So this is the story of Lazarus the lamb with the swollen head.
At 5am this morning James went to check on the sheep before work – he called me, a sheep was in labour. I thought, OK no rush, he probably just saw the water bag and it will take a while for the lamb to be born. What he omitted to tell me – and this I feel is a rather crucial bit – was that there was a head sticking out of her, a very big head, a very big head that wasn’t coming out any further.
He called me again, ‘hurry-up’ he said, ‘she looks in distress and the lamb isn’t coming out.’
I ran over. There was a distressed ewe with the swollen head of a lamb sticking out of her, a lamb that looked dead. [I didn’t take any photos, but now I wish I had.]
She wasn’t in a pen so the first task was to corral her in a corner; the second was to feel inside. I did, I couldn’t feel any legs – just shoulders. The lamb seemed stuck, dead and stuck.
So at just gone 5am we called our friend Andrew – Andrew is a shepherd and a wonderful person. It was 5am, but he came straight out. He saved the day.
I was waiting in the kitchen, looking out of the window making tea when I realised Andrew might not come up the front drive, he might go straight to the fields. I ran over and then I saw Lazarus. The stuck, dead lamb was unstuck and very much alive – albeit with a massive, swollen head.
Andrew told me what he did to free the lamb. First you need to get the ewe lying down. The lamb was so far out and its head had swollen so much that there was no way the lamb could be pushed back inside to be reorganised and its legs located so Andrew gently pulled under the shoulders. And pop, out came the lamb.
‘I thought it was dead’ I said.
‘It was, but it isn’t now’ he answered.
But how did this happen? I hear you ask. Well some things are apparently only for the shepherd to know – as with every profession you don’t tell all your secrets and lore at once.
But what about The Miracle – a minute or two after I arrived, out slid another small ram lamb, pleased his brother had finally made way for his entry into the world.
But the real miracle here is that we have such a good friend as Andrew, someone who when called at 5am comes out to help bring lambs back to life; someone who is generous with his time and support; someone who is kind and patient; someone always ready to help; someone who is teaching me how to look after sheep.
We are so lucky to have Andrew in our lives – thank you Andrew for everything.
N.B. The sheep lambed right next to Daisy Dog’s grave which is where we put the waterbag – it can nourish the ground along with the turkey heads.
N.B. I looked in Storey’s book of sheep – they have a massive chapter on breeds of sheep with photos and, from my point of view, extraneous information about wool and meat and such like. They have two pages on lambs stuck in the wrong position during birth. There was no diagram of a lamb with its head out and no legs to be found – and no information about what to do. This I think is a bit of a flaw with the book. I don’t want detailed information about breed types in a sheep book – what I want is guidance as to what to do in an emergency at 5am when there is a swollen lamb’s head sticking out of a ewe.
N.B. gave the mum a shot of antibiotics and tubed both lambs with some colostrum to give them some strength.
N.B. for those who are counting, the score to date is ram lambs 7; ewe lambs 1.