There’s a Murphy’s Law to farming and family that says no matter how many days you have off, the kids or animals are not going to get sick until the night before you have to go back to work. We just had a great 3-day holiday–well, me and Speedracer did. Everyone else had a nice 2-day weekend.
The older kids had to go to school to make up a snow day and Mr. Fix-It had to work because, well, he always has to work. Enter 6 pm on Monday…
“There’s a ewe down.”
In farm-talk that means something is really, really wrong. “Down” doesn’t mean just laying down.”Down” means won’t get up, can’t get up, lethargic, unresponsive, depressed, glassy or glazed eyes…it’s bad news.
So we check her temperature. Normal. We check her eyes and gums (pink is good, white means anemic). Normal. Check her nose. Bit of discharge, but it’s clear. Normal. We try to force her up. She gets up, takes a few steps, lays back down. Not normal. Everyone else is up mowing down on their grain at the trough, pushing and shoving and carrying on. Clearly not normal.
This is when you start going down the list. Worms? Not likely, good pink tissue. Physically injury? Not likely, she did get up and walk and that wouldn’t cause this kind of lethargy in just a few hours (she was fine at morning feeding). Cuts, scrapes, and broken bones don’t cause lose of appetite. It’s nothing we’ve seen before. She’s pretty late stage pregnancy so I’m thinking pregnancy toxemia, possibly brought on by a late night gate-break out the night before. It’s caused by the ewe not getting enough calories and the lambs sucking up all her fats, calories, and sugars before she can get any for herself, and she goes into something like a diabetic shock. But we’ve never had a case here before. So we decide to call the vet.
The Vet rolls into the driveway about 6:45 pm. $100. She says hello. $20. She takes her temperature and checks her eyes and gums for pink. $40. At 7 pm she says she thinks it’s pregnancy toxemia and the outlook’s not good, but we might be able to save the ewe. $50.
Ok, I’m being a little facetious. (Just a little. It does cost about $100 the minute she rolls into the driveway for the farm call, emergency fee, and examination.) The Vet put a catheter in her neck and we started giving her IV fluids. Dextrose, vitamin B complex, and a whole concoction of stuff that’s supposed to replace her sugars and calories. The prognosis wasn’t good for the ewe or her lambs.
But she’s actually responding well so far. Before the first liter of fluid was in, she got up to her feet. That’s a good sign. Since 7 pm last night, we’ve been giving her 1 liter of fluids ever 4 hours, 6 ml of thamine every 6-8 hours (3 times a day), and 60 ml of glycol propocal every 6 hours. She’s gotten up to her feet and is moving around and bright-eyed again, but she hasn’t eaten yet.
It’s been a long night and she’s not out of the woods yet, but her chances are improving. And now that you know waaaay more then you ever cared to about pregnancy in sheep, let me leave you with this…
Next time you’re in the grocery store buying dinner and you think it’s too expensive, just picture me and Mr. Fix-It getting up at 11 pm, and 2am, and 5 am (at which point we just didn’t bother going back to bed) and blundering into our dirty jeans, and clumping into our dirty boots, and gathering up a bucket full of syringes and bottles and IV bags and needles and shuffling out into the windy, 30 degree night (which literally sucks the sleepiness right out of you!) to poke, prod, and pester that ewe as we try to save her and her lambs–just so you can have that food on your plate.
How much would your time be worth to do the same thing?