Back in September we were happy with a number of new babies on the property – ducks, piglets, and our very first lamb. Having babies, any babies, is always a cause for celebration. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s a visceral reaction to having little ones here, and the place never feels quite right when it’s totally baby free. That reaction is always stronger when the babies are born here, rather than brought in, and especially strong if it’s a first-timer. We experienced that with our beautiful Rosie, the first lamb ever born on our property .
Rosie’s mum was a first timer and quite small, and had about as little idea as we did when it came to raising lambs. Rosie was a good 12 to 18 hours without a feed before we started to bottle-raise her, and she spent much of her first week of life in with us. The result is that she’s not really bonded to her mum, or even the flock. We’ve since had twins born (spoiler alert!), and they’re the complete opposite. Their mum fed them and nurtured them right from the start, and they’re a firm part of the flock. Not our Rosie though. She’s always out on her own, and will come to us over her mum’s bleats every time.
What makes Rosie even more special though is that I’m fairly sure she has slight brain damage. She had a seizure when she was little, which I think is due to overeating disorder . That’s quite common in lambs, especially bottle fed lambs, and is when certain kinds of gut fauna bloom and create toxins. That fauna is always there, but doesn’t normally cause a problem. It’s when lambs overeat, or are bottle fed with formula that has the sugars and starches that this fauna likes, that it becomes a problem. The result can be death, and often without any signs of symptoms. In our Rosie’s case, we’ve seen her have maybe a dozen seizures, and one day where she had a few in quite a short space of time.
Rosie changed after that first seizure. She seemed to not take as much notice of the world around her, and she certainly almost always ignores the other sheep, including her mum. There are times where you have to be almost on top of her before she realises you’re there, so her hearing and/or eye sight may be impaired. The biggest change though is in her behaviour. She circles our back paddock for much of the day, just walking the boundary on her own. When she’s not doing that, she sucks on the fencing wire, and can stand there for hours just nomming away. We don’t see her eat much, and on warm days we kind of have to remind her to drink. Seriously, she’s more work than most of our other animals combined. 🙂
The result is that we have one very special lamb. 🙂 I doubt she’ll ever be part of our breeding program, mainly because I doubt she’d know what to do with a ram or any resultant lamb. I could be wrong, and instinct might take over, but I don’t think I want to risk her. She’s still as sweet as ever, and comes up for loves whenever she notices us. We recently started to introduce her to the dogs, as I’m keen to keep her in the back garden a bit. I suspect she’ll end up being a woolly dog pet for the rest of her life. 🙂
We lost Rosie on January 2nd. 😦
As clueless as we were about lambs, we did everything we could. Her mum was hopeless, so we bottle fed Rosie from the start. The problem was that bottle feeding ended up with her having fits, but her mum barely let her feed. Rosie wasn’t eating enough solids, and so if we didn’t feed her she’d lose condition and would eventually have starved. It was a god awful catch 22.
I thought we’d found a happy middle-ground where we fed her enough to keep condition on her, but not so much that she was having lots of fits. She was eating some solids and was definitely drinking lots of water. She wasn’t as big as she should’ve been, but she seemed to be perking up. I just wanted to get her through to a weaning age where she could eat the same as the other sheep. After that she would’ve been okay.
Rosie was really good on New Year’s Day. She was bright and active. She was drinking out of a container rather than a bottle, which is logistically much easier to manage. She had a great day, and we got a huge amount of loves from her. However, the morning of January 2nd wasn’t so good. She had clearly had a seizure and was barely aware of us. She hardly ate, though she did drink water. We left to spend the day working on our other place, and when we got home Rosie was pretty much gone. She couldn’t get up at all – couldn’t even hold her head up. Her breathing was shallow, though she’d seize every now and then. She was clearly very close to the end.
I’m not sure if Rosie knew we were there, but Peyton and I both spent time giving her loves. I was hoping that she’d just pass peacefully as we hugged her, but as we’ve found lately, all of our animals are too tough for their own good. She may not have been feeling anything, but there was a chance that those seizures were causing her discomfit or pain. I dug her a grave next to Peyton’s cat, I carried her and gave her some final loves, gently laid her in the grave, and I shot her.
I love our lifestyle, but there are times where it really, really sucks.
RIP Rosie. We loved you.