“Normal” at the Double Portion Ranch

I always have hundreds of titles for posts going through my head before I write one.  Usually they’re for other posts.  I’m pretty sure I’m ADD so all that stuff is jumbled up in there together and I have to herd it some and let it settle out to get it where it needs to be.  Sometimes I do that with great success and other times not so much.  I’ll have to let you judge that.  Things here at the ranch have been wonky for months now.  Nothing changed with the ranch really but life changed a lot for the wife and I.  Potential opportunities took most of my time and energy.  I had a shot at something, or at least it looked like I did, that could have paid off nicely.  Had it done so, it would have taken me away from the ranch a good deal of the time.  All that’s done now really, much to my relief.

It was a crazy time and it’s still not fully over with.  While my distraction was going on, the place where my wife worked lost their contract.  She’s now been out of a job for a couple of months because the new company didn’t pick up any of the old workers except for a couple.  From what we have heard, it turned into a horrible place to work so it seems like maybe it was time to move on anyway.  So, for you praying types, Mary needs a new job fairly soon.  We appreciate the prayers!  Now back to the fun stuff.

We need a barn, BAD!  I’ve been to a live stock auction near here and seen how the animals are treated.  They aren’t abused but neither are they loved.  I guess I’m a big ol’ softy or sucker or something, but I love my critters.  I know some are destined for the dinner plate but until then they’re going to get the best life I can provide them.  Without a barn, that means nursing sick ones back to health happens in the house!  Were my wife and daughter not on the same page with me, this would be a very bad thing indeed.  Instead, it’s merely inconvenient and rather stinky.

I can’t recall now how many lambs we’ve had inside.  I know we’ve got 2 we can’t ever sell due to a bit of over-bonding and there have been a hand full of others that integrated back into the herd pretty nicely.  Last week we found that we had a couple of lambs with some resistant worms.  One of these was Baby.  Oh, and lets get one thing clear here.  I don’t name hardly any of the sheep.  Number 72 is fine for me.  This comes mostly from my kid.  How she keeps them all straight is beyond me!  Anywho, back to the story.  So Baby and I think Tank were having issues but Baby was not looking well at all.  Now a lamb is worth about $1.70 a pound right now.  Most go to auction at around 25 pounds probably so you’re looking at less than $50 for one of these animals.  I guess this is where the sucker part comes in.  One trip to the vet and you’ve doubled the price of the animal but you’ll never get that for it.  Most people doing this for a living probably just put problems like this down.

Baby got diagnosed with resistant worms and all they did was give her a dose of 2 worming meds.  This cleared her right up within 24 hours.  About 5 days later though, we were out doing something with the herd and Daughter noticed Baby was missing.  It was nearly sunset.  We all went looking and checked the back half of the ranch.  I’ve had sheep get their heads stuck in the fence there so this is the first place I look.  She wasn’t there.  Wife and Daughter searched one more thicket of trees near the house with no luck.  By now it was dark.  Honestly, I figured she was dead and laying out there somewhere so I called off the search and planned to look in the morning with light.  Rachel decided not to give up though and kept looking.  She found Baby in the big ravine on the front half of the property.  Ruckus then ensued!

Baby couldn’t walk.  I was called and helped get everyone up out of the ravine.  This is where the barn doesn’t come in!  We took Baby into the house (because, no BARN!).  She was alert and everything seemed normal except she couldn’t stand up, even with help.  At this point I think she was weakened by the whole worming thing but it just hadn’t hit until this day.  If an animal is alert, eating, drinking, and peeing and pooping, then they are exhibiting good signs.  It’s just unfortunate when this takes place on carpet.  We gave Baby a day and she didn’t get worse or better.  Now it was time to take the $90 lamb back to the vet.  Yes, she was turning into a pure bread, papered, show lamb!

Baby naturally didn’t have anything easy to diagnose.  This is probably a good thing since most things that would keep a sheep from standing are very NOT good.  So she got the animal equivalent of chicken soup.  A vitamin shot, a steroid shot, and an antibiotic shot.  Just for the record, liquid vitamin B reeks.  Baby may be the only sheep we’ve had that’s  gotten to ride in both the car and the red truck of happiness (it brings food and treats, therefore…).  She did well riding and really wasn’t a bad house guest except for the bodily function stuff.  She’d hear the herd outside and call to them, wanting to join up periodically, but other than that she was pretty passive.  This is what it looked like from our perspective, see the video below:

You can see in the video that she looks kind of skinny and her front knees are a little swollen.  We didn’t know if she was going to recover at that point.  We did know that a sheep that couldn’t walk was one we really couldn’t keep.  It wouldn’t have been much of a life for the sheep in that case either.  That meant there was this possible outcome of having to put her down if she didn’t get better running around in the back of all our heads.  Fortunately, she improved!  Not fast, but visibly and steady.  First she’d get up on her back legs and front knees for a few seconds.  Then we could get her to completely stand up for a few seconds.  She was really wobbly and would fall down again after a minute.  The she started doing this scootch/crawl thing across the floor to get where she wanted to go.  Cute and effective!  By the next day we could get her to stand with no help and walk with some help for a little bit.  Time for sheep physical therapy.  It looked like the shotgun meds were working.  One more day and she was able to get up on her own and stand for a while and even walk a bit without help.  Still very wobbly and unsteady, she’d do more of a controlled fall to lay back down.  She got one more round of shots and by the next day she was starting to get into trouble in the house.  This was a very good sign indeed.  That evening she was doing so well that we debated leaving her in the yard.  Her mom came in and it seemed all was well with the world.  Plenty of grass to munch and some company.  At this point I saw her scamper over some big rocks we have landscaped around one of our trees and I knew she was pretty much well.  I figured we’d cut them loose in the morning but being the protective sucker I am, not tonight.  Then mom got a case of the “I want the herd” blues and started circling the house bleating like the end of the world had come.  What a whiner!  I went out and watched Baby having no problem keeping up with mom.  After a quick all family conference, the decision was made to cut them loose then and pray for the best.  Off they went in the company of our LGDs to rejoin the rest.  I said a quick prayer and went back inside.

Here’s Baby as of this evening:


Baby hangin under the RV

She still needs to fatten up more but the improvement is amazing.  I don’t think I mentioned that we gave her a bath.  She was filthy.  24 hours after rejoining the herd, she’s on her way back to that again!  Some of my white sheep really hate being white I guess…


Giving an Animal an Injection

Amongst other things, it’s quite a learning process.  It’s not fun either.  I was very nervous.  A couple of our dogs decided to tussle with one of our ranch cats.  Normally this cat gets away (which is pretty good for a 3 legged cat).  It didn’t this time but it got in a few licks of its own during the altercation.  Apparently it’s outdoorsy life has equipped it for biological warfare because a couple of days after the fight, 2 of the dogs started to display swelling where they’d been scratched or bit (go kitty!)(seriously, the dogs needed to learn better… though I doubt they did…).  Since this stuff got worse instead of better we decided to give them a shot of penicillin.  The cat did get away by the way, it just normally does that before it gets into a fight.

I really don’t want to hurt my animals.  I was definitely afraid I was going to hurt them while giving them shots.  Given that I had to re-stick them a few times, I probably did hurt them a bit more than a well done injection would have.  Sucks to be the guinea pig.  Some lessons learned:

1.  Sterilization of your injection area is difficult to impossible to achieve.  Go with what you can do.

2.  Leaving the medicine in the shot can cause it to dry in the needle and clog it, thus rendering the syringe useless.

3.  Discovering #2 above can result in shooting the syringe’s needle across the room while you are trying to figure out what’s wrong.

4.  It may take several individuals to hold down the dog for its shot.

5.  Dogs appear to have less nerves than people do and seem to be able to withstand multiple needle sticks better than I could.

I had to give two of the dogs penicillin injections over a three-day span.  By the end of that I actually got pretty good and the dogs were more tolerant as well.  After all, it resulted in getting a treat!  They both improved immediately so it appears that the right thing was done.  Just more ranch animal drama and first time experiences to go along with it.

Injections are one of many ways to administer ...

Injections are one of many ways to administer medication. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unhappy Lamb, Happy Ranchers!

What could cause this you ask?  Well let me tell you!  Pistol, our indoor lamb, has become an OUTDOOR lamb!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111elevenelevendy!!!!   In case you can’t tell, I’m very excited about that.  We raised Pistol by hand since early this spring… In the house…  It. Was. Not. Fun…  Don’t get me wrong, there were good times.  Moments of endearing and cuteness of course.  How could there not be with a cute little lamb.  However… Lambs cannot be house trained.  At least not that we could figure out a way to do so.  They also chew on EVERYTHING.  I guess grazing animals do that.  Electric cords and paper were her favorites.  We had tried leaving her outside for bits at a time.  Even attempted an overnight once before.  Have I mentioned how pathetic a lamb can sound when they’re having a bad time?  If you’re an animal sucker like we are, it’s very hard to ignore that.  Each time, she’d get her way and we’d let her back in.

Now, I know that sheep get moved around and are forced to join other herds from time to time. I suspect they rarely die from this action although I’m sure they don’t like it much.  So, after having had just about enough of chewing on everything in sight, we decide to try again.  We also had gotten her weaned of the milk replacement.   She still liked the bottle but was on 100% water so we knew it was all psychological at this point (who knew we’d be into sheep psychology!).  So, earlier this week we started out with her out half the day.  She did fine.  So we progressed to a full day, and then to overnight a couple of nights ago.  She’s officially an outdoor sheep now.  She’s not well-integrated into the herd yet but she is hanging out with them a LOT more.  That’s a very good thing although I’m sure she’s not convinced of that yet.

We have more lambs on the way it appears so we’re going to have to build some pens and make sure this doesn’t happen again.  It’s going to suck even more if we have another orphan as we’ll need to essentially do everything we did for this one only doing it outside.  They just can’t come in the house again.  It makes it too hard on us.  I’ll try to chronicle the construction of the pens and we’ll see how that turns out.  Today I have to fix the water in the chicken coop thanks to a certain dog named Balto.  I’ve never put pieces of PVC pipe together before but now I get to learn.  Ought to be a fun time!  Stay tuned, pix to follow.