Here at the Big Garden, not all our stories arrive safely at a happy ending.
One of No 11‘s twins, who were born just a couple of days ago, died yesterday afternoon.
It was Wet, the boy-lamb. He was probably an hour or two older than his sister Windy, and perhaps just a little larger and livelier. Both got off to a good start, with bottle-fed colostrum, moving on to the milk formula the following morning Though, oddly enough, in the morning, he seemed to be slightly smaller than his sister, and just a little bit less lively : but perhaps J had got that the wrong way round in the first place. Nevertheless, all seemed well at their 5pm feed.
But when J came back from the croft – just half an hour later, he immediately saw something wrong by the way Wet was lying down next to his sister.
It’s not normal for a sheep to lie on its side, flat to the ground – and its certainly not normal sleeping posture : it’s to do with conserving body heat. A young lamb might stretch out like that, dozing in warm sunshine – but only on a still dry day, on dry ground : that’s to do with relaxation – but could be about cooling down the body (that would be in the shade, though – and very unlikely in our climate!).
So a day-old lamb layed out flat on a cold concrete slab on a cloudy cold windy day?
I took it all in in a moment – and without stopping to question I scooped him up and rushed into the kitchen, opened up my outer clothes to get some of my body warmth into him, and did everything I could to provoke him back into consciousness. I could see he’d got ‘scour’ – acute diarrhoea, and so I got Denise making up some warm ‘electrolyte’ (a solution of glucose, bicarbonate of soda and salt – the universal emergency stablizing treatment), and I started administering it to the lamb with a syringe, little by very little.
The lamb responded : there was some attempts at bleating, and the little bursts of kicking that indicate the primitive fight to survive …
But then it was all over.
Just half an hour, from ‘well enough to not give cause for concern’, to dead. The cause would almost certainly be a clostridium bacteria : that’s the most common cause of death in lambs (and calves, kids and so on) in the first day or two of life, particularly in bottle-fed lambs that don’t receive protection through their mum’s milk.
I just sat with him for good while, wondering what mistake we might have made, what we could have done better. And just sad at the loss. And letting go.
Jonathan and Denise >
Let’s finish this reminding ourselves those that are living – that are thriving.