Monday, 29 October 2007

Will she live?

Sorry to JJ, Zinnia Cyclamen and Lane for leaving you in suspense but I have to get readers somehow!!!
The vet was not too optimistic on Autumns chances of survival, her back legs had big holes which went right through the muscles, he said the biggest threat would be from infection, if I was prepared to wash out the wounds twice a day for two weeks she might have a chance, he also put her on large doses of anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. He also said that the wounds had almost certainly been caused by a dog and we would have to be vigilant as once a dog had tasted BLOOD it would be back!!! If we could move the sheep to another field as far away as possible it might prevent another attack.
I returned home and put Autumn and her mum in a pen so I could treat her, we had to hope that she was a fighter. It was too late to move the ewes then so we would do it first thing next day. Everything seemed calm and we hoped that it was a one off.
Next morning we went out to the field to move the ewes, they seemed nervous and distracted but that was only to be expected, we did our usual walk round to check that they were all together. Over by a hedge we saw a ewe stretched out and not moving, we ran over to her, she was alive but had an enormous chunk of skin that had been RIPPED away leaving an expanse of FLESH exposed. The OH ran to fetch the jeep and once again I was on the way to the vet, he moved the ewes to our farthest field.
Again the problem would be infection, the vet decided to stitch the flap of skin back in the hope that it would act like a sterile bandage that would keep the wound clean while it healed. He was not that hopeful but it was her only chance. She also needed high doses of anti-inflammatories which he warned us would cause the loss of any lambs she was probably carrying.
I had to hold her down as he stitched her, the STOICISM of sheep never ceases to amaze me. What they can endure and survive is incredible.
I took her home and put her in another pen where I could treat her aswell. Only time would tell whether either of them would live. In the meantime we went to see the Gendarmes. They were sympathetic but could do nothing unless we found the owner of the dog[s]. They also told us that we didn't have the right to shoot a dog if we found it worrying our sheep, but if no-one knew --------?
We decided to visit our nearest neighbours to see if any of them had seen any stray dogs around, no-one had but all said they would keep their eyes open. We are the only sheep farmers round here so there had been no other incidents.
We also visited the President of the local chasse, he was sure that the dog[s] would not be hunting dogs as they are trained to ignore all farm animals, but nevertheless he would be on the lookout for any stray dogs. And that was as much as we could do.
We spent the next week checking the ewes several times a day, all seemed quiet. Autumn was making progress, the wounds were healing although I don't think she ever forgave me for the pain I must have caused her as I washed them twice a day, she has always been wary of me. And the other ewe was recovering too, the flap of skin stayed in place long enough for new skin to grow back and she was able to go back with the flock.
THEN the OH had to go back to England and we had to move the ewes to a field nearer to where they had been attacked!!!!! It was an unavoidable move. Everything remained calm.
On the 8th of December I spent a very enjoyable few hours in our nearest town doing some Christmas shopping. I arrived home at about 3pm and as I parked the car I knew immediately that something was WRONG, the ewes had broken out of the field and were milling around the farm buildiings and I could feel their DISTRESS, it was hanging over them. I had been in such a good mood. I got them back into the field and spotted a small group of sheep huddled by the ram paddock. I ran over and found one ewe who appeared to be okay with THREE AGNELLES ONE WAS DEAD AND THE OTHER TWO WERE BADLY INJURED. And I was on my own. I managed to get the two injured sheep into the jeep and sped off to the vet. There was nothing he could do for them, so I brought them home again. I phoned a friend who came out and shot them for me.
Now you may be surprised by what I did next. I skinned them and gutted them and hung them. It seemed right not to WASTE them, I didn't want to THROW them away. I cried all the time I was doing this but it just seemed the right thing to do. It helped me to have something to do, it took my mind off the terrible events of that day.
Something else has remained with me from that day. When I found the dead and injured agnelles I said there was a ewe with them, she was unhurt. I made a note of her number so that I could check her properly later. When I looked at the tag numbers of the dead agnelles I realised why the ewe had stayed with them, they were HER LAMBS. All the other ewes had ran in terror but her instincts had kept her with them, she hadn't been able to save them but she had stayed with them. I shed another tear for that ewe.

It would not be my last TEARS.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Now where was I? Autumn the Lamb and DOGS.

It seems a long time since my last post about Mist. I have been seduced by big cities and having fun now it's back to the laptop and writing. My typing has lapsed aswell so this is going to take a while!!

I'll start again in Autumn 1999. The rams had been in with the ewes since September and done their work well, but one of the ewes who had until then always been served without a problem had not been covered. On looking at her a little more closely it was obvious that she was already pregnant. Shock horror I hear you say, well may be not, but we were surprised. The rams are kept away from the ewes except at tupping(when they strut their stuff] so how was she in lamb? And when would she be due? Then we remembered that one of the rams by the name of Wally [by name but obviously not nature] had been in with the ewes for a few weeks in May. Now normally ewes would not be receptive in May but there is the exception to every rule and Number 8 was it!! One mystery solved and it also meant we would have some idea of when the ewe would lamb.
On the 12 of October we bought the ewe into one of the buildings so that we could keep a closer eye on her. During that night I woke up and felt that I might aswell go and check on the ewe, and I'm glad I did. She had started lambing and when I checked her the lamb was in the breech position, i.e. back legs coming first.With this presentation it's imperative to get the lamb out as quickly as possible otherwise it risks drowning in it's birth fluid, this is because the cord breaks before the head is out of the birth canal and the lamb takes it's first breath. So I grabbed hold of the legs and pulled the lamb out, cleared its mouth and it was fine. Luckily for me and the lamb the ewe was quite happy for me to assist her in this way. If I had had to go for help from the OH it may well have been too late! Waking up in the middle of the night was also very lucky.
So one healthy lamb. After a few days in to get aquainted we let Mum and lamb out with the other ewes, we named the lamb Autumn, well you would wouldn't you? I think it confused the other ewes to see a lamb at that time of year and the Agnelles[that seasons ewe lambs] were very taken with this funny looking creature. Life was proceeding smoothly the weather was mild and we were enjoying one of the more peaceful times on the farm.
Then on the 26th November the NIGHTMARE began. We were working outside when the ewes started bleating loudly, and not a bleating that we recognised. You may think that one bleat sounds much like another but this is not the case, we had learnt to recognise the usual calls that the ewes made to each other but this sound was very different, it was urgent and you could hear distress in it. We ran to the field and found the ewes huddled in one corner and in a far corner Number 8 was standing by Autumn who was laid out in the grass, we thought she was dead. Her back legs were covered in BLOOD but she was still breathing, when we looked closely she had big holes and tears in both hind legs. We took her straight to the Vet fearing the worst, and not knowing what animal had caused the damage.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Back to reality.

Last Saturday we were in Marseille for the quarter final between England and Austalia. It was AMAZING. We have had an AMAZING few weeks. I have never been to any Internatinal Sporting events before and have been bowled over by the whole experience. Rugby has a reputation for good natured rivalry between fans and so it has proved.
On Saturday we were surrounded by Aussie fans but they took DEFEAT very well. Oh it was just so good. They beat us at everything normally but atlast it was our turn.
In the evening we sat in a Bar in Marseille and cheered on the French to their victory over the All Blacks, even more AMAZING.
Now we are back home and preparing to watch tonights match "LE CRUNCH" and whoever wins we shall have a team to support in the final.
You may think I have been a bit liberal with the word AMAZING but it sums up the last few weeks perfectly. We are in a very rural part of France so visiting Toulouse, Nantes and Marseille in the space of four weeks has been tiring but brilliant.
And without our good friends who have been looking after our animals in our absence it would not have been possible. THANKYOU.
Normal service will be resumed next week. Whatever that means!!!!!!!