Monday, 29 August 2016
The Sad Tale of 2 Lambs who were not meant to be
For a couple of months we have been looking after an old ewe for a friend. The friend bought her with her 2 ram lambs but as ram lambs can be sexually active from a few months old we needed to separate them as soon as possible. We thought we had done so soon enough but a few weeks ago I decided she might be pregnant .... well can you imagine our surprise when Ben came running up from the field on Friday to say we had a lamb? In fact not just one but twins. This, however, was not the good news it should have been as the reason the ewe was sold was because A) she was really too old to breed and B) she was unable to feed her lambs after an attack of mastitus blocked her teats.
We quickly got the ewe and lambs up to a pen near the house and another friend gave us some sheep formula milk. Initially the lambs did well but this was short lived and within a few days we had lost both. You might wonder why? The answer lies in the fact that the ewe could not feed them which meant they did not receive the vital first feed from her which is full of colostrum. Lambs are born with no antibodies and it is the colostrum or "first milk" that supplies them with these vital tools to fight infections. Without antibodies they have a very low chance of survival. We had hoped that perhaps the lambs had managed to get some colostrum from their Mum but our attempts to milk her were totally without success and their rapid demise also indicated this was not the case.
The sad fact is that whoever sold the ewe to our friend allowed an old ewe, who was incapable of feeding her lambs, to become pregnant either by one of her own ram lambs or by another ram she was with before she was sold. He also lied about her age and we now know she is much older than he said. I have to admit that people like this make me angry. It was not the fault of the ewe and we separated her straight away yet due to his bad management she is now bleeting for her young and at risk of another bout of mastitus whilst she waits for her milk-filled udder to reduce back in size. People with smallholdings will often say to you that is you have livestock you also have dead stock. This is true but in this case these are lambs that stood almost no chance of survival and should never have been born.