Lambing Help, Part 3…When to Call the Vet — 4 Comments

  1. I think the last part about getting info from the vat at the time of visit is a great one! I might have been able to help if I had done that. I only remembered my reading of “All Creatures Great and Small” much too late to help in saving a beautiful animal I had come to love
    My story is not one about sheep, but cows. My very first experience with a cow did not go well, but did end happily; sort of. I always lived in town, but wanted to be a farm girl. After my divorce, I bought my dream home of 5 acres, and someone suggested I get cows to help in keeping it mowed. So…. I got one. I had her bred and waited. Not knowing if she was pregnant, sent her to a friends while my fence was being repaired. ( The cows, mine and a few I was pasturing for a friend, had a couple of times decided to head for the coast , so I needed a new fence!)

    The day I went to see her, and find out if she was pregnant, another friend said that she hadn’t been seen for 24 hours. (he had over 600 acres) so we went looking. We found her in the only source of water, a rain fed pond, stuck. she had been there for awhile. We wenched her out and waited: she was obviously in labor, and had struggled for hours,with no luck. Eventually, everyone went home, and I stayed the night.

    She did manage to get the head part way out. I went to help, but found no breath when taking hold of the calves’ mouth or nose, so went to see if I could help the cow. I assumed the calf was dead. A few minutes later, I saw the calf move, and thought I had a chance. So, around midnight, I put my hands inside, and found the hooves, and pulled gently but firmly. The cow had long since tired of trying to push, so I did it all.

    I lost track of time, but I think it must have been a few hours later, there was a newborn calf at my feet, and, a day later, a dead cow. The vet came out and gave her a few shot after trying (to my HORROR!) to prod her with an electric shot!

    The light came a few days later when I remembered my reading and figured out she probably had milk fever, something that could have been remedied by a calcium shot, something the vet had NOT tried…. but by then, the cow was dead.

    So, I drove the newborn calf home, about a 30 minute drive, while it peed the whole time! I was very fortunate to be able to get colostrum milk from a local dairy and give her, and she survived and grew and gave me many of her own calves! She always thought I was her mom! I used to go out into the pasture in the summer, lay down a blanket and read. She would come over, lay down on the blanket and chew her cud with me. Later, when she was full grown, would stand over me while I read, and drool all over my book! I used to take a curry comb and brush my cows, but she would push all the others away when I tried to brush them after her. I named her ‘Miracle’, as she was truly a miracle. I miss her to this day.

    While I do agree that most of this type of thing SHOULD be taken care of by a professional, don’t allow the lack of one to hinder you from doing what you can to save livestock. If you are a mother, chances are, you know what to do and what NOT to do, so just go gently.

    In my case, cows apparently are not considered worth taking the time to come out for a vet. I had, over the years, called three in the area only to be told: sorry, can’t come, it’s horse season (like horses haven’t been mating since practically the dawn of time without help from vets…). Fortunately, most of the issues were taken care of by nature, but as a newcomer to having any kind of livestock, it would have been helpful and much less stressful for ME had they come out.

    I love cows, and hope to have them again, but I AM thinking about sheep, too. I even have a couple of heritage breeds in mind. I’m looking forward to having livestock again: I HATE mowing 5 acres every summer!
    Thank you for this series, I know it will help when my sheep finally get here!

    (Sorry for the length, but you DID ask for my experience!!! 😉

    • Thanks for sharing!! I love hearing other people’s adventures–there’s always something to learn! Our vets definitely specialize and do mostly horse-work. Especially the newer vets coming out of vet school. It’s much harder to find an “old fashion” large animal doctor–at least in our area. Even within one practice, we have found that all the vets have different levels of experience and expertise. I feel like we’ve really had to develop a collaborative relationship with our clinic to get the kind of care we wanted–they didn’t just roll up knowing everything we wanted to know–and we had a lot to learn! There’s been questions we’ve asked that they had to go back and research and call us about and a couple of our cases have stumped them when it came to determining the final “cause” and we just had to keep trying different treatments until we hit on something the animal responded to and then try to backtrack into a diagnosis.

  2. Thank you!

    Mine is a story of non-rancher assisting in delivering a lamb for the first time…

    I currently seasonally rent space for my trailer from a small farmer/rancher with about 20 sheep (don’t know the breed) and am not a rancher/farmer by a long shot. I help with feeding, and other odd jobs around the ranch as partial payment for my staying here during my work season. I have known they had lambs being born but not been present or seen much other than newborns running around occasionally. I was caught completely unaware yesterday. This post and the others have absolutely eased my mind and let me know I was right in that something was amiss, and that the ‘half-drunk friend’ advice I was given was correct.

    Most of the other lambs that have arrived were not ever a problem as far as I was aware, so yesterday when I arrived home from work (the owners are currently overseas for two weeks) and went to let them out to the pasture, I noticed a ewe with hooves and a head (partially delivered) running with the other sheep. I made a few calls to veterinary offices (24-hour places as it was late and the nearest is 2 hours away) without much response or was promised a call back when the vet was available. The ewe made no effort over the next hour (still awaiting a vet return call) to lay down and made a calls to people I know or family who have horses and such but could not get any definitive answer on what ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ might be in this case. Enter the ‘half-drunk former rancher friend’ who said I might have to pull the lamb and described it as ‘out gently and downward’ by the hooves.

    After getting her separated from the herd (it’s been almost 2 hours by this point), and seeing no progress or attempt to lay down and push by the mom I got her gently pinned down and began pulling hooves downward and outward at which point she started pushing and delivered.

    End result: What appears to be a healthy newborn, afterbirth was expelled 45 mins later, and today mom is caring for it and lamb is feeding. I actually feel like I can get some real sleep.

    Again….thank you! I will say that reading your posts definitely gave me more peace of mind today to think that I was right to believe this was not ‘normal’ and that I did the right thing in this instance. More information than the vet did (who finally called about 10 minutes after the lamb was trying to nurse and explained how to milk the mom briefly to ensure lamb could feed. Still not heard from other vet).

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