Monday, November 11, 2013

...and on less...

Dead and/or dying animals first thing in the morning kinda takes the old “joi de vivre” right out of everything, “doncha know”?

…and on Sunday…no less…

That really makes it worse.

But, hey, that’s life on the farm.  And some days farm life is a bummer…big time!

Today was one of those days. When I went out to do morning chores, something didn’t look/feel quite right.

A quick glance around revealed a down sheep.  As in, (oh crap!) I think she’s dead, kind of down sheep.  ARGH!  I yelled and swore and tried to get her to get up without going in with the animals.  She moved, so she wasn’t dead…but, things looked grim.  OH…I swore a little more, threw a few things and went tearing in with the sheep, only to realize that the ram was behind me.  Ack!  Three hundred plus pounds of testosterone wasn’t going to be helpful, so I went screeching toward the barn for a feed bucket.  The Boss arrived on the scene, wondering aloud at my frantic actions and general loudness on a Sunday morning.

With the flock eating, I could go ascertain the issue with the downed ewe.  I pulled and tugged and got her on her feet.  Her face looked odd, she was incredibly unsteady, but she was standing.  What the?

A diagnosis was in order…quickly.  A call to the vet was ruled out…too expensive on a Sunday…and he’s told me in the past that I’m pretty good at diagnosing sheep ailments.

Running the symptoms through my mind, I was coming up empty. It seemed that I might have forgotten the information in all those vet books I read at lunchtime over the years. Rabies? Scrapie? Johnnes? Tetanus?

 No….symptoms didn’t match.  Come on, think!

Regardless of the diagnosis, the sick ewe would need to be isolated, which meant that every single sheep on the place was going to have to be moved.  While ours is a small operation, the logistics for a big move were going to take awhile. Breakfast was a real necessity, so we headed inside.  I gave up on breakfast and kept thinking and researching.

The round-up and relocation was fairly un-eventful and she was put in quarantine in the barn.  This will enable us to observe her closely and medicate as necessary.  Despite the fact that it’s pretty much a lost cause, we will do everything we can to provide for her care and comfort.

It wasn’t until after 10 o’clock that I remembered I still hadn’t had any coffee! …and forget the laundry…as for any relaxation and that movie we were going to watch…ha! I spent some real quality time disinfecting all the buckets and feeders she had come in contact with…while worrying over the rest of the bunch.

Some further observation revealed a few more symptoms. She was drooling, her head was cocked sideways, her lips looked crooked, it appeared that her cud was “stuck” in her cheek, her ears were drooping, and she kept wandering around in circles.  Circles, circles…a bell started ringing in my head…circles…oh my goodness…”Circling Disease”!  Listeriosis.  Yep, the symptoms were classic.  But…the prognosis was not good.  Death is a very real probability. But, there is about a 30% chance of survival.  We’ll try to focus on that.

The biggest problem of being such a small operation is the fact that every loss is a big loss.  Not only will we lose this ewe, but any lambs that she might have been carrying will be lost as well.  There’s no way around it…this is a big, bad deal.

…and the kicker is…there’s not a thing we can do about it, except pick up the pieces.  I’m not even sure how she contracted the ailment.  It was in something she ate (or possibly drank), but the source remains a mystery. The bacterium lives in all sorts of environments, particularly the soil. (great…) So, that means right now we don’t know if any of the other sheep will sicken as well.  Oh, yeah…something else to worry about.

Since we are dealing with a neurological disease, we have to rule out Rabies. (Our area has a real issue with rabid varmints.)  This means that the sheep’s brain will have to be examined (after she dies…if she dies) …and that means we will have to spend some time hauling the dead animal to the State Lab for examination and talking over the situation with the State Veterinarian.   Not a fun way to spend at least half a day, I am here to tell you from personal experience.

But, what are ya gonna do?

That’s just the way things go sometimes.  That’s when you stop cussing and sighing, take a deep breath, say a little prayer (or a big one) and sing along with Luke Bryan…and “keep chuggin’ along”.

Bottom ofSome days you got it all together
You swear you have it figured out  
 Other days you're stumbling and a wondering
What the hell it's all about

Life's kind of funny like that
Sometimes you're the dog sometimes you're the cat

All you can do is just keep going
And thank God for what you have
Keep chuggin' along
Keep singing your song

Put the plow in the ground till the daylight’s gone
When you look back over your shoulder
At everything you've done

Put the good times in your pocket
Let the bad ones make you strong
And  Keep chuggin' along!

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