I learn by doing. But what if what you need to learn to do, is hard to practice and when you need to do it, lives might hang in the balance – what then?
How do you practice re-arranging lambs in the uterus, sorting out which leg belongs to which head? How do you learn how to tell the forelegs from the hind legs by feel so that you can gently pull them to help a lamb out?
Miracle, the little lamb born on Saturday morning didn’t make it. He died Sunday night. He hadn’t thrived. He didn’t suckle and just lay down. I fed him colostrum and milk and lamb kickstart but he didn’t have a feeding instinct.
I didn’t want his death to be in vain. I wanted to use it to help me be a better shepherd. I have limited experience feeling inside a ewe. It is one thing to know in theory how front and back legs differ, but it is another to identify the forelegs without seeing them one-handed …. inside a ewe. Pulling the wrong legs could be a problem. Pulling legs from two different lambs would be catastrophic.
So I made a rudimentary ewe simulator on Monday morning. It’s just a box with a hole in it and a plastic bag inside. I then put little Miracle in the box in different orientations and practiced reaching inside one-handed, trying to identify legs, re-positioning the body, attaching lambing ropes and extracting the lamb from the ‘ewe’. Easier said than done, but maybe this practice will help me save another lamb or ewe one day in the future.
N.B. And then I took little Miracle to the knackerman who disposed of him for free – because as he said to me ‘we do the lambs for nothing as we are betting on the ewes’.