Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

Pebbles has mastitis. It developed shortly after she gave birth to Cosmo & Demetri. At first, I thought the two lambs didn’t seem to realize that there were two milk spigots. Eventually, I came to realize that Pebs was circling the pen with her left side against the wall, so the lambs wound up suckling on her right side almost the entire time. The left boob became pretty firm in places. Pebs seemed uncomfortable, and eventually a bit cranky. (Not her usual nature - not even close.)

Good friend, Deborah made a visit to see the lambs and was willing to milk Pebs out on the left side. I should mention here that Deborah comes from a farming background, and I consider her to be an animal savant. Aside from being a very kind & lovely person to know, she has given me lots of information on animal husbandry. Now, some animals take to milking pretty easily. This wasn’t on Pebbles’ agenda. But Deborah, with her calm and assured manner, got the job done quickly & with as little discomfort as possible.

By Tuesday, little Dimitri seemed to be getting the short end of things, as he was often second to nurse. Then Pebbles began to push him away. Her left boob was becoming firm in places, and her milk had gotten peachy (blood-tinged) in color. Her temperature was 104 degrees. Time for intervention. The vet came out that afternoon & checked her over. It’s E Coli mastitis, so we began a week of treatments - antibioitic injections, oral pain meds, udder massage & milking followed by a squirt of medication directly into the spigot, and then taping the left teat off so no feeding would take place. And bottle feeding little Dimitri to supplement. The vet said that she may likely lose milk production on that side, which is truly sad for Pebbles, who is such a wonderful mother.

This is a two person job. Our girls are about 150 lbs. There’s *no way* that the treatments could happen without help. (Have you ever tried to take a sheep’s temperature?) We had all the days covered except for one, so Doug & I have managed to get the job done except for Doug’s call day. Fortunately, again, Deborah came over to help with treatments. It’s Saturday now, and Pebbles is doing much better. Dimitri has taken to the bottle just fine. Feeding a little lamby is quite enjoyable, really.

In the midst of all this, I came down with a cold on Wednesday, and although I’m vertical most of the time, I feel like sh*%, and I awoke with a migraine today. God Bless my son Scott, who hauled hay for me, and Janice, who helped clean out a stall & look after animals. And of course, Deborah, who also brought some tasty roasted veggies for lunch on Thursday when she helped with Pebs’ treatments, and to Marla, who delivered a pot of gourmet soup, salad & homemade bread today. I love you all.

In my reading about mastitis in sheep, it suggests that too much grain may precipitate too much milk production, which makes it difficult for wee little lambies to identify the enlarged udder & there’s way too much milk for them in there anyway, so Mom gets engorged. Grain, to sheep (mine, at least), is the most delicious food on the planet. It’s like donuts. Which are fine, in moderation. But the regular food (alfalfa pellets, which contain lots of nutrients & calcium) is about as appealing as broccoli. As for hay, they get as much as they want. I think they’ll always love good hay, but still, when donuts are available. . . we may just have a problem. So we're trying to be extra diligent in limiting the donut (grain) intake to one to two percent of Pebs’ body weight/day. Which means she can get up to three pounds of donuts a day.

We should be finished with Pebs’ treatments on Monday, which means that Tuesday, she’ll get to go out & romp with her girlfriends, and introduce her little guys to them all.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Welcome Cosmo & Demetri

Pebbles gave birth to her lambs yesterday, right on schedule. We were figuring it would be January 10 or after, so she couldn’t have been closer. Cosmo was on the ground when I arrived in the barn yesterday morning. Demetri required a little assistace to come into the world, and a bit of stimulation to get going. He is also a bit scrawnier.

These little mites are doing well, except for the fact that they’ve only located one of the two milk spigots on Mommy. She’s getting pretty full on the other side, and today, my good friend Deborah came to act as Ovine Lactation Consultant. I’ve now received instruction on milking, and hopefully will be able to alleviate the fullness until the little ones figure out the routine on both sides. Which I hope will be soon. I’m sure Pebbles would be even happier than I.

We have two other pregnant ewes. They are both first-timers so we hope that they have watched & learned from Pebbles, who is an experienced Mom. (Pebbles gave us Athena & Bacchus last year.) We are very excited, and a bit anxious, to see what comes next. We’re hoping for some ewes. So far, at our little farm, we have had two ewes (one of which was stillborn/malformed) and four rams. So we’re due.

On the Knitting Front

I was fortunate to be able to take two classes from Nancy Bush last week. One was on Traditional Estonian Sock Techniques and the other on Estonian Lace Shawls. We learned Welsh heels and French toes in sock class, and the sample we did in class gave us a chance to try both of those in a short-cuffed, compact-length sock (which would probably fit one of the sheep, actually). Lace class was extraordinary. I learned to make nupps that didn’t totally suck. If I get the border on the sample, I’ll post a photo. . . but please don’t hold your breath. I’m still knitting on some other projects.

I’ve been in the barn pretty much for the last two days, very grateful that it’s no longer 22 degrees & windy, or raining buckets. I think I’m gonna take a nice warm bath now & unwind.