This wouldn’t be a real farm blog if I didn’t talk about the part of farming and raising animals that included the struggle to save a sick animal and share information about it. Raising farm animals has its many rewards and with that comes the challenge of keeping everyone strong and healthy. I have an Ewe that is ‘down’. That’s a term used when an animal won’t eat or won’t get up. She’s not been 100% for a while. I purchased her with a larger flock a couple of months ago and I noticed she was losing weight. I placed her into a separate pen where I could treat her with a wormer, antibiotics and extra feed to get the weight back on. She seemed to stay about the same not really noticeably better or worse.
Yesterday morning when I went out I found her on her side and unable or willing to get up. What to do? She was outside of the barn and the wind was right on her so I moved her as gently as I could and got her into a protected place. I looked at her gums, pink. I felt around her stomach and abdomen thinking she may have a stuck lamb, couldn’t feel anything, no rank odor coming from her so I ruled out a dead lamb inside her. I sat there for a minute, going through all the possibilities. Milk fever?
Sheep, goats and other ruminant need minerals just like any other living creature and when they are with child they require a lot more of everything. Milk fever is a calcium deficiency, either they’re not getting from their free choice minerals or feed or their bodies are not able to produce or use the calcium and thus come down with this so called milk fever. Goats generally will come down with it after they kid. But sheep get it pre lambing. She had all of the signs.
I’ve had one experience with milk fever last year with Dottie one of my milk goats. It was bad and I thought for sure I was going to lose her. She thrashed, cried, her eyes were goopy and seemed as though she were blind. Her legs stiffened and she would throw her head back so far she looked like a contortionist. It was absolute torture to watch her be in such a state and not sure what it was or what I should do about it. Thankfully I have a friend not far who has been raising goats for years and I think might know every little thing there is to know about goats and how to treat them. So after a time on the phone we surmised its must be “milk fever”. Not being equipped at that time to treat this we rushed against the clock over to Jana and Marshals. Upon arrival they went right to work gathering the medicine that could save her life.
It was a long ride home and I would be surprised if she was still alive, but she was! So first off: 1cc of a sedative type, IM (intramuscular) then 48 CC by mouth calcium gluconate, 6CC B complex to stimulate appetite. At this point its triage you do what you can, try to keep faith but keep expectations down. She was calm now. We did all we could do. Now we wait.
The next morning when we went out to check on her, not knowing what to expect. Would she be dead? she was up. Wobbly, but up and eating. We kept up the treatment. More calcium gluconate, more B complex. It took about a week to get her back to where she was almost normal. She would stumble and walk like she was drunk. But soon she was 100% and back to the same rowdy party girl she was before.
So…..If my predictions are correct and this sheep has this milk fever, she has a fighting chance. I treated her much the same with the addition of sheep drench only because she seemed deficient and she’s underweight so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I gave her 1 CC of the pain med and she calmed down and rested peacefully. I laid her head on my lap and stayed with her for a long while listening to her breathing and feeling her strong heart beat. I don’t know what I’ll find when I go out to check on her this morning. I’m not going to even allow myself to think about it. If she’s still alive then we’ve got a chance to get her back to herself.
Last night when I came in I took a 45 minute shower. What a day, I don’t think I’ve ever been dirtier. After haling and moving hay, a trip to the dump, dealing with this ewe, plus just the normal farm chores my skin was hot and dry and I needed to just burn my clothes. I pray she makes it and I’m also grateful for Jana and Marshal for openly sharing their knowledge with me.