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Tough decision. Is it worth it to save a sheeps life?

 
R Ranson
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I have a very tough decision to make in the next 24 hours, and I don't know what to do. I would like your thoughts, but please be kind with your words as I'm feeling fragile today.

I'm in a very bad way right now. Been up all night with Mini the ewe. She's been in labour, trying to push out her lamb all through the night, but made no progress. As soon as the vet opened his doors, I was there with my ewe. His prognosis was less than promising. There is a chance things could resolve themselves in the next 24 hours, but it is unlikely. She would need (expensive) surgery to survive. There are risks of course, but the outlook is fairly good. Either that, or I do what most farmers do in this situation which is to give her a fast and merciful end.


Mini is the one on the left, the one with the big horns is Ram-kin. That was just after shearing.

This is her as she came to us:

She's the one in the middle.

Mini is a Black Welsh Mountain sheep, a fairly rare breed but lovely. Their wool is a dream to work with and makes a lovely squishy yarn, great for sweater making.

I love making yarn, so raising sheep for meat was a natural thing to do. I'm terribly soft hearted and have strong opinions about the treatment of animals raised for meat in the industrial system. I eat meat, but I also want the animals to live a calm, loving life in an environment that let's them be true to their nature. It seems weird to my city friends that I can eat the animals I raise, but I know that they have had a loving life.

When we look at things financially, a sheep is only worth so much money. An ewe might produce lambs, milk, manure and wool. But she also requires feed and other expenses. Purely financially, Mini if in perfect healthy condition is worth $200. As she is now, not able to create more lambs even if she survives this... she's not worth a penny.

Emotionally I adore her. Sure she's the shy one, but she's also the most loving. I go out there and give her a hug and she just melts, relaxing into my arms. I don't like to see an animal suffer. Especially not her.

She's had a prolapse this spring. It's far more disgusting than it is dangerous. Here lamb-hole goes so the part that should be on the inside, is on the outside. We consulted the vet and the local sheep expert about this, and they said it was doing well and should clear up once she pops out her lambs.

Last night, she went into labour - about half an hour after the vet closed. She's been pushing and trying to get her lambs out all night, and I've been there with her, helping her to be calm. The thing is, one would expect to see the sack of disgusting looking fluid that precedes the lambs. But nothing. Being eager to learn everything I can about farming, I cut my fingernails short, scrub my arm clean. I then stick my hand in her lamb hole and 'look' around with my fingers. Apparently I should be able to find a lamb and pull it out. I can only get in as far as my wrist before I lose my way. Not sure what I'm feeling but it's all soft wall at this stage with a funny tube which only fits a finger. No sing of lambs. So it's time for a vet visit.

The vet says that the cervix hasn't relaxed yet. That it might relax in the next 24 hours, but more likely it won't. In which case, the lambs suffocate inside the mum, and rot in there causing a rather nasty death for everyone. If the lambs haven't popped out by tomorrow, the only way to save them is to do a C-section. Most farmers won't do this because the cost of it far outweighs the value of the sheep. What is common is to give them a quick and quiet end.

I don't like to lose a life if there is something that can be done. I also can't afford the surgery. I especially can't afford the surgery if there is a chance it won't work - and there is that chance. The surgery would cost over a month of my earnings, so if I go that way, I'll have to go into debt that I'll have trouble getting out of. Even if she survives and everything goes well, I'll never be able to breed her again. She'll be a financial drain on the flock, contributing only manure and fleece, but eating the full amount of food. From that point of view, it makes no financial sense to try to save her.

But I hear her call out with pain and my heart breaks. I want her to live.

So is it worth it? Do I get Mini the surgery? Or do I give her a merciful end?



It's selfish of me to ask this, I know. But is this the kind of thing crowdfunding would help with? I don't have much to give in thanks, but I can give wool, handspun yarn and handspun, handwoven scarves.

There's also a chance things might work out for the best on their own. So I don't know if crowdfunding is worthwhile or not. Maybe it's better to get my friend with the gun.

I feel so lost.
I also know I'm not the only one making decisions like this. It's part of owning livestock.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Have you or the vet gone in to help? Did he massage the cervix to stimulate dialation?

I would be elbow deep trying to deliver that lamb, just scrub with an iodine or the like first.

The value of an animal is not always what another will pay, but what the life and your relationship with it are worth.

What type of range of cost are we talking $500-750, or the $1500-2000?

There are drugs that can dialate the cervix as well, is this a good vet that you trust? Is there another around? Might be worth asking another if they can chemically dialate....

I don't know crowd funding viability, but saving a life is never selfish in my eyes.
 
Miranda Converse
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First off, I am so terribly sorry you are going through this. It is always heartbreaking seeing a beloved animal suffer.

I went through something somewhat similar a couple months back with one of my goats. She wasn't pregnant, but very very sick and I suspect it had something to do with an early miscarriage. I started with goats (and all of my livestock) having in mind that their main purpose was to contribute to the homestead and I wouldn't shell out lots of money for vet care. Well we can't always keep ourselves from getting attached so I had to weigh the value of her as a pet vs how much it would cost to take her to the vet. I did end up taking her and she recovered, although she didn't require expensive surgery so it may have been a different story then. I guess my point is, it is really up to you as far as how much you are willing to spend and how much you can afford.

I personally would give her a bit more time before you make the decision. I know it's heartbreaking to hear her in pain, but just imagine how a woman in labor sounds, it hurts but they typically get through it. I would give her at least 24 hours. If you have her at home, periodically check to see if she has dilated any more and you could possibly assist.

Some ideas/things to consider;
Could you possibly get an ultrasound to see if the lamb is alive? If it gets to a point where it doesn't seem feasible to save the mother, maybe it would be possible, and less expensive, to save the lamb. That may help heal the loss of your Mini.

Maybe you could also get a second opinion or even try to find someone in the area experience with sheep. I don't know anything about your vet, so this may not hold true in your situation, but I know my vet, while she will treat all animals, isn't always the most knowledgeable about goats. So I always keep that in mind when she sees mine.

As far as crowdfunding, I've never done it but I think it's worth a shot. And especially if you offer something in return, I believe people would be even more willing to give. I think it might be against policy to post it here, but if you set something up, PM me with the info. I'll post the link on my FB although I'm not a huge social media person but it can't hurt...

I wish you the best of luck...
 
R Ranson
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Chadwick Holmes wrote:Have you or the vet gone in to help? Did he massage the cervix to stimulate dialation?


Yep. The vet did this. I'm going to be doing this soon now that I know how. The vet said to let her recover from the trip, and once she's calmer, massaging might help. There is no lamb pushing on the other side of the cervix at the moment, otherwise it would be more urgent. He's worried about doing a C section before the lambs are fully ready to come out so that's why we are waiting the 24 hours.


Chadwick Holmes wrote:
I would be elbow deep trying to deliver that lamb, just scrub with an iodine or the like first.


At the moment we can only get in there just past the wrist. We can get a finger in the hole - which the Vet says is the cervix - but it won't expand for us.


Chadwick Holmes wrote:
The value of an animal is not always what another will pay, but what the life and your relationship with it are worth.

What type of range of cost are we talking $500-750, or the $1500-2000?


The vet quoted the lower range, but there will probably be extra costs for meds afterwards. The vet is being very helpful with the price. It's still a good deal more than I put aside for emergencies.

Chadwick Holmes wrote:
There are drugs that can dialate the cervix as well, is this a good vet that you trust? Is there another around? Might be worth asking another if they can chemically dialate....


I'll have a check about these meds. It's good to know. A lot of meds they can use in other countries aren't approved for use here... but sometimes we can use them off label, other times the vet would lose their licence to use it off label. It's a bit tricky with livestock.

This is the vet I trust. He's the one recommended by other farmers, but he only takes on farmers by referral and only special cases. I had to go through a sort of interview process to make certain I worth his while. He's also the vet who hasn't killed every animal I brought to him.

The other vet nearby that does livestock is very good at killing the animals and charging us a grand for the troubles. There is another vet that is about 2 hours away, but they are just as pricy and they don't know my flocks history. I don't know their success rate.



Chadwick Holmes wrote:

I don't know crowd funding viability, but saving a life is never selfish in my eyes.


Thanks. I feel very selfish wanting to save her. I should have a stronger heart if I want to raise livestock. A proper farmer would just get the gun and be done with it. I just don't have that in me if there is a chance to save her. It makes me feel so bad to know someone in my care is in pain. At this point, I just want to save her life and become vegetarian.
 
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R Ranson, it sounds to me like you have the right vet and he is giving sound advice, so just listen to his advice in this situation.

It is never selfish to care about your animals and wanting to do what is best for them is the sign of a good animal husbandry person.
When you talk about "proper farmer" it sounds more like "commercial farmer" to my ears, don't worry about being a proper farmer, worry about being a good caretaker of your animals.
proper farmers tend to look only at monetary value of their animals, and that means the meat from those animals will not be as good as it could have been, even if it tastes great, it probably could have been even better if they held more esteem for their animals welfare.

Sometimes the best we can do for an animal is to give it a calm, swift, death. You have to be ready to make that decision, in those cases it is not about your feelings it is about the animal's suffering.
Never jump the gun when you are faced with the above decision, mother nature can do wonders in just a few hours, but you have to be willing to wait those hours to see.

I know you are a caring person, one thing to ask the vet about is called "Care Credit", it is a medical card for animals(and humans) where you can pay out a medical debt.
We got one when our female LGD developed cancer in a leg, it allowed us to give her the second chance she deserves.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I can imagine the toughness of this, but just imagine, I have a wether because I know I am too soft for it.....wish you luck!
 
R Ranson
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Mini is still very strong and has a lot of spirit in here. I saw the lambs trying to kick through her side this morning, so I'm working with the assumption that they are still alive.

Just working up the courage to put my hand back up her lamb hole. She's not as distressed now as she was last night and her prolapse has gone from giant watermelon down to cantaloupe size. I wonder if I can interest her in some molasses water.


Finding a vet we can trust seems to be a recurring theme. I know I had a lot of trouble with this. I started with one vet, and every time I took an animal there it died. Eventually I met the right people and got a referal to my current vet. He's amazing. Not only does he help heal the animal, he walks me through the method and trains me how to deal with this myself in future. His prices are less than a quarter of anyone else on the Island. The only problem with him is that you have to go through a rigorous application to register with him if you have livestock.

If I remember once this is all over, I would love to start a thread on how to find a vet we can trust.

...

She cried out, so I went to see her before finishing this message. Put my hand in there, gave her a massage. I'm worried about going in there too often in case I tear something or make an infection. She's still strong and was very calm with me there, but now she's crying again. Completely lost my train of thought from before. Going to go sit with Mini as it makes her calm.

Thank you everyone for your support. It's nice not to be alone.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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I'd spend the money and get on a payment plan if they'd allow. You'll be kicking yourself if you didn't do everything you could.
 
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In your situation, one thing to consider is how you will feel if you pay for the vet to do a c-section and then the ewe dies anyway. I once faced the same situation; the lambs survived but the ewe was dead next morning from the stress. Fortunately the lambs learned to steal milk off other mothers, so with that and bottle feeding they reached an acceptable weight (meat sheep).

I was okay with spending the money because I was very curious about seeing a c-section done. It was a once-in-30 years experience.
 
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Because this sheep is a pet, I would spend the money for the surgery.
 
Radka Kolacny
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I just went through a stressful lambing with my ewe, My sympathies, it's hard. A friend of mine (who came to help me with my breached birth lamb) told me that when the ewe has 'ring womb' or what it sounds like with yours, that you put your fingers in a duck bill shape and gently place them in the cervix and maintain pressure for like 1/2hr. He says his fingers hurt and he lost feeling in them, but it worked for him the few times he's had to do it so don't lose hope. I would want to save my sheep too. It's a hard call when they're pets. Your financial situation will help you decide and don't feel bad whatever you end up doing as you obviously have your animal's welfare in mind. <3
 
Radka Kolacny
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Also, use LOTS of surgical lube or some sort of lube and I'd give her a penicillin shot after. You are right to be concerned about infection.
 
Travis Johnson
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Sooner or later almost all sheep farmers face this issue and honestly it is a roll of the dice. I wish there was a clear cut answer.

One time I had this issue, did the C-section and got two nice lambs out of it. The second time we did so, we got two dead ones. Both times we lost the ewe.

To be honest with you I kind of always resented the big farmer mentality that we don't care for our animals only because even on the big dairy farm in the family with 1200 cows, my Uncle could name every cow and tell you its medical history for the last four years. And the number of things they have done to help me save my own sheep has been amazing. The long and short of it is; whether big or small farms, we all hate to lose animals and do almost anything to prevent it, including time and money.

As with anything, there are concentric circles of life however. I have some dear friends, but honestly I would do far more for my immediate family then I would for friends. And as I often tell my wife, "Without us, there is no us." What I mean is, our marriage is what keeps the family together, working on our marriage is the most important thing we can do for our four daughters. Our flock of sheep is a huge part of what we are...I am a 10th generational sheep farmer after all...yes I will spend money saving a lamb that is probably not worth it, but not always. Sometimes the needs of the family come before the health...life even, of a sheep.

I am not asking you to answer this question to us; just yourself; what would you do with the money that would otherwise go to vet care? If it impacts the good of your family it may not be worth it. But if it is just money in a savings account...then maybe it is.

On our farm, unfortunately only the very sick lambs come into the house so that we can do everything we can for them all day and night long if need be. Unfortunately this sets our daughters up to see a lot of lambs die. Yet this is not really bad either. In this day and age kids are isolated from the cycle of life, but at my house the kids are accustomed to it. Our middle daughter is so used to it that I had to warn her Kindergarten Teacher that if she brings up death nonchalantly, it is okay, she is not morbid, just accustomed to the cycle of life. Having animals...as much as we as parents hate teaching the cycle of life and what death really is...is inevitable on a farm, and children are better for it I think.
 
Dana Jones
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Wow. Tough call. It sounds like a C-section would still result in the loss of the ewe. And even if she lived, she would never be able to be bred again. Now I am going to ask a tough question, is this trait what you want to breed into your flock? What if her lamb survived? Would you keep it in "her memory"? I am a sheep newbie but have already made pets of my ewes. One in particular is so sweet, I love her. She had twins, her first lambs, no problems. I might sound mean, but I want a flock that will give birth, nurse their young and be good mothers. If I have to hand deliver each birth, bottle feed half the lambs, then the flock would get some serious culling.

Yes, you are a farmer. Be proud of yourself and your flock. Yes, you love your sheep and yes, you give them the best care possible. If I didn't have the money, I could not justify putting myself and my family in a financial bind to save what will be virtually a worthless ewe. I may sound harsh, but sometimes these tough calls have to be made. Then you go sit in the barn and cry your eyes out, then the dog is worried and keeps slurping your face with a large drooling tongue, trying to make you feel better. If you make the call to put her down, you might consider skinning her and sending the pelt out to be tanned or made into leather. Then you could make something useful and always have a reminder of her.

I hope things turn around and your ewe gives birth. I really do hope so.
 
Kris schulenburg
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Definetly give her time. I had an old sheep that I thought had toxemia and I did not have the money for surgery. She was in labor for three days and I thought I would have to put her down. I came home from work and heard a lamb. In the two hours since my husband had fed the animals and I came home from work she had four lambs by herself. Praying you get a mirical too.
 
R Ranson
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It would be so much easier if she was a pet. Of course we pull out all the stops to save a pet.

But livestock... livestock that is sort-of pet? This is hard. We've eaten 'pet' sheep before. But we don't eat much meat anymore... and we don't like to eat stressed out meat anyway.

If we do get lambs off her, they will go for meat anyway. Unless we get a wether with very good fibre, then we would keep him.



My instinct is that she's two or three days away from being ready to pop out her lambs. She's pushing because of the prolapse, not because she's ready. I don't have any evidence to back this up. It's just my feeling. I wish I had a prolapse paddle thingy to put in her so we could see if by keeping the insides inside her, she might be able to relax until the lambs are ready.

I saw the lambs kicking at her side today... if they are kicking at the side, then they aren't ready to pop out the back. Maybe?
 
R Ranson
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Mini ate a wee bit of dinner, but on the whole she's getting weaker. If I go out with her, she's calm and expresses no pain, but the moment I go away she's yelling with distress and pain.

I put some poppy leaves in with her because sometimes when the sheep is in pain, they like to eat it. At this time I am more concerned for her comfort than longevity. I'm starting to worry that this might be the beginning of the end for her.

Phoned all the vets in town looking for a prolapse paddle. No one has one. I wonder if there is some way I can make one at home. I don't want to stitch it up because she's so close to popping out lambs. I don't know. I'm just so tired.

She has molasse water, water, hay, grain, salt and a few choice greens. Can't think of much else I can give her except moral support.
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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I have nothing really to contribute, but I want to let you know I'm thinking of you and Mini tonight. I hope she pulls off a miracle, but either way I hope you both get some peace soon. Seeing a friend in pain and not knowing the right way to help is terrible.
 
Susan Doyon
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sending Hugs and hoping that things take a turn for the better , several times I spent way more than I could afford for injured dogs or goats some we lost some went on to have a long life . there is no right or wrong you have to act according to your heart and circumstance . Your mental state and your families financial well being are what comes first .
I am hoping by the time you read this she has dilated and popped out healthy lambs. her distress is most likley because she is worried and you leave if it were all from pain she was all pain she would make as much noise when you are with her . ( my goats would sound like they were being clubbed over a shot a hoof trim or rain
 
Radka Kolacny
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I don't know where you are, but there's a facebook group for my area for sheep producers. It's an excellent resource - have you tried anything like that to find a prolapse paddle or advice? It's more likely another sheep producer has one than the vets...
 
R Ranson
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Mini had a relatively easy night. It wasn't until 4am that she called for me to come out and see her. Of course, I didn't sleep much because I'm listening out for her, but sometimes that's what it means to have livestock.

On the whole, no real change.

Except in me. I choose this breed of sheep because they are supposedly easy to lamb. If these weren't mammals, I would do like I do with plants - leave them alone to self cull the ones who can't reproduce. But they aren't plants. In the future, I'm going to save up and buy a different line of sheep. I always like working with shetland wool... maybe they are better suited to our conditions?
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I don't feel like this is a conditions issue, unless there is something that I didn't connect, we will continue sending good thoughts and prayers...
 
Travis Johnson
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Sheep have been raised for some 9,000 years and it is pretty safe to say in the early years they still had prolapses and no "paddle things" in which to prevent it. I often get caught up in "Paralysis by Analysis" myself, but one thing we as farmers must realize is, if someone else got creative than we can too. In fact we even got it easier because we got the internet. A 2 minute search on Google turned up how to suture a prolapse...no vet required...no prolapse paddle thing required, though there was plenty of homemade ones to look at as well.

There was a time I was rather gun shy at giving shots, pulling breech lambs and dealing with prolapses, but as you gain experience such instances allow you to grow as a farmer, by that I mean doing things you would probably rather not.

A prolapse is not always a death sentence, I had a ewe that had two and produced lambs every year afterwards.

I do agree that the lambs are not quite ready to be born yet if you saw them kick in the stomach area. One of the signs I look for on my sheep are sunken bellies. It means the lambs have dropped into the birth canal and lambs will be arriving shortly. If the ewe is still alive and you see that occur you might want to do a c-section or have your vet do one. Time unfortunately is not on your side as it sounds like she is going into pregnancy toxemia...her kidneys are shutting down. She needs a lot of calcium dextrose I would say and that is really a vet derived shot, a horse syringe of the stuff straight into the jugular vein and not really for the faint of heart (myself included).

Sorry you are in this position my friend, many of us have been there and it just plain sucks. No quick easy answers...as if there is such a thing in farming right?

Here is the link to suturing a prolapse on a sheep properly.
webpage

 
R Ranson
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You're right. This problem isn't a conditions issue, but it makes me think of all the things I would like to do to improve their environment. I want to get to a stage where I can manage the flock with environment and diet alone, focus on strictly preventive health care and not play catch up like I'm doing now.

Having the shearer 'round two days ago to give the flock a health check, and he says they are looking very good compared to most of the other sheep he works with. The vet says I catch things early and am very conscientious of my sheeps wellbeing. These make me feel confident that I'm doing things right...but still... When something like this happens, I spend a lot of time thinking of ways I can make it so it doesn't happen again. A greater variety of foraging crops for the winter, perhaps, would give them a more balanced nutritional intake that would make them stronger for future stresses... things like that.
 
John Polk
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For veterinary issues, as well as improving their environment, you might want to read The Complete Herbal Handbook For Farm and Stable by Juliette de Baïracli Levy.

She practiced veterinarian medicine for 40+ years on several continents...and never owned a syringe.
Besides the medical treatments, she goes into great detail regarding the herbs and natural plants that benefit most farmyard livestock. Having pasture of all of the proper plants can greatly improve the overall health of livestock.
 
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John Polk wrote:For veterinary issues, as well as improving their environment, you might want to read The Complete Herbal Handbook For Farm and Stable by Juliette de Baïracli Levy.

She practiced veterinarian medicine for 40+ years on several continents...and never owned a syringe.
Besides the medical treatments, she goes into great detail regarding the herbs and natural plants that benefit most farmyard livestock. Having pasture of all of the proper plants can greatly improve the overall health of livestock.


There's a thread, review and a video here.
 
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....."practiced veterinarian medicine for 40+ years on several continents...and never owned a syringe. "

Not something I'd be proud to brag about. Just goes to say that many a savable animal died under that person's care. Anaphylactic shock....eclampsia....acute shock...the list could go on and on. I've had conversations with other veterinarians who proudly announced that they've never used antibiotics, vaccines, or you name it. But they hide the facts of their failures, blaming the deaths on something beyond control.

I used to attend multiple veterinary seminars and conventions yearly and have met many a fringe or downright wacko veterinarian. Not all of us are grounded in reality nor are sane. Some of us appear to believe some real woo-woo stuff. Scary. And it's the very animals we are pledged to help that suffer the consequences.
 
R Ranson
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Good point Su. That goes again to finding a vet we trust and who can work with our values.

I feel that many vets and farmers do not focus on prevention as much as they could/should. Yes, I used the word 'should', as if I'm passing judgement, and maybe I am. But I feel prevention is so important. I'm glad that I found a vet that will work with me and has simular values to me. That's one of the things I like about permaculture people, we are willing to investigate these... more unusual techniques of not using vaccines and antibiotics, ever, but we are also practical people. I think permaculture is a great way to move away from the excessive use of drugs in livestock raising, but also a way that understands that these drugs have their uses in some situations.

I don't know if I said before. I do vaccinate for the local 'bugs' including tetanus... and some other stuff that the vet recommended. I've been toying with the idea of not vaccinating this year. But now, I think I'll keep with the vaccination for a few more years at least.



Mini is still pushing out her prolapse, but the times of distress are further and further apart. She's nibling very small meals, but a variety of hay, grass and grain. Her waste management system is also active. I've given her a massage, an internal massage, and her cervix is about twice the size as yesterday. I can comfortably fit one finger in it. I could feel no lambs on the other side of the cervix. The lambs are still kicking out the side.

I've decided against the surgery. I don't know if this is the right decision, but it's the one I've come to. Mini has a lot of life in her, and I hope that if I can give her the support she needs, she might come through this. Her pain isn't great at the moment, but if it gets bad, I'll give her a quick ending. I don't think the lambs are ready to pop out yet... Maybe two more days. This is just my feeling, I don't know how long it will take.

My google skills are poor. Any good links on how to make a home made prolapse paddle? I don't want to sew up the lamb hole because I might not be here when she goes into proper labour, and I understand she can birth around a prolapse paddle.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Dear friend,
I feel as if I have failed you. I have been so busy in the last few days. I was only able to give you a quick response. I'm so happy to see many wonderful people coming to your aide. How lovely, you will never suffer alone.
I'm so impressed by your strength. I don't know what I would do if I were in your place. It's easy to say until you are faced with the situation yourself.
Please keep us informed. God bless.
 
Katy Whitby-last
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I seem to remember you mentioning that she had a difficult birth last time and didn't dilate properly. If it was me I would go for the Caesarian option as it sounds like she has problems with her cervix so you at least have live lambs at the end of the process. If she survives she can at least raise the lambs. Her chances of surviving the surgery are better if it is done before she gets into too much difficulty with the birth.
 
R Ranson
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Katy Whitby-last wrote:I seem to remember you mentioning that she had a difficult birth last time and didn't dilate properly. If it was me I would go for the Caesarian option as it sounds like she has problems with her cervix so you at least have live lambs at the end of the process. If she survives she can at least raise the lambs. Her chances of surviving the surgery are better if it is done before she gets into too much difficulty with the birth.


I'm not sure that it was her cervix last year. It's felt more like her hip bones were too small... the lamb was huge, had big horns, and a very wide shoulders. The choice of ram last year was not as good as it could have been - too big - I was working under bad advice. Whatever it was, it might have damaged her cervix and caused scarring.

She's still prolapsing, but her attempt to push is less often and less painful. Still eating and waste management, but not a lot. On the whole, not much change. There is no sign of lambs on the other side of the cervix yet. The vet said that's something he looks for before doing a c-section, as it helps to indicate that the lambs are ready to come out.
 
Travis Johnson
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R Ranson wrote:Mini had a relatively easy night. It wasn't until 4am that she called for me to come out and see her. Of course, I didn't sleep much because I'm listening out for her, but sometimes that's what it means to have livestock.

On the whole, no real change.

Except in me. I choose this breed of sheep because they are supposedly easy to lamb. If these weren't mammals, I would do like I do with plants - leave them alone to self cull the ones who can't reproduce. But they aren't plants. In the future, I'm going to save up and buy a different line of sheep. I always like working with shetland wool... maybe they are better suited to our conditions?


This is something to be careful of. In times like these, it is very easy to rethink the plan, but in all honesty, I have found that changing tactics mid-stream ALWAYS ended out being a really bad idea. I took over the family farm in 2008 and put together a really sound farm plan with lots of research just as I am sure you have done. (As well as others on here). Yet every major failure I have had is because I went against what I had originally intended to do.

The problem is, these ideas are based on emotion. I have suffered livestock losses as well. I woke up one morning to 17 dead sheep in a pile due to bloat. Yeah that was a bad day so I am empathetic to your situation greatly.

Still it is the one biggest mistake I have seen beginning and small farmers do; they try something and upon the first attempt at failure they drop that idea and pick up something else. It ends up being a big hamster wheel that is frustrating and unending; never learning skills just moving on from every failure only to go to a new one.I am not saying don't change breeds of sheep under any circumstances, I am just saying be wary. I tried a new breed of sheep only to realize what I had was the best for my farm from the beginning.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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I am empathetic to your situation greatly

Travis,
I'm so sorry for what sadness you've had to endure, but I find these pictures very disturbing. I'm sure these images will not help in this situation. I'm sure you mean well but...

 
Cynthia Quilici
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@Karen, I disagree. I hope to have sheep on my property next year, and I am eating up all this information with a spoon. I think it is important to know what doesn' t work as well as what does. This being a thread already given a "life or death" title, I think readers should be able to handle wherever the content may naturally lead. The images drive home what is at stake.

@Travis, could you share more about what led to the terrible bloating incident, or post a link if you have done so elsewhere? I'm having a hard time processing the seemingly-contradictory facts that: a.) small ruminants have accompanied humans successfully for many thousands of years, and b.) they seem to be eager to die at the drop of a hat. The idea that I might be raising animals who routinely have to keep their insides held in by twine, nylon straps and/or plastic paddles is disconcerting to me as a newbie approaching this realm, and is even more disconcerting when presented under the umbrella of "permaculture".

 
Dana Jones
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I have to agree with @Cynthia Quilici these photos are important and educational. We learn from others successes and failures. I am a sheep newbie also and would be devastated if they all died from bloat. Finding out what caused it could be a big help to me and others. With livestock-you get dead stock. It stinks, but it happens.

 
Cynthia Quilici
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http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.michvma.org/resource/resmgr/mvc_proceedings_2014/marteniuk_01.pdf
Here is some information about birth problems.

Here is a schematic about using twine to contain a prolapse:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-jFCj6DxFscQ/Ugd3YpMXAoI/AAAAAAAAAGI/Pr__D_oWBL8/s1600/Prolapse.jpg

I hope your ewe is still ok...
 
R Ranson
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I feel for you Travis. That's heartbreaking. Very good point about not changing things too fast. It will take me a good few years to save up for new bloodlines in my flock, so I'll have lots of time to think it over.


As for the pictures, I'm not personally bothered by them as I've seen real life animal deaths before... some much worse that than.

I am thinking that maybe some readers here might be disturbed by suddenly coming across photos like this. I'm also thinking it's a very educational topic and one well worth talking about.

What do you think to having a new thread to discuss the bloat, how it happens, how horrible it is, what you've learned from your experience, and if anything can be done to prevent it... educational stuff... and move the photos over there. Maybe mention in the title that there are photos that may disturb some readers, so that people don't come across the photos unexpectedly?

Personally I would love to see more threads about diagnosing and dealing with the more challenging aspects of livestock. I want to know more permaculture friendly solutions to these problems.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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The information is very helpful and informative. I just have issues with the photos and feel it's disrespectful to the animals and maybe too much to see when you're stressed about your on flocks livelihood. That's just me.
 
Angie O'Connor
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Pardon me while I try and sort out some confusion here. Also my experience is with cattle and not sheep.

It's been decided that she isn't lambing yet, the lambs aren't in position and she was never actually in labour? She's just prolapsing like before?

Do you know her due date?

Simply put, if she's not immediately due and the lambs aren't in place and she hasn't started labour then why would her cervix be dilated enough? Generally dilation will begin a certain time before they're due and before full labour begins but if she's still a ways away from her known due date then I wouldn't be overly concerned with an inability to lamb right at this moment. I would be managing the prolapsing the best I could and waiting for actual labour.

However, if it's determined she needs to have the lambs asap then yes, there are drugs. At least in the cattle world. Lutalyse, Estromate, Dexamethasone.... all can and will induce a labour in cows. I'm sure there's something similar for sheep, if not one or all of those. Inducing can have it's own risks as it can have complications with dilation and the presentation of the offspring which can require assistance.

As for not being able to reproduce again... do sheep not deal as well as cattle with c-sections? Many cows who receive c's still go on to be able to reproduce. Or is the vet saying Mini would be unable to reproduce because of her cervix? Also, here in Alberta, C-sections are usually around $400-$600 on cows. Are prices that much higher on the coast that it's more than that for a sheep?

I really hope things turn out well but sadly, with livestock it doesn't always. However just because they're livestock doesn't mean they're not pets and loved. I have a "heifer" who is my baby. She's small so I put off breeding her until she was 2 and then that summer she absolutely would not catch. It was a battle to fight opinions and keep her without her being able to support her cost beyond being my "pet". Last summer she turned 3 and again I had her with the bull. She came back pregnant! She should be due in April and I am ecstatic and not above rubbing it in certain noses who would have culled her. She will be 4 this summer and 2 calves behind anyone else her age.

I will be thinking of you and Mini and hoping for a good outcome!
 
Angie O'Connor
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On the topic of Graphic Photos... I'm a bio nerd and love things like that but understand some people find them disturbing.

Being more cattle orientated, and because I worked at a feedlot, I have an entire collection of photos of cattle necropsy's. They show various issues that cattle can suffer from. I have them shared on another forum for cows and would happily share them here if people were interested in them as a diagnostic tool and reference.
 
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