Lost a Little Lamb :-(

ramblambThe ram lamb born to the Jacob ewe on Saturday didn’t make it, sadly. As you may be able to see in the picture, both lambs were quite thin and unthrifty when they were born. I think the ewe might not have been carrying enough condition, and since I just got her, I haven’t had much time to increase her nutrition plane in preparation for lambing. The ewe lamb was the larger and more vigorous of the two.

My mom mentioned that our old Great Grandma Cogan, a North Dakota homesteader and lifelong farmer, always said that females are usually the survivors, and it’s more typical for the males to be the weak ones. (I think she meant in the animal kingdom, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Grandma was also making a parallel to humans! 😉 ). If that ‘s true, I don’t mind, because females are much more valuable in general- you only need so many boys, and the rest have to be sold or eaten! (In the animal kingdom, that is!)

Anyway, as I mentioned in my previous post, I figured out a bit late that this guy was just pretending he knew how to nurse. By late that night, it was evident he had lost too much energy to feed himself, and would certainly die without immediate intervention. So, this, of course, is where you dive in and do what you can- defying Mother Nature because it’s potentially a $200 animal that could be salvaged. But saving half-gone infants is always tricky, there is certainly an art to it. And there are many ways you can go wrong and just arrive at what was originally inevitable death anyway.

Since there was no suckling desire left, tube feeding was the only option. I felt pretty comfortable that I did the tube feeding correctly, but at one point when he was rallying on Sunday, I tried to get him to nurse with a nipple, and that was probably a mistake. Supposedly, the risk of milk aspiration is much higher with bottle feeding than tube feeding. And it was sometime after that when I noticed rattle-ey sounding breathing – a sign of impending pnuemonia from fluid in the lungs. And, he was developing scours- I probably gave him too much formula. Not to mention that since he did not get enough colostrum, he essentially had zero antibodies, so fighting any sort of infection is too big a challenge.

So, his odds were very slim whether I did nothing or tried something; and sure enough, Monday morning he took a turn for the worse and died that afternoon. I’m sad-I hope I never get over being sad seeing an animal die. But, it’s all part of the deal, nobody as 100% survival rates in breeding livestock. And without my intervention attempt, he still would have died.

The things I think I did right: having bottle and tube feeding equipment on hand, having both colostrum and regular milk replacer on hand, and everything in a bucket ready to go. I have lots of extra dog crates, pens, towels etc so I can always bring an animal right into the house for warmth and safety. As soon as I decided supplementation was necessary, I was able to get right on it. And I felt fairly confident in the tube feeding procedure.

The mistakes I think I made- not really getting under there to verify that the lambs were actually nursing. And possibly not taking action more quickly-though this is a hard one, because you don’t want to take one away from the ewe unnecessarily, as then you may be decreasing their odds of success once you start monkeying with them. And I think I fed him too much. That is the hardest part in supplementing, as I think the goal is to shoot for barely enough, because underfeeding is safer than overfeeding. This is where judgment and experience probably play a big role, I’m sure I’ll get better at it over time.

The good news is, the ewe and ewe lamb seem to be doing ok. They are the most important ones, anyway.

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