Saturday, January 31, 2009

Farming ain't for sissies

It would be wonderful if farming was all sunshine and baby animals frisking in the field, but it's not. Reality checks come in the form of 13 inches of snow that require you to stay up all night sweeping snow off the high tunnel where the hens live so the plastic doesn't collapse and frozen faucets on subzero mornings when the water tank is dry and all the animals are milling around waiting for you, and babies with life threatening scours.
And yesterday it came in the form of a still born lamb. Yoshi, my niece's retired 4-H ewe, had her lamb some time between when I checked on everybody in the morning and 2 o'clock when I went out to load up the horse we sold. It looked like she hadn't even tried to clean it off or nurse it at all. In fact, I stumbled over it in the snow. It was white and I didn't see it because I really wasn't expecting it. Yoshi, was no where near it. Odd.
I couldn't stop just then and do anything so I loaded the horse and got them on their way. Then I spent some time trying to figure out what happened. I found the placenta about 25 feet from the lamb and Yoshi another 25 feet from it. We won't ever know for sure what happened. Next year we will be sure to put Yoshi in a "jug" when she is getting close to term so she will be more likely to bond with her lamb and so we can keep a closer eye on her. We never thought of doing it this year because the Shetlands are so hardy they actually refuse to bring their babies in no matter what the weather is. We've never lost a Shetland lamb even in the worst weather.
If you've never tried to bury anything in frozen ground- don't. Pick axe and shovel. Tears and cuss words. I got the baby and the placenta buried so they wouldn't attract coyotes to the flock. Then went on to care for the other animals.
As with all things in life. Live, learn, keep going, do better next time. Still it is sad.

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