Our miracle babies
Yesterday, I had a horrible decision to make, the worst in my entire homesteading experience. I had a downed ewe, in the final stages of toxemia. She hadn’t eaten in a couple of days and was convulsing when I attempted to feed her through a syringe. And she was becoming increasingly comatose.
I knew she was close to term, though not sure exactly her due date. Two days before, there still was quite a bit of fetal movement. But it dramatically declined the day before yesterday when she ceased to eat altogether. And it felt even weaker yesterday. As I saw her condition worsen, and read everything I could about the prognosis of severe toxemia in pregnancy, I knew her chances of survival were very low, even with vet care. I also knew the chances of survival of her babies, were also very low, even if delivered by c-section by a veterinarian. They had to be delivered within 2-3 days of their due date, which I had no idea how close they were to. Otherwise they had no chance at all for survival. And even in a clinic specializing in ruminants that did many c-sections, there was less than a fifty percent survival rate of c-section delivered lambs. It was unlikely that I could get a vet to come in time to our homestead. We are far out, and they tend to have a very busy schedule. And I knew she wouldn’t survive the stress of transport. We also couldn’t afford an extraordinarily expensive veterinarian bill, especially with such low odds of success. So I made a fateful decision as she continued to decline and become unresponsive. I went ahead and did a c-section myself using a topical local anesthetic. She didn’t resist at all. She was already beyond all that. And I was able to deliver three baby lambs. The first one, though very emaciated, came out alive but very weak. My son worked to clean it up and get it breathing as I searched and pulled out the second. It also came out alive though even weaker. The third came out dead, and by the color of its eyes, appeared to have been dead a day or two. We worked feverishly to get the two living babies breathing well and stabilized. The first one seemed the most hopeful. We had very strong doubts with the second in that it was not moving and barely breathing. They were quickly chilling and my daughter took them into the running car with the heater on high and continued to stimulate them and clean out their airways.
My son and I then put down the poor ewe, feeling terrible about it, but knowing her fate had been sealed. I continue to feel horrible about it. It was preventable, if I had taken the time to read more about the risks of sheep pregnancy and lambing. I never had this problem before with goats and assumed the sheep would do as well. But because of new financial constraints, our feed management had changed since we cared for goats, which cost us dearly in the end. I always fed the pregnant goats alfalfa bales instead of coastal. But the cost of alfalfa now is close to $30 a bale while I am getting coastal at $8.50. We could no longer afford the alfalfa bales. My livestock never really liked alfalfa pellets and as a result, it has never been a big part of our feed regiment. With our goats, we were able to purchase a quality high protein grain designed specifically for them. But with sheep, because we are in cattle country and not sheep country, there is very little to choose from. And the grain I have been buying is not as good as I was able to get for the goats.
I pray I never have to do this again. As I cut into her, I had very high doubts that the babies would survive and that was very heart breaking. I felt horrible, destroying her with so little hope of a positive outcome. But now, I cannot tell you the joy and thanksgiving I feel towards God as these two baby lambs, having been born so terribly weak, under such terrible circumstances, are now walking, baaing, eating and nuzzling for attention. They are truly our little miracle babies. The odds were totally against their survival, yet by the mercy of God, they did amazingly make it. My children were horrified when they learned what I was going to do to the ewe. But now completely understand as they care for these little ones, knowing that they would not have made it otherwise.
Glory to God for all things!
Now my focus is to plant high protein fodder trees this spring that will supplement for now, and hopefully in a year or two, entirely replace our current feed, saving us an incredible amount of money, and providing far superior nutrition so that something like this never happens again.