Dodging A Bullet with Bloat

Yesterday morning I was pouring a can of grain into the sheep feeder when I looked through the welded wire and saw an upturned udder and legs stiff in the air. Lambs were trampling the body to get to the grain trough. My heart dropped to my shoes.

I can’t take any more deaths, I thought, even as I walked around to the gate to go in and pull out the body and try to figure out what possibly might have happened.

To my enormous relief, when I got to the ewe I found she was still alive but stuck upside down. It was Geranium, one of my nicest ewes, who had evidently lain next to the feeder on a small slope and then, in getting up, accidentally rolled over onto her back and become wedged next to the feeder, unable to move. Sheep on their backs are not only helpless in the face of attack but their rumens stop working and they fill with gas. This is called bloat. Pressure on the heart will then kill the sheep.

With a tremendous heave on her back hooves, I pulled Geranium away from the feeder. She staggered weakly to her feet. Her sides were so distended with gas she looked as if she were carrying quadruplets. With some difficulty I got her into a jug with hay and water, and by the time I had milked and left for work the painful distension was already beginning to deflate. By evening chores Geranium seemed fine and I let her back in with the flock.

Be still my heart.

*    *    *

Checking the barn last night at 9 PM I heard the first wood frogs calling in the farm pond. We are due for snow today and tomorrow but the frogs tell me springtime is here.


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