When Abortion in Sheep Can be Prevented

This is Duffy’s story:

Duffy

Duffy was born to Rosy in 2010, our only triplet birth on the farm so far (you can read about it here).  She was due to lamb for the 1st time in early March, 2012.  About ten days before she was due she went into labor – on February 25th – and I was the only one home because I was sick.  I went to feed hay in the late afternoon/early evening and found Duffy in the back of the pasture by herself.

I got her into the barn but her labor did not progress so I tried to assist.  She was hardly dilated and I couldn’t get to the lambs.  Plus there was an odor… a bad odor.  I called our vet, Dale (who is now retired and missed dearly), and he and his wife got to our place about 45 minutes later.  He pulled twin lambs with a lot of difficulty and gave Duffy antibiotics and other medications.  He estimated that the lambs had died a day or so prior to her aborting them.

He told me to call him if any other ewes aborted because if the cause of Duffy’s abortion was infectious, it could go through the flock.  Over the next days and weeks I watched the other pregnant ewes closely and researched causes for abortion in sheep.  I learned that a large percentage of sheep abortion is caused by non-infections diseases – read: injury, rough handling, poisonous plants and inadequate feeding.

Causes of Abortion in Sheep in N Ireland

During this time I began to consider that Duffy had been injured prior to aborting her lambs and tried to remember any incidence of injury.

Two days before Duffy aborted her lambs we vaccinated the pregnant ewes.  I remembered that Duffy had gotten pushed into the stall doorway on her way out of the barn when we led the sheep back to their pasture.  The doorways had O-rings on them from when the barn housed horses and I believe that is what caused her abortion.  I immediately took the O-rings off the doorways of any stall that the sheep would enter.

stall doorways - before and after

Our other 5 ewes lambed normally in March and produced a total of 9 lambs (4 sets of twins and a singleton).

Please look all around your sheep handling areas to be sure there are no potential hazards.  We used this stall without any trouble for 6 years, BUT it only takes 1 second for a freak accident to happen.  This time it cost us 2 lambs.

The Lord Will Provide (a lambing story)

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us not to worry about our lives….that God will provide all we need.  He tells about the birds of the sky.  They don’t plant or harvest, or have barns or storehouses to put away food for winter, yet they have enough food to last until spring.  He also tells us about the lilies of the field.  They can’t work or spin fiber, but God has clothed them in beauty.

In conclusion of this parable, Jesus asks us this: if God care for the birds of the sky and the grass of the field, doesn’t He care for us even more?  “Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt 6:26)

I can’t tell you how much I worry.  Especially this time of year when we’re expecting lambs.  I constantly think about the “What if’s”.  But the Lord will provide.  This is such a certainty that one of the names of the Lord is “The LORD Will Provide”, Jehovah-jireh.  And every time He is faithful, I am in awe.

Yesterday our ewe, Rosy, lambed.  I took Hannah and Noah outside after lunch to tidy-up a bit for the field-trip this afternoon.  We were also waiting for our friends to come over.  I let the girls out of the barn to eat some of the nice green grass that’s now growing.  The new little lamb even came outside for the first time…that’s always a joy to see!

When Jen arrived with her daughters Rosy went into the barn and laid in the stall.  Very unusual – Rosy loves to eat.   Jen and I talked while the kids played together, but I kept an eye on Rosy.  After a little while she began labor and we got her into a lambing stall.  We watched her and soon it was apparent that she needed assistance.  The lambs head was emerging, but no feet were in sight.  I checked things out and found another head and feet but couldn’t find the feet from the 1st lamb.  And I couldn’t push the lamb back in far enough to find them.  In my mind I was flipping through all the birthing diagrams and instructions I’ve studied, but was still perplexed.  I called and left a voicemail for out vet to “Please call ASAP and talk me through this!”

When he called back I had found the legs and was attaching my lambing cord…or trying, at least.  The lamb kept pulling her feet out of my hands!  We delivered her fine and let Rosy clean her up while we waited for #2.  Soon all 4 children were gathered around Jen and were watching with amazement.

The 2nd lamb was delivered quickly but it was much smaller.  It was very still and its nose was cool.  I cleared the nose and rubbed its chest, then tried “swinging” it to clear its lungs.  Still nothing so I tried mouth-to-mouth.  Nothing.  I wrapped him in a towel and moved him aside so Rosy could keep cleaning her little girl.

While we were watching the little lamb try to stand Genna said, “I think she’s having another lamb!”  I told her it was probably just the afterbirth, but when Rosy laid down and started pushing again we all looked at each other!  She was having another lamb!  This one was a normal presentation (head and 2 feet).  Rosy was obviously tired so I helped the lamb out.  This ram lamb was huge!  I wiped his nose and brought him around so Rosy could clean him.

Rosy with twin lambs

The ewe lamb weighed 9.75 lbs, the ram lamb weighed 12.5 lbs and the stillborn lamb weighed 5.5 lbs.

I am so thankful that Jen was here to watch over the kids while I helped Rosy deliver her lambs.  And I’m thankful that Rosy went into labor when I was home.

The Lord will provide.