A Sad Morning

April 15, 2009 by Ellen Stimson in Baby Lambs

We are not cut out for farming.

We woke up to a dead baby lamb. We went to bed after bottles and cuddles with both of them in front of reruns of In Treatment. They like a long snuggle after their bottles. Especially Daisy.

Daisy never had a mom and she has been glad to let us substitute. She would sit with legs curled under in your lap for an hour or longer if Charlie wasn’t baaaing and jumping and begging her to play. She would reluctantly look up for one last cheek rub from John’s beard, or one more ear scratch from me and climb down and let Charlie chase her and play the head butt game. She loved having a bath.

She must not have gotten any colostrum. She has had all manner of little infections. She had a joint infection from a compromised umbilical cord. She had a mouth infection that forced us to encourage her to the bottle for two of these four weeks. She was never as robust or as fully a leaping playful lamb as Charlie. She was paper trained. He chews up the paper.

And last night some little bug that any other lamb would just have fought off got her. Maybe it was bloat. This can happen when the fat in the milk replacer mixes in a hot tummy and causes a gas that cannot be expelled. She had hiccups and then she died. It was as simple and as devastating as that.

We called the farmer for whom we are fostering and he was quite philosophical. He said this little lamb almost died two or three times in her first week. She just wasn’t meant to make it. Happens. Thanks for calling.

John is burying her and just came in with a tear stained face.

I am holding a lonely and confused Charlie. Going back to the flock will be an even tougher adjustment for him now. Those sheep are wild. The dogs are guards and not playmates. The farm humans are barely interested. He will be bereft. Maybe fostering these lambs was wrong from the beginning. The farmer reminded me that he’d had too many bottle babies, but that this is always tricky.

Then he asked me how many bottles they are still getting. He told me to make sure Charlie is getting them now at room temperature. He reminded me that they…he…. will nurse for a year allowed, but that will make his return to the flock even harder. He matter of factly suggested cutting a bottle today and another by Saturday so he’s down to one per day. More hay, more food, less attention. The loss will be easier if we begin it gradually. Of course he’s right. He runs an ethical farm with much success. He has the oldest flock in Vermont. There is a lot to be learned form this strong kind man.
But Charlie is bonded to the dogs and without Daisy his affection will only increase.

Shit…I am not cut out for this


  • Jill

    Oh E I’m sorry. But she had a really fun time at your house and was mothered and cuddled and given just what she needed. She didn’t make it. Nature was against you. But you gave her a happy if too short life

  • Casdok

    So sorry to hear this. Im sure farmers have to be philosophical but dosnt make it any easier on you. Hugs.

    Ps no news from my end as yet 🙁

  • starrlife

    That's why I'm not a farmer- I just couldn't deal with the constant losses. I'm so sorry Ellen- how terrible for you and your family. Hugs.Hugs. Hugs. :.<

  • Crystal Jigsaw

    From a farmer’s point of view, I’m afraid to say it happens. As you mentioned yourself, colustrum which is a vital source of goodness for the lamb passed by the mother is missing in powdered milk. Bottle feeding doesn’t always work. Lambs aren’t pets, and aren’t built to be pets. They need to be with a flock at some stage and definitely before 12 months. Perhaps yours are ready to be weaned. But, with all the infections your little lamb had, you have done well to keep her this long to be honest.

    I know I’m harsh. Kick me up the bum and tell me to bugger off if you like. I currently have around 500 lambs running about my fields and I’m not attached to one of them because at the end of the day, they’re my livelihood.

    I do hope you’re okay, sweetie. Email me if you need to “chat”.

    CJ xx

  • Mighty Morphin' Mama

    Oh Dear One, I am so very sorry. So easy to give over your heart to such a sweet animal, so easy for her to become pet as opposed to being part of a flock when you are mothering her. My heart is achy for you today, I will be thinking of you and both little lambs.

  • library lady

    Bless poor little Daisy’s heart. I firmly believe that loving animals will eventually break your heart, but the pain is worth it in the end. Think of all the joy that comes first.

  • katiedid

    i could never be a farmer. I eat meat. I wear leather shoes. I am dependent on the farmer for my lifestyle and I buy organic and look for local dairy that is ethical and humane. But at what cost to the farmers involved in this humane raising of our foodstuffs.
    The really kindly ones who make sure their animals range freely and have plenty of pasture and sunshine and happy short lives, these people are doing God’s work. You were a helper these weeks. I am sorry that it didn’t work out. What will you do about Charlie now?
    Could you get another bottle baby for him?

  • katiedid

    I should add that I am surely not saying what you should do.It is complicated. I get that.
    And you hadn’t really decided about keeping them or giving them back yet anyway had you?
    Damn this is harder than a fun spring frolic ought to have been

  • Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge

    Oh, I am so sorry. You have such a big warm heart. I can imagine it would be breaking to lose this little one. I don’t have any wise words, just I’m Sorry.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry E. What a drag. These animals break our hearts, but they are also give us some of our best moments.

  • Dreams and Designs

    oh I am so sorry! This has to feel just devastating! It sounds like you were a great surrogate for this baby lamb and that she felt loved while she was here!

  • Star

    So sorry about your lamb. I had a little baby bird die on me the other day. It feels dreadful, doesn’t it, but spring is like that. Some little babies make it and others don’t.
    Blessings, Star

  • Bia

    Poor Daisy. Poor Charlie. Poor you and your family.

    Sigh. Sending thought blessings your way.

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