Goodbye to Dancer, but Freyja was saved

April 28, 2018

UGH, this year, April STINKS.


Amidst saying goodbye to one of the best dogs ever (and the subsequent 3 days of being ignored by his brother - no worries, he has since forgiven me), learning that JoJo has a penchant for murdering young chickens, wind wreaking havoc on the farm - I also lost a lamb and a ewe.


The lamb went down so fast, there was no time for me to diagnose and it was too late for treatment to help. It will always be a mystery, and I tried, but was too late. One of those times I really hate working off the farm, I might have found him sooner to save him. Damn it.


At the same time I found the lamb, Dancer was down and grunting.  I thought she was in labor. She had her last lambs in August and could very possibly be ready again. She was being bothered by a ram, so I decided to isolate her in a stall. But she couldn't get up. SO I presumed pregnancy toxemia.



Quick, I got her some vitamins and electrolytes. It usually perks them right up.  But in administering this, we discovered she was NOT in labor (her bags were too small, and she was not swollen at all). Her stomach was, however HUGE. DAMN IT. Bloat! I went straight to bloat remediation. Giving her liquids won't help if she's bloated, so we tried tubing her. And by we, I mean me and Shannon. I had to hold her head and Shannon ran the tube. She did great, but Dancer really struggled. It didn't seem to help. Typically, when we tube, it's instant relief for the ewe - a big grassy burp and all is well.  So I switched to mineral oil and baking soda. These were causing her to belch a LOT, but not enough.


This is where my critical thinking broke down. I did not think past the bloat. It's a symptom. It can have many causes - inluding getting into food they shouldn't have or sudden changes in what they are eating. These guys were running low on hay and I was exposing them to grassy areas on the farm - fresh grass for the first time since last fall. I didn't think anything beyond that and figured the only thing was bloat.


I gave her some antibiotics, since I was shoving a tube down her throat, just in case.  I thought she was seeming a bit relaxed and the belching would help. I went to bed. (this is when those barn cameras would really be helpful!)  I went out in the morning, and she was in SEVERE distress.


I decided it was time to poke a hole in her stomach, but I didn't know where. I researched all night and got varying opinions and locations. I have a trocar, but it's for a cow and was afraid it would be too big of a hole. I decided to try my largest needle on a syringe. I started with antibiotics, because now I was poking a hole. It was TERRIBLE. I tried several places and no gas came out. It should have been a disgusting whoosh of stinky air. NOTHING. One last chance to tube her and I had to do it alone. It was a last ditch attempt. It did not work.


The problem is, if you don't remove the symptom of bloat, you can relieve the bloat temporarily, but it will come back. Being isolated in the barn stall, she could not get into any feed that would upset her. So that was not the cause.   After I lost her, I saw Freyja down with the same symptoms, grunting, labored breathing and she looked big. I gave her some baking soda and went inside to research more.


What I had not found in my original search is the heavy worm load can cause bloat. SHOOT! I ran straight back out to Freyja and gave her a dose of worm medicine. By the end of the day, she was back out on pasture with the rest of the flock, she's right as rain now.  I missed that, I could have saved Dancer, I missed something so easy to treat! UGH!



Dancer was born here on the farm on December 10, 2010. She and her brother Dasher were born to Jan. (yeah, we had all the reindeer that winter!).  She's been one of my best producers over the years, but recently had taken to abandoning her first born lambs. She was on my short list, but I wasn't ready to cull just yet. We kept her ewe, Ashoka, from last year, and hope she'll be a good a ewe as her mom. It isn't how I like to say goodbye, but hopefully I learned something. I had way too many animals to bury last week, and am glad the sun is back out, and maybe the rest of spring can turn around.  Now, to teach JoJo to keep her mouth off my chickens.


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