An imagined conversation between LGDs who come from drastically different backgrounds:

Bronte the Farm Dog: sheep placentae are delicious, are there any more available in there?

Moses the Show Dog: dawg, you eat that nasty stuff? Good God. Were you born in a barn??

Bronte: why yes, as a matter of fact, I was.

I usually try to look for the afterbirth from each ewe. I toss them out of the sheep area, just to cut down on the mixed exposure of birthing material as much as possible. And Bronte really enjoys eating them. In fact, she’s skipping her regular dinner often because these are apparently filling her up. Gross, but ah, dogs, it’s what they do. It keeps the pasture clean anyway, and they really are magically nutritious. (You can buy sheep placentae in pill form if you share Bronte’s enthusiasm for consuming them Winking smile). Moses is curious about them, but so far hasn’t embraced snacking on them. He still has a lot to learn about being a farm dog.

But one I spotted caught my attention, as half it was not the normal color. It had some interesting contents. Click on only if you can stomach some gross science experiment pictures!

If there were a Crayola color for this, it should be named Putrid. It’s that not-normal-tissue, pale tan hue that just says infection


Placentas and the umbilical cord material are normally a very bright, purple-red color, like this:


In both, you can see the cotyledons, or “buttons”- aptly named because not only do they look like buttons, they are literally how the placenta buttons-up to the caruncles in the uterus, making the maternal connection in the womb. So rather than one gigantic placenta like humans have, ruminants have a whole bunch of these mini placentae. When a sheep gives birth, these things break away and leave with the lamb.

As an aside, it’s useful to visualize what this is like inside there, here is a good photo. I found the first few times I ever had to “go in after” a lamb in the womb, my brain was confused. Because books that make little stick drawings of mal-presented lambs always illustrate the uterus as if it were void of anything but the lamb, some kind of big-as-a-living-room womb where your hand can maneuver freely to reposition a lamb. But not so. Instead, your fingers constantly tangle with all this stuff. So it’s like groping around inside an anemone. And it’s not comfortable for the ewe! I’ve learned to expect them now, you have to go really slow, and try to stay to the outside of the uterus, to get around all these entanglements.

Anyway, so back to the putrid afterbirth. Smile with tongue out Notice in the above photo how even the cotyledons are brown and shriveled, like they gave up the ghost long ago. And there is a suspicious little seahorse shape at the end: another lamb. I cut it open, and yes, it was, a fetus that had perished. It had a bony structure, so it was somewhat developed-maybe two+ months along? But putrid colored through and through.


The amazing thing is that this ewe delivered a normal healthy lamb. It’s interesting that the pregnancy physiology blocked them from impact from this ruined thing. I was concerned that either mother or lamb might have an infection; but I took both their temperatures and they are normal, and they both appear to feel fine. In fact, the red ewelamb is the craziest lil’ spitfire bronco I’ve ever seen. I guess it’s like they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I should probably mention, as a precaution, I didn’t let Bronte eat this one. I carefully scooped up all traces of it with gloved hands and disposed of it in a sealed bag.


So that is fetal death #2 for me this year. This one seemed to have perished earlier than the other one, and the other one was healthy looking. There was a third stillbirth, but that lamb looked like it died during birth, from aspirating fluid. So, so far, seemingly three unrelated issues. But, if I have more, I’ll want to try to figure out why. It has been making me hold my breath with each birth, cringing at the possibility of disaster. But I have 26 lambs so far, out of 16 ewes, with 13 left to deliver. Getting past the halfway point was reassuring!

Coincidentally, WSU’s latest newsletter mentions two recent and notable cases of campylobacter jejuni in area sheep flocks, one in Washington, one in Idaho. This is one of the many things that can cause abortion in sheep. And it’s the most common “food poisoning” agent in people. :-0 There are lots of things that could have caused those fetal deaths, including just a simple butt in the gut from another sheep. And there are lots of things I could have caught from working in downtown Seattle, with its big herd of human disease vectors and all the cockroach kitchens in which I dine. I’m just sayin’, the timing was odd!