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Farmer’s Diary: A rotten start to my 2021 lambing season

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In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, Clodagh Hughes, writes about the beginning of her 2021 lambing season.

After a rough start to last week with my sick ewe…there was more to come!

Down in the shed on Sunday morning gone (déjà vu), after giving the sheep their feed and filling the hay racks, I was in shaking fresh straw for bedding when I noticed something protruding from the back end of my ewe that had been sick.

I knew straight away that this was an indication that something was not right with my mother to be. If I am, to be honest folks, I was not surprised by the outcome, but I was and still am very disappointed.  My lovely ewe had ‘thrown’ or aborted her lambs.

What I had seen was a small bit of the placenta sticking out of the ewe’s vulva and she was also beginning to push as though she were giving birth.

‘I could not feel any sign of life’

I immediately called on my husband to assist me in restraining her as I needed to carry out an internal examination quickly.

I needed a bucket of warm water, some iodine and lubricant for the initial exam. After a gentle handling of the ewe, I ascertained that she had indeed, two very small lambs present but I could not feel any sign of life.

Sometimes you will feel the wee lamb move within, but I knew at this stage that even if the poor things were born alive, they would perish soon afterwards.

You might think, with only 4 weeks until they reach full-term, we could try and provide them with intensive post-natal care such as is given for premature human young.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with prematurely born lambs due to several factors, primarily that their lungs are not fully developed and thus they simply cannot survive.

Sorry sheep saga 

So, to end this sorry sheep saga, my main priority from the start was to save my ewe and I knew deep down that there was a possibility of losing the lambs.

And this, ultimately, is what happened, the ewe is in good form, eating and getting stronger every day.

Naturally, she was a little bit distressed after expelling her lambs; her body had just gone through the act of pregnancy but where was the result! No lambs…

Luckily for me, and the ewe, she has calmed down a lot and is actually quite unfazed by the whole ordeal. I mean I am more distressed than she is!

Abortion in ewes 

There are a number of reasons why a ewe could abort her lambs such as disease or injury. Although it is very hard to fully substantiate, it is believed that a major stressful occurrence could bring on abortion in sheep.

And it is safe to say this girl had been through an awful ordeal. I covered her with antibiotics and some TLC.

Although this is a rotten start to my 2021 lambing season, I’m thankful I saved my ewe and that she will live to lamb again.

As a farmer, particularly, you have to sometimes get a very big brush and dust yourself off and get on with it.

Read more of Clodagh’s diary entries by clicking here.

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