I read early on, that if you have livestock, you should expect deadstock. Not meant to be funny, just a blunt reality check for the wanna-be. I have come to accept and appreciate the wisdom of that phrase. Sadly, this year's lambing began with a prime example.
Angel, a first-time Shetland mom, gave birth Sunday night to a stillborn ram lamb. Very large (for her) - at least a 10 lb. baby. We had her jugged, and were watching closely. In the morning, we saw a contraction. They came about every 5 minutes, but she didn't seem to be advancing, or in any discomfort, so we left for Easter dinner. We got back around 5, fully expecting a lamb. Nothing. And the contractions weren't any different. She was nibbling, drinking, and otherwise looked fine. Still, when we had no real action by 6 p.m., I called the vet. I was told she was probably a slow starter, and to be patient. One hour later she had mucus, but no real contractions. The vet said I was welcome to put my hand in and feel around, Angel said otherwise. So I opted to let her be. My hourly check at 10 finally showed some hoof (the lamb's) but the contractions were just not "there". I jumped in to help, and it was clear this guy was stuck. I pulled, massaged, eased, pulled, wriggled, pulled (all while DH was on the cell to the vet) and nothing. It was the hardest birth I could recall - she was just not dilated, and I was worried about prolapse. It took a half hour, but we finally got it out. I knew when the nose had presented that the lamb was stillborn (the tongue was blue and limp, when I reached fingers inside I got no reaction, etc.) I let her lick him off for a bit, since that helps to stimulate uterine contraction and ease passing of the placenta.
Today the vet is coming out to look her over, as she is running a fever. I believe she needs a good boost of penicillin, and perhaps something else - we'll see.
We buried the little guy in the woods, as we do. Luckily, with Spring finally here, it was possible to dig the grave. But I reflected on another important piece of the lesson - be prepared if an animal should die, especially in winter. If you do not have a large piece of property with equipment for heaving lifting/digging, you should plan ahead and have something ready. Just cover it with a piece of plywood. It's not grim - it's just prepared.
Now our hopes turn to our other ewe - who is showing few signs of being pregnant, but I really believe she is just being difficult. After all, who could resist the romantic advances of Barry White?
Update: Dr. Shelly (the good vet) came and administered Banamine (for pain) to be repeated daily for two more days, LA200 to be repeated in 48 hours, and her CDT booster. Temp was 104 degrees. Two small tears in outer muscle wall, nothing notable on internal exam. Udder is still full, but not painful or hot. She is back with the others and seems happier, if a little slow. Will have them all out on pasture today, close by, so I can monitor for behavior, eating, and rumen action.