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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mastitis is not for chickens.

One of the ewes who lambed at New Year’s has mastitis. I found her one morning, in the back corner of the barn, her lamb at her side. Everyone else was outside at the feeder. She didn’t want to eat. I went and got the Farmer. He flipped her over, and revealed an udder that was swollen as hard as a bowling ball. No wonder she had no appetite. The lamb looked at me and baa’ed.

“No milk either, huh?”

I picked up the lamb and the ewe followed easily, with the shepherd’s crook around her neck. We put them in a warm lambing pen, juiced the ewe with Penicillin and fed the lamb a bottle of milk replacer, much against his will.

The two were sniffing at the sweetfeed and hay when we left them.

The next morning, the ewe hadn’t eaten so she got another shot of medicine and the lamb got another bottle. When I went in the barn that evening, the ewe greeted me. She was up, moving around, eating and drinking. I saw the lamb nurse. Everyone seems to be on the road to recovery. The ewe looked me right in the eye and baa’ed as she chewed her cud.

“I know. Hurts like hell, doesn’t it?”

I remember standing in a hot shower as a young mom, crying as my baby nursed. Those were my dairy days. I know what mastitis feels like.

A few nights later the other New Year’s lamb came running into the barn, baa’ing his fool head off. He looked around, searching the faces of the ewes around him. He couldn’t find his mother. I helped him look but I couldn’t find the ugly lamb squasher either. I caught the lamb and tried to feed him some of the bottle but he would have none of it. I told the Farmer.

“I’ll catch him and put him in with the other lamb. I’ll build them a creep. It’s time they were weaned anyway. They’re at six weeks.”

He put a gate up on blocks in the middle of the lambing pen up, and only the lambs could get under it. They feasted on sweet feed all day, until a bunch of ewes busted in the door and the little lamb escaped.

This time he found his mother, but it was still time to wean him so I tackled him and picked him up. It was like picking up a pot-bellied pig. He was hea-vy. That sweet feed had really fattened him up. Back to the barn.

As I was doing my sheep tackling and transporting, I had some unsolicited assistance. Donkey and Misty were hot on my trail. I could feel the big Belgian’s breath on my neck. The horse reached around and put her heavy nose on the lamb in my arms. She seemed to be trying to push the bawling lamb out of my arms.

“No!” I shouted at her, and she stopped. Misty snorted before tossing her mane as if to say, “I don’t care.” I watched as the horse and donkey backed away. Misty was looking quite portly, but that could just be her winter coat. I’m not convinced she looks eight months pregnant. I guess we’ll find out eventually. But for now, we have a stethoscope that we borrowed from the family nurse, and we’re going to see what if we can google “how to find a foal heartbeat.”

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