I’ve separated my ewe Pixie into the lamb stall for her safety. Pixie is five and a half years old, from a well-known breeder; she’s pretty, well-bred, and undersized. (Someday I’ll write about her background.)
In the late winter of 2015 Pixie came down with a mysterious illness that was never diagnosed, though mentally I’ve filed it under meningeal worm (a brain parasite shed by deer). At the time I was on the phone and computer to vets and to my sheep group. At their advice I treated her for, successively: milk fever, toxemia, selenium deficiency, and barber pole worm; and I investigated both polio and listeriosis. Nothing I did or any of the shots I gave her over the two weeks I labored made any apparent difference, except to preserve her life. She was left with wasted muscles in her hind legs that have kept her wobbly on her feet.
A real farmer would have sent Pixie to slaughter. I didn’t. Once she recovered, she ate eagerly and seemed happy to wobble along behind the flock. She gave me strong sets of twins in both 2016 and 2017.
This year she appears to be pregnant with twins again. However the weakness in her hindquarters has dramatically increased. Her forelegs slide forward and she collapses to the floor with any sudden movement. In the big stall the younger ewes (and the two unsold rams) shove her aside and then trample over her. Twice I’ve found her knocked onto her back, four legs in the air. A sheep will soon die of bloat in this position. Both times I rushed in and yanked her upright.
Once again the problem is mysterious. Her hooves are trimmed and fine. She has been wormed; she has access to a mineral supplement. My tentative guess is that the lambs she is carrying are somehow exerting pressure on her weakened muscles… but it’s only a guess.
For now I have pulled her into the lamb stall to keep her from being knocked around. Flock or herd animals can panic on their own so I put Geranium in with her for company. Geranium, who is six, injured a back leg years ago and has her own, less-serious mobility issues. The two are in the small lamb stall at night and, while the rest of the flock goes outside, in the big stall during the day. They don’t seem unhappy. I remind myself to be careful not to overfeed them in compensation; neither will be helped by oversized lambs.
- Pixie can carry these lambs to term
- Pixie can deliver the lambs, despite her vastly increased hind-end weakness
- Pixie’s normal 70% strength will return once the lambs are born.
I know that’s a lot of hoping.