Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Disturbing Find and Thinking Like A Farmer

***This post contains unpleasant details and is not for the weak.***

I had a very unpleasant surprise this morning as I made my rounds doing chores. I found one of our lambs - dead. She was the first lamb born on the farm. The cause of death was pretty obvious. She had prolapsed rectally, which basically means quite a bit of her intestines had come out her rear end. She developed a cough when she was quite young and as a result she put a lot of strain on the muscles that hold everything in. She would show a small rim of pink flesh around the rear occasionally. After moving the lambs out to pasture a few weeks ago things seemed to be getting much better for her. I haven't seen her cough for a good 2 weeks and there was no sign of a prolapse beginning. Last night she ate very well right along with the other lambs and acted very normal.

On one hand, I totally blame myself. I should have taken quicker action and treated her with supplements or found some way to eliminate this problem. On the other hand, I had every indication that the problem had solved itself. The thing that really gets me is to think that she must have been in a great amount of pain. I did chores last night before 7 PM and didn't go out there again until this morning. I don't think there is much I could have done had I found her alive but putting her down would have been more humane.

I can see a big change in my thinking since even last year. I love animals and I want them to have the most comfortable, healthy life we can provide for however long that may be. Now I'm learning to balance that with practicality and economics. Rectal prolapse is a known problem in show lambs and it is certainly not something I would want to breed for. If I had fixed this problem and wanted to sell the lamb I would have felt dishonest and sneaky for passing her along to someone else. She probably would have been headed for the dinner table at that point, which is one of the purposes of our herd anyway.

So, while this is a really sad start to the morning, I'm not bawling or feeling like a failure, which is good enough for me!! :)

Any similar experiences to share? How do you deal with having farm animals, if you do?


Anonymous said...

((HUGS)) No experience, but I feel for you! I hope the rest of your day is better. =)

Farmer's Daughter said...

Hi Jena, I'm so sorry to hear about your lamb. Unfortunately, one of the things we have to deal with when we have animals is freak injuries or deaths. When I was in high school, our percheron Duke died of a split intestine. There was nothing we could do but hope he would get better, since the only place that could operate was TUFTS and he probably wouldn't have survived the ride there. It was SO sad because it was so unexpected and he was young and healthy.

Turns out, speaking to Annabelle's previous owner, Annabelle's sister who had a 3 week old filly died of the same thing, so now they're raising the filly with formula and have put her in with a donkey and they're friends. It's so sad when you lose an animal, especially because we tend to treat them like they're part of our family.

On the other hand, we need to realize there's nothing we can do about these freak things, and that we can't blame ourselves.