuff as far as I can see. We called.
What I love about them, is they will talk with you on the phone and help you decide what can and should be done. She got on the phone and I described the situation and she said right up front, it’s not an easy thing to do, to fix a bad break in a sheep. But she would see, and to bring him right in. No one likes to see a baby in pain.
We got there right away and she took us right in. It was clear to her as well, that it was a bad break and she thought possibly multiple breaks and there was an area swelling that she could feel bone through. It did not look good. She said there were basically three options. Surgery to try and set the bones, splinting and wrap, hoping that maybe the bone would knit and he would require antibiotics and a good deal of care since he would have to be kept immobilized for at least a while until it started to heal, or humane euthanasia. She was honest, she didn’t see a lot of young lambs heal from broken legs. Keeping them contained is just nearly impossible. She said once they start feeling better with pain management, they get all goofy and want to run and jump and they just make it worse. And it’s too hard to cast that small leg, it would have to be splinted and kept dry and well. You get the picture.
I was a bundle of tears and snotty nose. I hate when that happens. Darn it. It was such a hard decision to make. But it was Jessy who was the stronger of us. She said, no… it wasn’t right to subject him to all this work and such, the pain, the confusion of confinement and well, brutally honestly, the cost. How did I raise such level headed, smart young women? Our vet agreed. She thought it was the best option, sad, but part of raising livestock. We have been so lucky. We lost that lamb to the mule attack, but that has been it. No illness, no injuries. Still, it was sad.
Doc gave him a shot to knock him loopy, and he dozed off in Jessy’s arms. He was calm, she was his mom and he knew he was safe. We all had tears in our eyes at that point and they laid him in a crate and she administered the final injection that simply stopped his little heart. Quietly and peacefully. It was done.
Hard to write about, really. I did talk with a few livestock friends and they agreed, it was for the best. And we talked about it on Facebook a bit… but I couldn’t really write out my real feelings about it all until now. However, I am glad that I did mention and share it online, with our group of friends and readers. Because a little miracle happened, just a few days later.
My friend Rhonda wrote to me and told me that she had a ewe, one of her Icelandic sheep, that was very sick and they didn’t expect her to make it through the night. She had two little ram lambs, just about three weeks old and she wanted to know if Jessy could take them in, if their mother passed away. Oh my, of course we would. Jessy said yes, I said yes. And we waited.
Rhonda wrote to me in the morning to say that the ewe had passed. Her little boys were now orphans. We dropped everything and drove to Toledo to meet her husband and sons at a half way spot and take on our little Viking lads. They were a little bit scared and a lot bit hungry. One peed on Jess and we figured, she was now officially sheep mommy and we laughed and took the little guys home. We knew it would be a little bit of a challenge, to get them to nurse off a bottle after being with a mom for all their life, this could be a challenge!
But Jessy is a persistent sheep mom.
SInce they are Icelandic sheep and from the northern lands originally, we decided that they needed good Norse names… Viking names! We named the brown one Huldor and the black one Henrick. Good strong names. And we worked with them. The first two days was a real struggle. We made them a little stall in the sun porch because we wanted to keep them away from the main flock for a time to quarantine them. We had called our vet and talked to her about what had killed their mother and whether it was something that could hurt our flock. She died of a parasite invasion, and it was possible the lads were ill as well. However, hopefully, they were still immune from it. We would do a fecal test them after a week, and watch for any sign of sickness. But first, we had to get them to accept the bottle. They were getting weak and dehydrated. We didn’t want to have to put a stomach tube down their throats… that is dangerous and difficult. And would only solve that feeding’s problem. They had to learn to nurse from the bottle. We got special nipples from the feed store and set out to make it work.
Well, it was hard but Jessy managed to get her boys in line and filled up their bellies! In no time, she had them up and going, following her around, coming in the house to be fed and minding their little ram lamb manners. They went from “ooooh, little babies” to her “sheep brats” in a few days! They are very demanding! But she loves them for sure. We all take turns feeding the little nursing machines, they are making up for lost time now! Boy, can they down a bottle in no time! They are very vocal and just as cute as can be.
I’m so proud of my daughters… sure Maggie is the main livestock wrangler here at the estate, but you know, Jessy is so good with the babies and patient. She gets right in there and doesn’t mince words, I can count on her at birthing time, she doesn’t get stressed out or emotional. She would make a good nurse! She was sad about Thistle, but so happy to give these two boys a chance! And if we didn’t have Buttercup, our LaMancha milk goat around to help feed them, it would have been hard to get them going again and healthy. They haven’t had a single incident of scours and are doing so well on their daily pasture visits for a little green grass and leaves. They follow us around like a pair of little fuzzy dogs. We just love them.
I have always wanted an Icelandic sheep or two, I adore their beautiful fleeces and just think they would be a good addition to our spinning flock. It’s just that they can be very expensive and I never thought we would be able to add one to our flock, let alone two! How wonderful! We will have them neutered soon, because bottle baby rams are not a good thing. They can be very dangerous. Sure, not always, but we’ve had too many difficulties with intact rams being, well, like rams. Whethers, however, are big love babies and surely, these two little Viking lads will be big babies here at our homestead! They can join Uncle Angus and learn the ways of the whether under his care.
It is sad to loose our little Thistle, but his memory lives on in these two little orphan boys that needed shelter and care. Huldor and Henrick are doing great and soon will join the main flock as soon as their quarantine time is done. 30 days… They have been with us now about 10. This week we will be taking in a little poo sample for base line testing and move on from there. By how they are growing, I think they are doing great! We love them even when they managed to bust down the kitchen door and get into the trash and leave us little sheepie poos all over on the kitchen floor!
Yup, they are little barbarians!Pin It