Friday, February 13, 2009

Lady Lef-teat

{Heed my warning: This story isn’t for everyone, it contains a short part that may induce stomach turning. That being said, don’t let that stop you}

I got home from OSU last night around 6pm, which is two hours past chore time. The sun had set heavily and the purple-blue-red horizon reached almost a full circle around the farm. There was still enough light to make my rounds with hay, and surprisingly enough light for the chickens to come out of the hen house and wait eagerly at the gate for me to throw down some scratch and steal their eggs.

The night was calm and quiet, but there is always something eerie to me about doing chores into twilight. I can’t really make out every shadow and I can’t read the expressions or body language of the animals. As I headed to the back pasture to hay the sheep and young does they weren’t at the gate waiting as they always are, and I mean always. When these animals get out of sync I know there’s trouble. I looked for Paschal (my guard llama) knowing he would lead me to where I needed to be. Soon enough I was noticed by a doe and the whole gang came running from behind the loafing shed.

I did my standard OCD head count; 4 kids, 3does, 3 bucks, 2 rams, spot, 4 lambs, two……I was missing an ewe. Lady Lef-teat was not with the ragged little heard. I’ve been concerned about her lately, she’s been slow to get to the hay and doesn’t like to compete for alfalfa. She’ll eat, but after everyone else. She’s also the one who had the nail that I cut several weeks back. Lady L is a sweet ewe she is one of the original sheep who was owned by the tomato mans daughter’s father. She is probably at least six, maybe seven years old.

But of course, Lady L has a story. A few years back she had lambed, everything was fine until I noticed her right teat was bruised badly. Now lambs can be rough on their moms when it comes to getting milk, but I thought this was a little much. After further inspection I realized her whole bag was black. I’m green behind the ears here and didn’t have a clue what it was, so I called Dr. Denham. He suspected it was gangrenous mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the lactating udder and generally is pretty easy to clear up, however gangrenous put a whole new twist on things. He sent me home with a weeks’ worth of antibiotics and told me that eventually it would just lop off. He warned that she might not make it.

Lady L was fine otherwise and kept up with everyone and yes it did sort of almost lop off. Actually it kind of hung there, well…..rotting (I know). I needed to deal with this. I noticed one morning….yes, brace yourself…. Maggots had overtaken the area inside the rotting gangrenous utter. So I did what any would do and I found us a nice quiet spot in the barn. I had gathered all the supplies I thought I might need; warm soapy water, two bottles of hydrogen peroxide, a drench tube, needleless syringes, iodine, bag balm, antibiotic cream, and a bucket of my finest grain. Off to work I went. She was so calm and peaceful with me she laid back and let me clean out the depths of her spent udder. It was bad and the smell grabbed me something horrible.

It took maybe an hour of constant flushing, plucking, picking, blotting, cutting, compressing, cleaning and the constant verbal assurances from me to her that we would get through this together. After that morning I went out twice a day and cleaned it and rubbed it with udder cream and treated her like a princess. I decided culling was not an option that I just wouldn’t breed her but she could remain on the farm with “pet” status. She throws twins and I didn’t know if one utter could handle it. She ended up healing completely and much to my surprise raising two lambs perfectly on one teat.

So, where was Lady L? I walked toward the barn trying to be nonchalant, I half expected her to be lying peacefully in the corner just too lazy to greet me, but no. I did notice however the gate to the hay stall was open a little at the bottom but still fastened at the top. I checked in the stall and sure enough there she was but something wasn’t right, she was down and pressed into the corner. It was getting dark now and I couldn’t really make out if she was stuck. I figured she wasn’t too bad off because she was nibbling alfalfa. Apparently she had gotten herself locked in and somehow gotten pinned in the corner. She had surrendered to her fate and probably thought it would be as good of place as any to die, so she might as well eat some alfalfa while she was at it. It took all the strength I had to gently move her back side so she could get up. She stood there for a minute stunned not moving. I checked her out as best I could in the dark. She took one last bite of alfalfa and headed out like nothing at all had gone on in the hay stall.

She is moving kind of slow. I’ll keep an eye on her tomorrow. I’ll take her temp see if she’s running a fever. I’d hate to lose her and I hope I can figure out what’s wrong with her if anything. We’ve been through a lot together. The hardest part about raising animals is the risk and fear of losing a part of your gang. Yet it’s the natural beautiful process of things that I need to embrace and respect. Accepting the losses and the miracles is part of the life. So I’ll do everything in my power for her, I’ll honor and give her the special attention she needs but ultimately I know to some degree it’s out of my control.


Linda said...

Give her a pat on the head for me this morning.

Denise~ said...

Yeahhh that wasn't enough of a warning woman! I was a little queasy but am very glad the Lady is doing well.