Warning: I talk about bodily fluids in this post. It’s natural, but not necessarily pretty. You’ve been warned.
Sunday afternoon I was at home, two hours away from Guelph. I had been out with my friends all weekend and I was tired and ready to get home and rest. My plan was to leave at 1:00pm. 12:45 rolls around and my car is packed. I was ready.
But as per usual on the farm, my plans changed.
Mom had just left to go away for a week and my dad and brother were planning on going to London for the afternoon to see a London Knights playoff game (Go Knights Go!). But March is the time when lambs are born, and as with any pregnancy – when its time its time. Dad had made a few trips to the barn already that morning, and it was time. We were about to get a new baby lamb. I was tasked with staying home for a little longer, and making sure everything went smoothly.
The signs were all there; she didn’t eat her breakfast, she was restless and she was keeping her distance from the rest of the sheep. Now usually, sheep have little to no problems when they lamb. You can leave for a half an hour and come back to a few fresh faces in the barn. We don’t often like to interfere, and I’m sure the sheep like to be left alone during this time (I wouldn’t want onlookers during this either!).
Unfortunately, this time an easy birth wasn’t in her cards. By 2:30pm the she was pawing, panting, lying down and getting up and generally looking more and more uncomfortable. This is when I decided it was time to lend a hand. And that’s exactly what I needed to do.
Normally, when a lamb is born, its two front feet will come out first with its head between its legs. This time the lamb was “supermanning” as I like to call it. One foot out straight, then a head, then a second foot tucked back. If a lamb is positioned like this inside the ewe, the chances of someone getting hurt during the lambing process is really high.
I’ve never been to vet school, the closest I have come is taking an “Animal Structures” course at school which I dropped after the first midterm because it would have been a guaranteed fail. But I’ve been in the barn hundreds of times during lambing, and I’ve learned how to help.
Helping a ewe lamb definitely isn’t pretty, as with any pregnancy there’s blood and a lot of “goo”. That’s a nice name for it. If the lamb is positioned incorrectly, as this one was, it has to be re positioned and that can’t be done from the outside. I had to find the other leg and pull it forward. Off came the rings, up went the sleeves and inside I go (yeah, in THERE).
I can’t tell you how many times I told the sheep “I’m sorry girl” or “We’ve almost got it”. It took me longer than I was planning on, but I couldn’t exactly see what I was reaching for. Not to mention the ewe was unable to stay still, which I can’t blame her for. Somebody poking around inside me wouldn’t be the most comfortable thing in the world. It was a tough, dirty, uncomfortable job. I almost had myself convinced that this lamb only had one leg, because I thought I searched everywhere. But then I felt those tiny little toes. I finally found the other leg, and was able to pull it forward. I was wet, shaking and almost in tears because I knew the ewe was in pain and I wanted it to be over for her.
It almost was. One more big push and out came the lamb, a little ram lamb. We were both ready for it. I picked up the lamb and cleaned off its face so it could breathe, then I put him at the moms nose. The ewe started to lick the lamb off (this is a bonding process for both the lamb and mom) and she hopped right up as if she just came in from outside.
Within 15 minutes, she had a second lamb (another boy!). This time there were no complications.
I’m happy to report that all are alive and well. See for yourself!