When Abortion in Sheep Can be Prevented

When Abortion in Sheep Can be Prevented

This is Duffy’s story:


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 by another sheep 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.

Update on Rosy

Rosy is back to her usual curious, getting into trouble self!  She stayed in the barn with her twins during the week she was sick and we let her out every day to graze.  She never wandered away from the barn.  Tuesday we could tell she was feeling more like herself, though.  She and the 2 pregnant ewes found their way to the driveway and were headed for a walk after I went to work.  Needless to say, yesterday I let them graze in the main pasture!

Here are a few pictures of Rosy during treatment (warning – they are a little gross)…

This is Rosy last Thursday (the day after we started treatment).  Notice how discolored and swollen her udder is.  She didn’t lay down at until the swelling went down.

Some of Rosy’s medicine.  The yellow liquid is Aminoplex and the clear one is calcium gluconate.  All this was give subcutaneously (SQ) twice a day.  She also got 3cc Banamine once a day.  By Friday we started to give the Aminoplex orally.  She ate and drank on her own so we didn’t have to tube her like we did last year.

This photo is of Rosy’s udder yesterday (Wednesday) when she was being shorn.  The right side was most affected and is turning gangrene.  We’ll keep an eye on it to watch for fly strike since it’s raw.

Rosy went back in the field with the girls after shearing.  Her lambs stayed by her side during this whole ordeal.  I think it helped that she wasn’t stressed that her lambs were gone, too.  I think she has weaned them… every time I see them try to nurse she walks away.

Poor Rosy

It’s been a while since I posted.  Things have been a little crazy lately…sometimes I think another crisis is right around the corner!

Last Wednesday I noticed Rosy, our ewe who had triplets, just wasn’t herself…she wasn’t walking around much and her ears were droopy.  When I took grain into the girls she didn’t come for food.  That confirmed my suspicions – she’s always the 1st to come for food.  She didn’t appear to have a fever but her udder was discolored in spots like it was bruised.  I called Dale (our vet) and he didn’t like was I described to him.  He’d be to our place in about 2 hours to check her out.

Getting Rosy from the front field to the barn wasn’t too easy…she did not want to walk and I didn’t want to push her too much because it was obvious she was in pain.  Dale examined her and, just like he thought, she had mastitis.  He gave her some fluids and medicine for the pain and shock, as well as a long-acting antibiotic.  This type of mastitis is called “blue bag” because the infection affects the blood supply to the udder, resulting in discoloration.  The affected tissue may become gangrene and eventually slough off.

Dale gave me instructions and left medication.  2 – 60 cc syringes of electrolyte/amino acid and 1 – 60 cc syringe of calcium gluconate (SQ) twice a day for 4 days.  Banamine once a day for 4 days and another shot of antibiotic to administer in 1 week.  He also left his stomach tube and pump in case I needed it.  Dale told me if Rosy was around for the 2nd antibiotic shot, she’d make it.  He also suggested that I leave her lambs with her, as long as they don’t beat her up trying to nurse.

Thursday morning I gave her all those injections and she didn’t even flinch.  Of course she has to be my favorite ewe, right?!  I had some hope because she was eating and drinking on her own, but I didn’t want to hope too much.  Every time the lambs tried to nurse Rosy would just walk away….well, more like hobble away.  I wasn’t too concerned about them – they were 3 weeks old and would be okay if they were weaned now.

Rosy’s udder was so swollen it was difficult for her to walk and she wouldn’t lie down at all.  From Wednesday afternoon until Saturday I didn’t see her lie down once.  Each day I let her out of the barn to graze with her babies and I’d see her lean against the barn occasionally to sleep.

By Saturday her udder wasn’t as swollen and she started lying down again.  We also started giving her the electrolytes orally instead of subcutaneously.  Some of the skin on her udder is rubbing off, like Dale said it would; and parts of her fleece are falling out – a condition called wool break caused by sever stress.

Yesterday Rosy trotted to me for food… I think she’s going to be okay.  No more babies for her, though.

Nothing Dramatic

Hannah woke up at 6 this morning… the 1st time since we changed the clocks that she hasn’t slept in.  I got up with her but I really wanted to go out to the barn.  I heard lambs baa-ing over the baby monitor and wanted to see what was happening out there.  I didn’t want to bring Hannah out in pj’s so I waited till Grandma woke up.  Abigail and her lamb were fine, Rosy and her twins were fine.I put Annie in her lambing stall yesterday because I thought she looked ready to go and, sure enough, she  had twin lambs cuddled up to her.  They were mostly dry so I gave all 3 moms some hay and went in the house for breakfast.  I weighed and checked them out afterwards.  The ewe lamb was 9.75 lbs and the ram lamb was 11 lbs.  We already have more ewe lambs than we did last year!

Annie and Twin 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.


Last night Dave couldn’t sleep because of his cold so he went in the living room and watched some tv.  Well, at 12:45am he woke me up because one of the ewes went into labor and he could hear her pushing over the baby monitor we keep in the barn.

We got out to the barn pretty quick with my lambing box and discovered it was Abigail who was in labor.  We moved her into a smaller lambing stall (or jug) and persuaded Rosy and Annie to return to their “ladies in waiting” stall.  We got some things together and sat by the straw bales to wait.  Midnight and Tiger were very happy that we finally decided to come join them in sleeping in the barn.  🙂  Not much happened so we decided to go back to sleep for 30-45 minutes and do another check.

At 2:15am, I mean 3:15 daylight savings time, we went out again because we still heard pushing.  I checked and only saw 1 hoof….not good.  I felt around and found the other foot quickly.  It was bent at the “ankle” and corrected easily, but the emerging legs didn’t look like front legs.  I felt around again and found a tail….not good.

The next time Abigail laid down to push, Dave knelt down and held her for me.  I attached my lambing cord to the lamb’s legs and, with each contraction, pulled.  Poor Abigail was a trooper through the delivery.  Dave said she chewed on his jacket when she was pushing.  We had to get that baby out quickly so that it didn’t start to breathe while still in the birth canal.  Pneumonia can develop when fluid gets in the lungs.

We got the lamb out – a ram – and cleared its nose…after a little chest rub he started breathing and shaking his head.  What a big boy!  After mama cleaned him off and he stood up I weighed him… 12lbs!  No wonder he didn’t have a twin!

I finally got back to bed at 4:15 daylight saving time.  What a night to be out in the lambing barn!  And I had to teach Sunday school this morning, too!  Whew!

Noah & Hannah with Abigail and ram lamb