Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Babies, of the goat and sheep variety

Today was a brilliant spring-like day. Clear blue skies, the color of my daddy's most faded overalls.

Maggie is sick with tonsillitis. I took her to the doctor yesterday morning to rule out strep throat. Last night Thomas and Patrick began to exhibit the same symptoms, so our family doctor prescribed them the same medicine. Wow. We are really getting our immune systems strengthened with all the exposure to germs in the public school system.

I ran to the pharmacy. To the grocery store. Bought items for Thomas's 18th birthday tomorrow. Running around town wears me out. I got home and counted goats.


Portia, the empress of our dairy herd, was missing.

I figured I would send the little girls out to take a look when they got home from school since I was so beat.

Took another look out the window and told myself to get my shoes on, it would do me good to have a walk around in this glorious sunshine.

I went out to the barn, and the sound of little bleating babies greeted my ears!

Good, smart Portia was in a stall in the middle section of the barn, proudly cleaning up her FOUR nursing babies! They looked like little toys, wagging their precious tails, nudging one or the other out of the way so they could each get a drink. Three little boys and one girl.

I was pretty happy I went out to check for myself. I went up to the loft to throw down hay for bedding and food, then took a bucket up to the pump to get her a drink. Lucy and her two little ram lambs were happy as could be. Willow (or was it Sissy, I always get those two mixed up) was making odd noises, and the other ewe was munching hay, contentedly.

I went closer in for an inspection, and sure enough, Willow had given birth to a little female. All black with a white topknot. It appeared that Willow was still in labor and had another baby to be born. Sheep, like most animals, prefer to be left alone during the throes of labor, so I went to get some alfalfa pellets, made sure they still had mineral, and stayed out of the way.

Portia had passed the afterbirth, she took a nice drink of water, and Nora and I got her some alfalfa pellets, too.

Willow continued to make noise, and when I went back to check it was apparent she was in distress. I hate to intervene, but as I watched her contort and cry, I decided I better scrub up and do an internal examination. Rose and I put her in a stall with fresh hay, I laid her on her side and reached in, hand up to the elbow. Front feet were positioned properly, but the head was very far down, and baby couldn't move into the birth canal. I prayed for help, reached the little feet and pulled until I could grab the head. Willow's contractions helped push things along, and all of a sudden we were able to get the baby far enough along to be born.

We were so suprised to see a HUGE ram lamb, over double the size of his firstborn sister. The same size or bigger than Lucy's week old ram lambs.

I placed the baby by Willow's face, she proceeded to lick and I rubbed the unresponsive baby, clearing out passages, praying for the little thing to move, to breathe, to do something. After a few very long seconds, the baby woke up, let out a weak bleat, and stirred.

Aaaah. Relief.

Hard labor that goes on a little too long can kill those babies. We lost several last year from that very thing.

Once the baby was moving and up, I went to get Willow some food and water. When I got back, guess what I saw?

A third ram lamb, almost as big as the second! Apparently the two were tangled up and she couldn't get them out.

What a relief. I was so glad some instinct urged me to go outside to check on the mamas.

As we took care of other chores, the babies stirred, stood up, and began to bleat. Between them in their stall, the four little baby goats, and Lucy's lambs, it sounds like a nursery in our barn.

Spring is coming. Hard to believe it isn't here, what with babies and sixty degree days and sunshine. Daffodils are going to be springing forth any minute now. Last year snow was covering everything. Lambs were springing forth, but I had to trudge through snow and ice to get to them.

I will take the sunshine, although we are in a drought and forest fires are popping up here and there. Please God, let's have some balance. Just enough sunshine and just enough rain. Besides, it isn't too early to think about hay fields.

Babies. What a welcome sight. And more to come. We will be praying for simple deliveries, just like Portia's.


NancyDe said...

I really appreciate this blog! Thank you for writing.

Chris said...

So glad you looked after those ewes! The only lambing I assisted was a huge ram lamb in a smallish ewe. It sounded similar to the one you just assisted. After that birth, a second smaller lamb just fell out when the ewe was cleaning up the first one.

I'm grateful for this lovely thaw and sunny days. And I'm grateful that you share your thoughts and actions with us.

CountryDew said...

Wow, what a day! And what a woman you are! You go, girl! said...

Hi NancyDe! Thank you for your kind comment. I really appreciate it! Sometimes, as I jot down my unedited thoughts at the end of the day, I wonder why anyone would want to read these scribblings (except for my mom, of course!). Your encouragement makes my day!

Hi Chris. Isn't it funny to see a baby just fall out? We now have a barn full of babies. More on that later!

Hi Anita! Yes, what a crazy woman I am! To be sure, I have not been bored in ages...

Anonymous said...

your Dad too

NancyDe said...

I always think my parents are my best audience for my blog, too. We live on different islands, so it is a way to keep up.