It wasn't always the case this weekend. We used up the last of the messy, but yummy hay last week. I tried to switch them over to finish up the leftover orchard grass from last year, but they didn't like it any better this year than they did last, so I moved on to the new hay.
I set out two bales Friday night and they dug into it with enthusiasm. Saturday morning I woke to everyone feeling bad and about half of the sheep foaming at the mouth, drooling and starting to bloat (!). The vet was here within the hour and we spent almost two hours at 12 degrees, basically up to our elbows in cold water (it started warm), dosing everyone with antacid and mineral oil.
There was some clover in this grass mix, but not enough that it could be considered "rich". It was also not a significant change in quality from the other hays. Several people have now looked at the hay and can't find anything wrong with it including any sort of noxious weed...but something sure was.
Buddy (gasp) was in the worst shape. Petunia and Woolliam were not far behind and there was a large group in slightly better shape than them, but not by much. We re-treated eight of them in the afternoon and Buddy got a third treatment Saturday night. At the 11:00 p.m. he was looking better, but still not great, but he did eat a cookie, which at least made me feel better.
I walked to the barn Sunday morning worried at what I might find, but thankfully everyone was pretty much back to normal. While Buddy still didn't want to eat any hay, he did eat some ewe nuggets (large pelleted food) and once he realized he was getting special treats, he was completely back to good old Buddy. I have never been so relieved.
The super cold is breaking (thankfully) and we had snow move in late in the afternoon as the temps started to rise. The sheep, in their well insulated wool sweaters, were covered from head to tail with a thick layer of snow and they were so beautiful.
After I finished evening chores I stood in the barn lot watching everyone picking through the orchard grass hay that they don't really like, but at least won't kill them. Petunia noticed and walked over to see me. Buddy, who is behind her with his head down eating hay (yay :-) saw and rushed over, too.
And sweet Spud on the left. I'd like to think they were just coming over to see me and tell me they were feeling much better, but I think they were probably just hoping I was still doling out ewe nugget "cookies" ;-).
"This hay is the pits."
* * * * *
Buddy sick was a sheep anyone would have noticed as something wrong. He was standing off by himself, head hanging down, looking miserable and wobbly. Graham kept going about his days like everything was fine...when it wasn't. After reading the lab report and thinking (and thinking and thinking) back, there were some signs I should not have missed.
He did have a bad tooth and it had apparently been bothering him longer than I knew/noticed. If I'd been able to put two and two together earlier, the outcome might have been different. A sheep not getting enough to eat, especially a fat sheep, can get into dire trouble quicker than I'd have ever guessed.
Trying to care for animals can be heartbreaking, especially when you try very hard to care for them and care so much about them. I did learn a lesson from Graham that might have helped Buddy this weekend, but the cost of that lesson was so great that I doubt the scars will ever heal. All I can do from here is keep watching and caring and hoping all the rest of the lessons I need to learn come from books, not best friends.
So as not to end on such a sad note, here is a short clip of Hank bedding down for the night. Keep in mind he has a barn, his own private stall and an insulated dog box in his stall. He and I are both going to be sad when the snow is all gone tomorrow.
Hank the snow dog.