Lambing has been a rollercoaster this year, well I guess it always is. One particular rollercoaster was little Lilly. She was born to one of our first time mums (Ewe 2) and we saw her being born. Her twin had been born about an hour or so before her and we happened to be there when she popped out. The ewe took one look at her and took her lamb away. Little Lilly was still completely in her fluid sack and Kath tore it open and rubbed her with hay, cleared her nose and throat and swung her in an arc to get any fluid out of her lungs.
We rushed home, we made up the colostrum replacer and created a make-shift hotbox with hot water bottles and towls. Lilly’s lungs were rattling and she was wheezy. We weren’t hopefull. She did drink a bit and then slept in her box. The rattle in her lungs seemed to stop after our kitten jumped on her and curled up in the box with her. We stayed up with her but her breathing seemed to get worse the next morning. We phoned the vet who said there wasn’t anything medical we could do and that fluid in her lungs was the most likely cause. She suggested persevering a bit and seeing if things improved if the lamb got some strength and started moving around. It didn’t work. So later on that afternoon we phoned the vet and made an appointment that we hoped we’d never have to make. Because it was Easter Monday, the vet was operating an emergency out of hours service only.
We got there, the vet looked at her and confirmed that her lungs weren’t functioning properly and she was putting so much effort into just breathing that it was only a matter of time before everything else packed in. We watched as the vet nurse held Lilly and stroked her while the vet injected her and she went off to sleep and then died. She looked the most peaceful she had in her short life.
As I stood there watching the vet put the little lamb I had just spent 24 hours cuddling on the sofa to sleep I asked myself why I was putting myself through all of this. Why? All sorts of why. Why have the sheep in the first place? They die, they find the most ridiculous ways to die, they’re sheep. Why bother with lambs? We could just have a little flock, we could buy new blood in, we don’t have to lamb. Why not take the cue from nature, the ewe abandon the lamb for a reason, why not just leave the lamb to never really come to life? Well, why have the sheep is a bigger question which I’m sure I’ll return to. In short though, because they keep me sane. Why lamb them? Well, that’s perhaps more complex but keeping sheep is different to say keeping cats or dogs. They’re not pets. Lambing, selling the lambs, selling the ewes when they get older, it’s all part of it. It just wouldn’t feel right to not go through the whole cycle. As for why we didn’t just leave the lamb like it’s mother did? We can’t. Most of the time the ewe’s instinct is probably right, but not necessarily always so we had to try. We had 3 successful bottle feeds last year who were all abandoned by their mothers. It is always worth a go and for those 24 hours little Lilly was loved by us and by the kitten