Saturday, 7 August 2010

RIP - Moonlight

Posted by Rosie

Last night we had the unpleasant job of having to put down Moonlight, one of our lambs, because she was dying. You may remember back in February I helped her into the world and even then I was concerned about her health. She never was a strong lamb, slow to feed, smaller than her sister and always giving me concerns. About 10 days ago she got fly-strike (when flies lay their eggs on the sheep and the maggots eat into their skin) and although we started to treat her straight away and cured her of that problem we believe that it caused an secondary infection that she was too weak to fight off.

Having to put a young lamb down raised some very interesting points with the HelpX volunteers we have here at the moment. One is vegetarian, although from a rural area, the other 2 are not vegetarian but from a large urban area in America. None of them has ever been this close to the ugly side of farming when it comes down to the practicality of whether a lamb is worth saving or better off (both financially and for her own sake) put down. In some large commercial flocks, sheep are not checked throughout the night and Moonlight may have died at birth. On other farms and probably most smallholdings, they are checked but even then others may have taken the decision to cull out a weak lamb at birth. Working with such small numbers of sheep we decided to keep her and give her a chance. However as the fly-strike developed into the secondary infection and she rapidly went downhill the decision was made to end her life.

"Could you not keep her just one more day to see if she recovers?" was the first question. No - her health as deteriorated so much and so quickly it was obvious that if left she would die in the night anyway, possibly in pain.

"Could you take her to the vet?" No - in pure economic terms she had no current monetary value and even if she was to recover the cost of the vet would outweigh the value of the meat we could get from her. She was an animal bred to eat, not a pet. Furthermore in her weak state it would be most unlikely she would recover anyway.

The vast majority of people today do not live on farms or have anything to do with them. Many films (Babe being a fine example) and children's story books paint a wonderful picture of a countryside where animals can be saved and all is rosy down on the farm. In reality it is a very different story and yesterday three young people may have learnt just how hard farming can be.


  1. A brave decision, made a bit harder, I guess by having to explain your reasons to the three helpers.

    Well done for putting your animal first. I think as farmers (even in our smaller way) we have to be tough but fair.

    You gave the lamb a good chance, one it would not have had if hadn't spotted it struggling at birth.

    Sue xx

  2. What a shame, I am sorry. Never easy.

    You know when it's right to make the decision you did though.

  3. seems you have made the right decisions all along...firstly to help her into the world - best to give them the best chance i say - and then to cull her when she was ill. Flystrike can take a lamb out so quickly - and more so a weaker one.

  4. As the others have said, a tough decision for you and a hard lesson for your helpers, but all part of real farming life. Hopefully always the smallest part. xx

  5. You know you did the right thing, on so many levels.

    But it is hard.

  6. It was a hard decision and not one made lightly - it was however the right one for Moonlight.

  7. Everything you have said is so very true - if you live in close contact with the animals you keep you do develope a 'gut' for what is best.


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