For the most part our ewe’s (female sheep) give birth to very healthy lambs. Every once in awhile one comes out with some challenges. This little boy was one of those troubled souls. We named him “Snoopy” for those odd markings. He was born with a pretty weak immune system and a “parrot mouth” (over bite) which would make grazing grass a bit of a challenge later in life. A few days after his arrival we saw that Snoopy was struggling so we pulled he and his mom out of the fields and in to the barn. We immediately started giving him nutritional help. It was pretty clear he was probably not going to make it. But it’s a life and I always feel compelled to do what I can… just in case.
This was her first baby but she attended to that lamb like a champ. She didn’t take an eye of him for a second. To my surprise after a week he got his strength up so we put him and his proud mom back out to pasture with the rest of the flock. Snoopy had become somewhat of a favorite here on the farm. There was constant walkie chatter with detailed Snoopy updates. He struggled a bit to keep up but was hopping around with the other lambs. His mom never too far away always watching.
This past Saturday at about 4:40 AM the Santa Anna winds started gusting here on the farm. When that happens I get nervous about the safety of our flock. Sometimes those winds blow over trees or the portable fences and that spells trouble for everyone. The challenge for me was that it was a cold wind… so getting out of a warm bed for a pre dawn sheep check was not a fun idea. However, with the sounds of 40mph winds snapping branches I wasn’t falling back to sleep… so out I went.
It was dark … very dark. The higher up the hill I went the harder the winds blew. And just as I arrived to the top my head lamp died. Wind induced tears made it even more difficult to see, adding to the blindness. I could barley make out the shadowy figures of the entire flock starring back at me. Everything looked ok, fences were up, dogs were alert and in full protection mode. It’s always a bit spookier in the dark with wind and barking dogs.
As I walked the fence line I discovered the winds had flipped over a pretty big shade house. The sheep use it to hide from the winds. I lifted it up a few feet to make sure no lambs had been crushed beneath it… fortunately all was clear. I started heading back to my warm bed. But by now the the sky was filling with a tiny bit of light and something caught my eye. One ewe standing away from the flock at the far end of the hill. This is never a good sign so I doubled back to investigate. As I approached, I could see she was stationed over something in a protective stance. There laid beneath her was a baby lamb, motionless, dead.
It was still dark so I reached for the lamb to see if there was any visible reason for this loss. The mama ewe jumped towards me… she wasn’t ready to accept that her baby was gone. So I sat there with her for what felt like thirty minutes. Winds whipped up dust into our eyes, dust induced tears streaming down our faces. Both me and the mom were doing our best to blink it out. As the sky filled with a bit more light I was able to make out the face of the lamb and my heart dropped. It was Snoopy. I felt terrible for him and even worse for the mom. Normally when a ewe has a lamb die it only takes a moment before they kind of “get it” and move on. But this mama was not ready to give up. I didn’t want to remove his body till I was sure she was clear. An hour passed, the sun began peaking over the mountains, the winds calmed. She leaned down towards him, took one final sniff, looked at me and slowly walked away. But as she did, she kept looking back… just in case.