30 Apr Sheep Suicide
So lambing is almost over here on the Williams family farm and this year has been a good one for us. I hope you can say the same too!
As always though, and not just at lambing time but all year round, there seems to be a trend when it comes to sheep. They LOVE to die don’t they!? I’m sure they sit around at night in their little flocks just dreaming up the most imaginative ways of ending their lives, and some are really quite unbelievable. So I’ve decided to jot just a few down.
Some of these have happened to us and some I’ve heard from others. Luckily a lot of these attempts failed and the sheep were rescued before they actually died or caused too much harm, thank goodness!
The Water Bucket – Water buckets seem to be like lamb magnets during lambing time. They either jump into them and can’t get out so they drown or die from hypothermia, or the ewe sits on them and effectively pushes them into the water, once again drowning them!
Squashed By Mum – So when they aren’t trying to drown their babies, mums like to take a little nap… Right on top of their weak new-borns! Lambs can’t get up and are suffocated or squashed to death! Luckily this year we haven’t had a squish incident as far as I’m aware, though I did rescue a couple just in time!
Brick Walls Hurt – I know a lot of people like to think that sheep are stupid. I really don’t believe that to be the case, though I have reconsidered this when watching them run head first at full speed into brick walls, gates and anything else that gets in their way when trying to flee! Ouch!
Hanging – I kid you not this one was a first for me this year. So I’m walking from the back of the shed to the front, looking to see if there’s anything lambing. As you’ll know, when you’re walking behind sheep they move out of the way. I notice one is struggling, trying to run away but can’t, as I approach her I realise she is stuck with bailing twine around her neck! The twine was attached to the gate and had somehow formed a loop so the ewe was effectively hanging herself!
Gates – This one happened a fair few years ago now and was the reason that I introduced walkie-talkies to the lambing shed. It was maybe my first or second year lambing and I was out in the very back shed checking the singles (Ewes expecting one lamb). I noticed a ewe with her head stuck in between the bars of a gate! I tried my hardest to get her free but I couldn’t get her head back through and of course she was scared and trying to run (in the wrong direction), making it even harder! So there I was, a total lambing novice alone in the shed. I was shouting “Ben, sheep emergency!!” but he was nowhere to be seen. Luckily he married a fog horn and eventually heard me and came running to the rescue. He was able to bend the bars and get her out.
I went straight out and bought some walkie-talkie’s for any future sheep emergencies and they were put to good use! As for the term ‘sheep emergency’ it is now a family favourite of my famous one liners and is frequently used within the lambing shed!
Just Snoozing – I think this is the most famous of all. The ewe is heavily pregnant, we know how it feels don’t we ladies!? You’re carrying all that extra weight, you’re knackered and your feet hurt so you decide to have a little snooze. She wakes up feeling fresh and ready to graze. She goes to get up but shes in a dip and as she tries to stand she falls backwards onto her back. Because she is so wide now from pregnancy she cant get up and is stuck! These are so heartbreaking to find in the weeks leading up to lambing and is why I always share my warning picture far and wide before hand, so that the general public can help if they ever see this happening!
Battered By Your Mums Mate – So the lamb has been born and mummy and baby move into the pen where the stay for a day or two until the farmer is happy they can go out but the lamb decides to go visit his new friend in the next pen. This is where it all goes wrong… Ewes HATE lambs that aren’t theirs and takes to battering it! It will butt and ram it into the wall or gate over and over and over and can end really badly if that lamb isn’t rescued. This year we have a lamb with two badly broken back legs and we are pretty sure it’s due to being beaten up. Luckily for the lamb now named Forrest Gump, I used to work in a minor injury department and so set to creating a splint for him. He really is a remarkable lamb, and i’ll try to get a video of him, he runs around like the rest of them now but puts all of his weight through his front legs. It really is something to see!
Napping In The Warm Hay – Lambs love to go for a nap in the hay feeder. Its warm and cosy and if you creep into the shed when everything is quiet you’ll see that the hay feeder is somewhat like a creche. Lambs will be sleeping, playing and causing havoc with their friends but you must be careful when it comes to putting another bale into the feeder. Some lambs really like to snuggle into that hay… and bales are heavy!
Trapped Under, Well Anything! – If you haven’t already realised, everything is a hazard when it comes to sheep and they WILL figure out a way in which an everyday item can cause them death or injury. This year Farmer went to check on the ewes with older lambs, now living in the field. He found a ewe in the field with twin lambs at her side. She had led down to rest by a branch that had fallen from the tree and somehow she had got her head stuck underneath it. She had wriggled and wriggled to try to get out but unfortunately she just couldn’t do it. It was so sad. Her lambs are now looked after by me and are doing really well.
Wedged – This is the most unusual yet for us. We have a stack of straw bales out back that backs onto a paddock. The paddock had some young ewes in. Somehow one of them had got herself into the bales and completely wedged, totally out of sight… For days. She was discovered only by accident when Farmer needed a bale and decided to randomly tidy that specific area up and found her. She was in a very bad way. Dehydration was her main problem but she had also bashed her eye up and just wasn’t very good at all. I took her under my wing and when everyone else said she was a lost cause I fought harder to help her. After a few days Hettie really picked up and even the farmers were impressed that I’d managed to bring her back from the brink. She was holding her own head up, trying to stand and had even started drinking from the bucket! I invested all of my time to her, so you can imagine how devastated I was when I came back out from lunch one day, having only just left her looking well, to find her dead. It was as if she had just closed her eyes and slipped away. That day I wanted to give up sheep forever.
So these are just a few ways in which sheep like to keep us on our toes, and if you farm sheep you must have some stories too. Please feel free to comment below with your weird and wonderful findings!
If you don’t farm then just take my word for it… Keeping Sheep alive is a full time job. They just love to die!