Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cold lamb

Today's "Lambing Live" drama was a hypothermic lamb. Poppy, a shearling ewe, didn't quite know what to do with her first baby, so she left it on the cold hard frosty ground for quite a while.

I'm not sure how long. It doesn't take long when the ground is iron-hard and twenty degrees.

Of course, we try to watch them like hawks this time of year. I'd been up on night checks at 9am, 2.30am, 4am, and then every forty minutes or so.

But once the sun was up, I was struggling with a big round bale and a balky tractor and trailer, trying to feed the rest of the sheep. I heard the little one before I saw it, and picked it right up, but it was already cold.

Poppy had her own problems. She was backing into a brush heap, totally terrified of what was happening to her body.

To begin, I just bought Poppy and the lamb in and put them in a lambing pen with a heat lamp.

But Poppy didn't so much as lick the newborn even once.

Holding Poppy down, I squirted a little milk in his mouth, direct from the teat, but that didn't bring him round either.

After about another half hour of this, I bought the little one in, popped it in a blue WalMart tub in the kitchen with a heat lamp. Normally they go under the wood stove, but the stove was out.

Yet another use for those blue WalMart tubs. We must have twenty of the things around here.

Then I sterilized the intubation kit, just in case. But I didn't need it.

After a while the lamb was trying to stand in the tub, but his mouth was still cold when I stuck my finger in. Still, he did suckle. When they really go down they can't even do that. So back in the pen with mom he went. He tried gamefully to find the nipple but he was still too weak, and mom was more concerned about her second newborn so she didn't help much. She kept putting her leg in his way, and he'd fall over and have to try again.

So then we laid Poppy out once more, and put the lamb on the nipple. After a little initial confusion, with Poppy pinned firmly under my left knee (complaining loudly at this treatment) so she had no choice in the matter, I got him a good feed.

And then back under the heat lamp. If he follows the usual pattern, he'll sleep off that first feed and then when he gets up the next time he should be strong enough to find the nipple on his own.

And when I last saw them Poppy was giving the cold one a good licking.

And yes, the BBC does actually have a reality TV show called "Lambing Live." It's my new favorite show. Right up there with "University Challenge."

But Aimee prefers "Survivor."

I'm not giving you a link to Survivor.

You can find it yourself.

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