Thursday, April 1, 2010


One of my most favorite lambing memories comes to mind on days like this. It was probably around the first of March with a heavy, wet snow and temperatures in the low 30's, just like today. I was somewhere around the age of 12.
Our neighbors, Clyde and Shirley, shed lamb their registered Rambouillet ewes and we have helped with a variety of lambing tasks over the years. This one still stands out.
A ewe was having trouble lambing and Clyde had given up her. She had a problem inside and couldn't physically lamb. Sheep are notorious for the way they just give up and die, so attempting any advanced medical treatment on her probably wouldn't work. Clyde knows more about sheep than just about anybody, so if he thought she wasn't going to make, he was probably right.
But Shirley called my dad to perform a C-section. (My dad is just handy like that and very talented with his hands.) Me, being the tom-boy I was and still am, became the official assistant.
We head down the road 5 miles to Clyde and Shirlee's place with our supplies, which included a knife, Catgut suture, disinfectant and various other necessities.
We arrive, get the story and begin.
Shirley was the only one with an optimistic mindset.
My dad thoroughly washes his hands, all our tools and the ewe's side.
I was person where dad said, "knife," and I handed him a knife. I also helped hold stuff out of the way and kept everything very very clean.
We give her a local anesthetic to deaden the pain, and wait for it to take effect.
He begins by poking around to make sure she can't feel anything. He chooses the proper location to make his incision and cuts through the ewe's hide to reveal the first of four layers of muscle. Each layer goes in a different direction, and it's very important to cut with the grain each time. You also want to tear muscle more than cut it because the rough edge tearing creates makes it easier for the muscle to heal (larger surface area and easier for the pieces to bind together). I know this because he was explaining it to me at the time, and it stuck.
After carefully cutting through each layer, one at a time, using short shallow strokes we reach the uterus. We cut through it and deliver two live lambs.
Next we carefully sewed up each layer, making sure each side of each cut was in proper contact with the other side. This is where we used the Catgut. Since it is made from animal intestines, it will slowly degrade and eventually be absorbed by the body. This takes long enough for the wound to heal, but it limits how much future medical care the ewe will need.
Nobody expects the ewe to make it, mainly because she is a sheep and their will to live is well below average, as I said above.
My dad has performed numerous cesareans on cows and they almost always make it, but this was the first time with a sheep. We still gave it our best shot.
She did make it and raised both her lambs. Shirley named both mama and the two babies.
I decided then and there I wanted to be a vet. I later reconsidered when I found out that as a vet you also have to put animals down. Couldn't do it, would be in the waiting room, crying with the owner, while someone else put down their beloved dog.
But I do love saving animals and this was a great experience that comes to mind on snowy spring days without any wind around lambing time.

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