29 March 2007

Cupid has gone to the Good Shepherd

Unfortunately, things with Cupid the market lamb had gone beyond fixing. The Boy was asleep for most of the work done attempting to solve the problem, but when it was clear we couldn't save the lamb, I went and got The Boy. Doctor Sarah is very kind and the end was super quick and painless ... which is good, as Cupid had been in pain for a few days already and it really needed to end. I am so relieved that we called her: I learned tonight that a sheep can take days to die when this happens (the pipes had, in fact, burst inside), in horrible pain the whole time ... so it was definitely best to get it done quickly.

Looking at the economics, it was still worth the cost of a vet visit: now I know what to look for if we run into this problem again. I would have had no idea what I was looking for and been afraid to euthanize an animal thinking maybe it still had a chance to get better. Doctor Sarah explained what to look for and how to make the call as to whether or not things are beyond hope, and that is good knowledge to have.

The Boy is very accpeting of all this: he feels, rightly I think, that as long as we do our best for our animals and try our hardest to keep them safe and reduce their suffering, we have been good shepherds. For this year, he will continue on in 4H with his breeding ewe, Cherub. She is a lovely lamb with a gorgeous fleece, I'm sure he will do well with her!

So, although we lost a lamb tonight, we gained valuable knowledge and we have the peace of knowing that we eased a fellow creature's pain. We send Cupid to the Good Shepherd with all our love, and with thanks for all we learned from him.

Sick lamb, hard decisions

The Boy's market lamb, Cupid, has come down with a fairly common ailment: urinary calculi. Basically, he has the sheep version of kidney stones, but they are further down the pipe and blocking the exit. This can be fatal. When we figured this out we did realize that he wasn't plugged all the way up, not yet, so we thought perhaps we could dissolve the stones and get things flushed out.

The vet and I called around town today trying to find the special salt that is used as a treatment (ammonium chloride), finally tracking it down at a pharmacy about halfway across the city from where I work. I stopped there and got some on the way home, and the lamb was looking pretty good when I got here. Gram had gone to The Boy's school today to help with "Science in a Crate" and so they were home early - the lamb had gone out to graze a bit, was eating and drinking, and guzzled a half bottle of apple cider vinegar (home remedy in the absence of the ammonium chloride) and a good dose of the proper stuff once we offered it to him (sweetened, of course, it doesn't taste very good).

Over the course of the evening though, he's been looking worse ... and I think the pipes are now fully blocked. If we wait, and leave things plugged up for too long ... well, let's just say that we all have this sort of plumbing for a reason - the toxins have to be flushed out and if they sit in side you for too long, you will get very sick, never mind the fact that if you keep filling up the top end of the pipe and plug the exit, something's bound to rupture, and that's gonna really hurt.

Now, this is a market lamb - he goes to the butcher's in June (he's livestock, not a pet ... we have pet animals, even some pet sheep, but when you raise meat critters, the butcher is a part of the picture). Cupid will fetch a limited number of dollars at auction, and economics are also part of the picture: this one's had milk replacer, medication, and feed ... and he's rapidly reaching a non-profit status.

Weigh this against the knowledge of a painful and slow death, though, and the decision is clear: call the vet.

We cannot let an animal suffer - not if we can prevent it. So, Doctor Sarah, our wonderful vet, will come and have a look and see if she can clear the blockage and get Cupid back in the flow of things. Treatment is not always successful ... but he is healthy otherwise, seems to have a strong will to get past this, and a deep desire for the pain to go away. We'll have to see what we can do for him, it's the right thing to do.

Oh, I'd better go turn the light on. :)

27 March 2007

Another lamb arrives!

When The Boy came home from school today, he saw Split lying next to a very new baby lamb. (Split is an Icelandic/Suffolk ewe born last spring - her full name is actually Banana Split.)

The new lamb was probably born less than an hour before The Boy arrived home. The mama sheep was doing a great job all by herself, and was not upset at all by The Boy coming near to take some pictures and check out the baby.

This is Corolla, our newest addition!

Why Corolla, you ask? Well, we are getting one of these for an additional commuter vehicle, and we just plain love Toyotas - Union Guy drives a Hilux Surf, I drive a Hilux pickup, a friend's Land Cruiser is parked in the yard, and I have previously owned a Celica, a Camry, and a 4Runner... oh yeah, and Gram and Grandpa have a Camry now too!

With this being a "C" year and all, it just seemed like a good name. Maybe she'll be fuel efficient, and grow really well on straight grass!

26 March 2007

Update on Cookie, Crumb and Cutter

Cookie (the mama sheep), Crumb (the first ewe lamb) and Cutter (the weak lamb that had to be bottle fed at work for a couple of days) are doing very well.

The baby lambs like to climb up on mama and sleep on her back. They're starting to look more and more like their father, Jack the Southdown ram ... they have that adorable Southdown smile. :)

A handsome sheep

Union Guy was out photographing sheep this weekend ...
This is a lovely picture of Bruce, our Icelandic/Suffolk ram. He has a spectacular fleece and such a handsome face!

The Boy is eleven

This past week, The Boy had his eleventh birthday.

Gram and Grandpa came for dinner on his actual birthday, helped with chores, made dinner for everyone, and brought cake! What a treat - for everybody!

On Saturday, there was a Kid Party at our house: kids came and bounced on the trampoline, checked out the critters, made pizza (individual creations for each kid) and home made ice cream. Yes, without a freezer, we made ice cream! (I bought two bags of ice at the corner store in the morning, packed them in hay on the deck, and they stayed frozen until we needed them.) Everybody got an apron to wear, and The Boy even had a chef's hat.

Union Guy did his usual magic with a cake, creating a large bowl of "ice cream" - several scoops of ice cream in a bowl, iced in different colours, covered in sprinkles, with a big spoon to serve it! Of course, it wasn't ice cream at all, but cake ... totally amazing.

In keeping with our food theme, we raised $100 for World Vision's programs that feed hungry children around the world. A birthday is a great time to share what we have with those who have so much less!

15 March 2007

Gold Medal Winners

The Boy and his project partner took the gold medal for their science project!

They studied the effect of various stain removers on a variety of stains: they made a grid on a big piece of white fabric, put five different stains on it, and then treated each set of stains with a different stain remover product. We washed the sheet, and the kids then decided what worked best.

The verdict is ...

buy an apron and hand out large cloth napkins at the table!

Nothing works very well. :) All of the stains (red wine, butter, oil, ketchup, and banana) were still visible after laundering, although some stain remover products turned the red wine stain to a shade of blue, which was interesting.

14 March 2007

Good news for the abandoned twin lamb!

Well, she took her time getting her strength back ... but by the time she was a full 36 hours old, Cutter had finally started sucking on a bottle (instead of sitting there with it in her mouth, barely swallowing 10 mL in 20 minutes). She still needed help getting the nipple into her mouth, and was still very wobbly on her legs, falling down most times she tried to stand. By day 2, though, she was up and walking more, and drinking better - finally starting that "chugalug guzzle" that bottle lambs do. Then, wonder of wonders, I noticed she was butting at people's legs, like she was looking for milk ... so we took her out to the pasture.

Her momma made that mooing sound and welcomed her right away - let her nurse (although The Boy had to help the lamb to find the 'sweet spot' at first, this particular sheep has teats well off to the sides of the udder, where they are hidden unless she cooperates with the lamb), and all seemed well. We left everyone out for the night (it was fairly warm - well, in our terms).

I took the lamb to work again today for one more day of 'insurance supplementation' - just to be sure she had a good start. She followed me out to the pasture when we got home and was persistently following her momma around the pasture, getting milk at every opportunity.

Woohoo - a cold baby that could barely suck and couldn't stand is back on her feet and back with her momma - after two and a half days of bottles! How exciting!

I know it's really uncommon ... once they have a bottle, that's all they want, and once momma ignores them, she won't take them back ... so ... wow, anything really is possible!

12 March 2007

Apple Jack Creek's very first lambs

Early Sunday morning, our first lambs arrived! We have twin ewe lambs from our 'mutt sheep ewe', Cookie. The hugely pregnant Icelandic ewe, Natalie, is still waddling around and apparently in no hurry to lighten the load on her back.

Sunday morning Union Guy offered to go out and do morning chores while I got breakfast going. All of a sudden, I heard hollering from the pasture: I looked out the window and saw Union Guy gesturing at something. "What?" I yelled. "Lamb! Baby lamb!" he shouted back. At first I thought he meant the bottle lambs had gotten loose ... then finally my addled brain registered the message that one of the ewes had finally given birth! How exciting!

A few minutes later, Union Guy was at the door, holding a shivering baby lamb in his arms. Apparently there were two lambs, one that the mama sheep was paying some attention to, and one who had lain forgotten in the hay. He'd heard a weak baa and realized it came from the direction of the sheep shelter, where he found a second tiny baby lying all alone. She was pretty cold, but not completely chilled, so we warmed her up and got some milk into her.

This happens sometimes with sheep ... they have one lamb and are so busy looking after it, they don't realize they have a second one that needs them too. We struggled throughout the day to get Cookie, the mama sheep, to accept both lambs, named Cookie Crumbs and Cookie Cutter. We did manage to get some colostrum into both, but Cutter, the chilled baby, was unable to stand and clearly needed our help.

Helping the sheep is what the shepherds do, so we kept Cutter inside and encouraged her to drink warmed milk replacer. She was very weak, so much so that she could barely suck the bottle, and I wasn't sure she'd make it . The Boy stayed home to look after her today, though and by midday she was taking the bottle much better. So, although I think we're destined to support another bottle baby, things are looking up for Cutter.