I have a poor ewe that’s really has some bad luck this year. I mentioned already that she had triplets, and one of the lambs just couldn’t figure out how to nurse (though he found the bottle perfectly understandable). He’s thriving as a friendly bottle lamb, the ambassador of the season. The day after she lambed, I realized she had an incredible lump on her jaw, bloody saliva and pain (along with crabbiness!). Presuming it was a tooth abscess, I treated her with antibiotics, and this seemed to resolve. I monitored her in the barn for two weeks, then put her back in the pasture with her nursing twins. A week later, I noticed she was standing hangdog, and was not coming to eat the evening grain feeding. A sheep that doesn’t want grain is a sick sheep indeed.

I lassoed her lambs into slings (for which they are now much too big, they were straining the Velcro straps!) and lured her back into the barn again. It was slow going, she was really dragging; but stuck to her motherly duties nevertheless and followed her lambs, calling to them to come back. My arms were killing me carrying those now three-week-old, wriggling lambs up the hill!

I assumed her tooth was bothering her again. However, the lump had mostly diminished, the external wounds had healed, and I couldn’t see any problem inside the mouth (I blocked it open with a rubber dog dumbbell toy so I could look!). As a precaution, I started her on pain meds and another round of antibiotics.

It wasn’t until the next morning that it occurred to me to feel her udder, which looked perfectly normal and even on both sides. It was hard as a rock on one side, and the tissue was stone cold. <sigh> The coldness is an especially bad sign, implying that the area has lost blood flow and tissue is dying. I do recall she had some mastitis lumps last year post-weaning, and it seems to me, once they fight that bacterial invasion, it carries over year to year. Sometimes they manage to sequester it, sometimes they don’t. I applied Udder Comfort to the outside, and continued with pain meds, antibiotics, and vitamin B injections, hoping to stimulate her appetite. I also gave her NutriDrench and electrolytes in her water, to help sustain her metabolically through this fast.

Usually this kind of treatment brings them right around. So, I was getting more and more worried as the days passed; I could not tempt her with any food, and she had no bowel movements. Her expression looked droopy, clearly she was miserable. I’m not sure how long she hadn’t been eating in the pasture before I noticed, but her stall was free of poop, so it had already been a day or two. At about day five or six with no food going in or coming out, I felt something had to be done.

I like NutriDrench because it’s so easy to squirt in their mouth, right from its own pump bottle. I was running low, however, so I reached for a different product I had on the shelf, Dyne’s liquid nutritional supplement. It’s harder to work with, it’s very thick, so I have to thin it with hot water to get it into a syringe. But, I realized that since its first ingredient is soybean oil, it probably has more calories than NutriDrench. I switched to that. And, out of desperation, I stuffed her full of cooked oatmeal thinned with a  little raw cow’s milk (for probiotics). It was a mess, there is no graceful way to spoon-feed an obstinate, 180 pound ewe breakfast cereal! Winking smile

I also began to wonder if she were fighting some other kind of bacterial infection. So I gave her Bovi-Sera as well, which is an antibody to several common causes of infection. Other people rave about this stuff, but I have yet to have a stunning recovery because of it.

These latest actions seemed to do the trick, however. Soon after, she had explosive, pale diarrhea. I never thought I’d be so pleased to see such a mess! Her appetite started to return, mostly for fresh green things. In the flush of spring here, we have a lot of handy herbal remedies growing as weeds- comfrey, dandelion, horsetail, alder and blackberry are all thought to be general tonics, and several of them help heal gangrenous tissue. I’m also picking some raspberry and mint leaves, which we have in abundance in the garden. She is eager to munch through her big bowl of leaves morning and evening, and I bring her picked green grass- anything to make sure she’s eating. She has begun picking at her hay, and eating a little grain.

By now, her udder is sloughing off dead tissue, so is black, bloody and weeping on the underside. I’m spraying the raw parts with Schreiner’s Herbal Solution (which I absolutely love) and the other parts continue to get Udder Comfort. I try to keep her bedding really clean and dry. The udder looks awful, but I’ve heard of much worse, so I expect her to recover. Though, that side of her udder may never be fully productive again. She is a good enough milk producer that she’ll probably be fine raising twins on one side; though I will likely not let her attempt to raise triplets ever in the future.

Poor thing, her lambs still try to nurse on that side, evidenced by the blood stains on their noses. She spends a lot of time lying down, I think to discourage them. They are ruminating and eating grain, hay and greens aggressively, so I suspect she’s pushing them to wean. I hate to do it for her, though, and endanger the other side of her udder. So I’ll leave her to manage them as she wishes.

As the ewe’s appetite came around, she started coughing heavily, and I could tell she was bringing up big lumps of crud from her lungs which she’d swallow after a coughing fit. So, likely she was fighting pneumonia as well. A triple whammy to her health this spring, no wonder she appeared to feel like death warmed over. She is one tough bugger to push through all that. She is a very nice ewe, age four, having produced nine big, vigorous lambs in her lifetime so far. She has never given me trouble before. So, it feels like a nice save (knock on wood) given that she completely recovers.

It’s funny, I’ve noticed that when sheep are really sick, and you make them better, they seem to become very friendly and solicitous. She was never a shy or wily sheep, but also never had much interest in me. Now she makes eye contact and reaches her head out to sniff noses in greeting. I guess she has decided that I am alright.