This is Tinkerbelle. She was one of triplets, born of consistent size, and born to one of my better ewes. Her two sisters grew like crazy, one went to a breeding home, and one stayed here to join the breeding flock. But, not Tink.
She grew to about 30 pounds, which is a few weeks’ worth of growth, and then just stalled. I suspect the ewe didn’t have quite enough milk, or the two siblings were just more aggressive and hogged all of it. Then Tink started to have setbacks. I did have parasites give me a run for my money this year in all the lambs: first coccidia, then plain ‘ol roundworms, then tapeworms, of all things. I was de-worming like crazy to manage them. Tink succumbed more than usual. She had recurring bouts of diarrhea and bottlejaw, which is a manifestation of anemia. Her eyelids became death-white. She was skeletal. She looked terrible. When I’d pursue her to grab her and treat her, she’d trip and collapse, and could not get up, she so lacked strength.
Post-weaning, she spent a lot of time in the barn, where she was easy to catch to give her meds. She has had a lot of de-wormer, antibiotics, plus vitamin B, supplements, and other support mechanisms. I went through many cycles of treatment. Her bottlejaw was so persistent I was picking her arms-full of morning glory vine morning and evening, to boost her iron intake. She ate them voraciously, like she knew it was her medicine.
Other lambs would have croaked within days of such downward spiral. But not Tink. She just powered through, kept eating, and persisted. Some heard-hearted famers would say I would have put a bullet in her head long ago. And certainly, she is a money-loser at this point, both labor-wise and medication-wise. She is nowhere close to hitting butcher weight nor breeding maturity. It’s like she’s been in stasis all summer and fall.
But, my reason for helping her is twofold. For one, ethics. If, in my estimation, an animal wants to survive, I will do everything I can to help it do that. Of course, if it’s suffering and miserable with low hope for recovery, then I will end things. But Tink in no way hinted she needed things to be ended; very much the contrary. I could tell this easily by her casual and sweet bud-dah greeting each day; asking for her next meal. She was not emotionally bothered at all by her weak physical health, just hungry.
The second thing is, I learn from these charity cases. Treating this lamb makes me better at trouble-shooting, recognizing problems correctly, and knowing what treatments work. Saving this lamb increases my confidence that I can save the next one, and that I’m on the right track in diagnosis. Maybe she’s cost me fifty bucks, but you can’t pay fifty bucks to get that kind of experience. You have to incur it.
These days, she’s looking pretty good, in very good condition; so I think she’s out of the woods. She is a cute little thing and very talkative.
I will find Tink a pet home, there are plenty of those. Especially ones that want “miniature” sheep, which Tink will likely be since she’s had such a significant setback in the biggest growth window of her life. She’s reasonably tame after so much handling and special feeding. And she has a story, everybody likes those. On one hand, her history might hint that she’s immuno-compromised, genetically flawed, and will always have issues and may die young. On the other hand, her history hints she’s one tough cookie that might live into her teens.
I price these pet sheep under butcher lamb price, and around what I think the average pet home is going to pay a year to feed them- about $150. This is kind of the floor for what it’s worth in my time to sell them, versus turning them into dog food for my household. And, it’s a filter. I figure, if people balk at coughing up $150 for this novel pet they want, then they probably can’t afford the feed costs to sustain it for a decade. Interestingly, I do always get a few “pet collector” types who really want a pet lamb, but struggle to raise the $150. I usually stay firm, because I can tell, if $150 is a stretch to purchase the lamb, then it’s going to be a stretch feeding it in the future, and is not likely to work out for the purchaser, or for the lamb.