The first animal to become very ill was a purebred Cotswold ram. I called the vet, who came out that afternoon, and determined he had an infection of something somewhere and prescribed Amprol, an antibiotic. A blood sample was taken and sent to the lab, and sure enough, came back with the infection diagnosis. I drove in to pick up the Amprol and administered it as indicated and the ram nearly died within two days. I remember holding his big head up and telling him though raspy breath and amidst tears falling, that he had to make it. I stopped the Amprol and he began to recover, though slowly and he never gained condition, eventually dying within the year. The ram coast $450 and the treatment cost $1200 and a bit. That is why veterinary care for him was not an good economic decision. Still, I had to try, but I also learned that sometimes, doing all I can had to be enough.
This winter I have had some problems. It is hard to determine exactly what they are, because each animal has different symptoms, though they all result in very poor health. One goat has become resistant to worm medications, is anemic and unthrifty. She is 7 years old, as well, which is not terribly old for a goat, but for those 7 years, she has given me 25 kids. Her body is spent and she is not able to support any poor health. Again, I am trying. I have visited the vet on her behalf several times and finally came away with Flukiver, a newer worm medicine, at the cost of $250. plus a bottle of Newcells, which is a blood support vitamin mix that must be injected for 5 days. when signs of anemia are present.
I have two ram lambs, twins, that have never been healthy since birth. They are hardly any bigger than they were at weaning, not having grown at all. Both went down, unable to stand, about 2 weeks apart. I dewormed them again and used the Newcells for 5 days. Even after the 5th day, one did not have the strength to stand. I put him straddled over a bale of hay so his body would be used to the upright position and left him there for several hours. Then I gave up. I fully expected to find only a carcass the next morning, but he was nowhere to be seen, at first. He had recovered! He was with the boys, eating away. But he is extremely thin and not healthy. It takes a very long time for an emancipated body to gain health. Many I know would have not bothered and knocked the little guy on the noggin, since he will not bring any profits to the farm.
And finally, there is Pearl, a 2012 (so 7 years old) Cotswold ewe. She is huge and beautiful, or was when she arrived last summer from another farm, though she was a little thin then, and I was immediately concerned. Over the last six months, she grew thinner even, but was not isolating herself from the flock and when I used the Famacha system to check her state of anemia, she appeared OK. But, that whole group of 4 beautiful Cotswolds were problematic.
Those Cotswolds did not know how to forage and stayed in their pen primarily, not going out to look for food with the rest of the flock. Since I do not feed ruminants grain on the farm, they were somewhat hungry. I thought this would encourage them to go out with the flock, however; they ate the grass sprouting in the dry lot where they came in at night. This is a terrible thing, because, the parasites are shed in the feces and crawl up the grass to the tips, in turn wanting to be ingested by some wary host, which in this case, was the sheep. I began to lock them out of the night pen forcing them to go out to pasture with the others, but they did not stop eating the bits they could find in the pen, where they far preferred to stay. My own sheep have instincts which prevent them from doing that. They know better and will not eat grass in the dry lot. I learned that in some cases with older animals, they cannot be retrained, even when it comes to their survival. They did not have the instincts preserved that my native sheep do, because they had been brought food or spent time in small areas with food for their entire lives. I would not welcome older animals to the farm again, UNLESS they thrived in a forage based pasture system on previous farms.
So, three days ago, while doing morning rounds, I heard a forlorn baaing and sure enough Pearl was down. Now Pearl weighs a good 150 to 180 pounds and I cannot lift her. It was very difficult to even drag her, but she had gone down at the feeder and was being tromped on, so she needed relocation as soon as possible. I dragged her down the fence line to a safer place and propper her up against a straw bale. She could not hold her head up and had no interest in food or water. She was anemic, but not terribly so, just very thin. I dewormed her and started her on the Newcells to begin to build blood. She would not eat or drink.
The next day I fully expected to find a dead sheep, but she was still alive. I tried to force feed her a mash of wild raspberry leaves, wild mint, rolled oats, honey and a bit of apple and yogurt. She would not eat, so I put honey in warm water and carefully syringed it down her throat, being careful that she would not aspirate and choke. She got two more litres of honey water that day and a shot of Newcells.
Yesterday, I made up her mash and force fed her, but in the evening, she willfully munched, even though she could not hold her head up. She got her honey water and then I covered her with two fleeces for the night, because it was getting cold and had become very windy. I certainly did not want her to use her energy to keep warm, but to get some gumption into her muscles.
This morning she quickly ate her mash with relish,well not pickle relish, but with gusto. Instead of wild raspberry leaves, I added dried Uva Ursi, but the apple and honey was there too. She was able to drink from a bowl instead of having the water syringed in, but I had to hold her big beautiful head up. She also greeted me with a soft baa, which melted my heart. Pearl is a far cry from out of the woods though. She is not even strong enough to hold her head up, let alone move that body of hers. I will give her another shot of Newcells later at lunch time and try to get some hay into her. I will soak the hay in hot water after chopping it with scissors so it will be easier for her. When she is better, my plan is to steal cud from a healthy ewe and transplant it to her, giving her a dose of good bacteria for her rumen. She gets a little yogurt and sauerkraut , but just enough to keep the bacteria up and not to cause her to bloat. The sauerkraut is home fermented and very healthy for the gut.
So, it is a hard winter. The vet tells me that worm resistance is her number one call for sheep and goats at this time, and the older animals, especially, are succumbing. It has been an odd winter with periods of extreme cold, followed by near zero or slightly above zero, which is hard for the animals. When it is cold they eat a lot to stay warm and since they are strictly grass fed, it means filling their feeders several times a day. Nursing these sick animals also takes a huge amount of time, but that is part of practicing husbandry. Large farms do not bother because for them, as I mentioned, there is no profit in the animals' recovery versus the time spent nursing them to health.
Please send Pearl your kind thoughts and good intentions and prayers (if you do that) for a complete recovery. I believe that even across a globe these feelings of hope conveyed are not lost. I am envisioning Pearl in the fields this summer and will continue to do all I can for her, as I would for any animals or anyone in my care. We are all sentient beings and we need to love and nurture and do what we can.
Namaste. Here is to Pearl!