Jonathan: Just off the phone with Animal Health, Inverness. Results from the government laboratory report that Tolsta Faolan was not suffering from Scrapie. That’s a huge relief for the authorities, no doubt. I’m not sure what it means for us. Had it been Scrapie, the source of the problem would have been unequivocal – the breeder. However as it is the result simply poses more questions – ones that can’t easily be answered. The tests showed that that Tolsta Faolan had Encephilitis caused by Listeriosis.That’s damage to the brain caused by bacteria which live in the soil or in infected feed: the most common source is contaminated silage. We don’t use silage, and the hay I’d been feeding Faolan and the wedders is just as it should be – dry, sweet and clean. And the sheep nuts also are in perfect condition. Incubation period is usually three weeks, so he must have been infected during early December, certainly after he came to Eriskay. It could have come from the soil, if he was ingesting soil along with grass – certainly the grass was by then short, though there’s no exposed soil. And what does it signify that the wedders have not contracted the disease? It’s difficult to know where this came from and how to respond, other than to redouble the ongoing effort to continually improve knowledge and skills of stockmanship. At least I don’t need to worry about the money: the government compensation should be adequate. But had he simply died from this, without the government vet seeing a justification for euthanasia, I would have got nothing at all.
Jonathan: If sheep, too, can be Venus and Mars, then there’s no doubt at all that Tolsta Faolan , aka The Beast of Tolsta Moor lived up to that particular ideal of ram masculinity. It’s certainly true that he was always ready to put up a good fight! Not the easiest of animals to work with, when he arrived in early November; but he was, little by little, getting used to me ; and above all to trust me. Just a few days ago, I was moved with joy that he had let me kneel beside him, my arms around his shoulders and neck, stroking the sides of his face and under his chin: I felt his breathing ease, felt him let go the strain and tension, his heart beat more gently. Even when I let go of him, he just stood still for a while, then slowy turned his head up to me as if to ask: Well … are we done now?
This morning, I held him again in my arms, holding his head up as the vet injected a massive dose of barbiturates into a jugular vein. Just three or four seconds later, and Foalan had let go, once and for all, the stresses of life, all the sadness and pity of the past few days, all the humiliation of his diminshed self. Yet even as his earthly life ebbed away, his spirit lifted free – Mars ascending the southern skies above Eriskay.
Here on Earth, there are forms to fill, tests to run. I’ll have more to report early next week – whether indeed it was Scrapie he had. But at least I already know that the rest of the flock is safe – as I’d only acquired him two months ago, and I decided not to use him for tupping this year.
[Photo of Mars above Eriskay, right, taken this morning as I waited for the vet].
Jonathan: Just off the phone to ‘Animal Health’ in Inverness to report suspicion of notifiable disease. Duty vet agrees that it is likely that Tolsta Faolan has Scrapie. A specialist vet is being despatched, who’ll be on the ferry this evening and will arrive in Eriskay tomorrow morning. In the meantime, the croft is in Lockdown – no animals on or off the croft until further notice. More about this when the vet has given his diagnosis. Poor Faolan! – he did look pitiful this morning! And to think just four days ago there was nothing obvious amiss.