So I was in the middle of a field looking for Victoria my missing sheep and I spied her in the distance by the hedge, clearly in labour. I got a bit closer so that I could see how far along she was and run through the checklist of things that could go wrong and would need intervention (I’ve pretty much memorised this chapter of the veterinary textbook on sheep).
Her lamb was appearing. Head? – check. Left front leg? – check. Right front leg – ? Right front leg – ?! Right front leg – ?!! No sign. Shit. Bugger. Bloody Hell. What now – should I let her keep trying, or move in to help? When in doubt call Annathevet (I’ve referred to her so often like this that my other friends actually think this is her name). Thank God for mobile phones – what did farmers do before them? Annathevet answered cheerily and I gushed ‘Victoria’s in labour, head’s out, can only see one leg – what do I do’. Annathevet was as calm as ever – the conversation went something like this: –
Annathevet: “You’ve got to intervene, go and get hold of her.”
Me: “I can’t she keeps running away.”
Annathevet: “Then get on the ground and crawl towards her, take her by surprise.”
(I do this, mobile in one hand, wondering if this is really necessary or whether this is just secretly fuelling Annathevet’s warped sense of humour.)
Me: “Got her.”
Annathevet: “Is the lamb dry?”
Me: “No covered in sticky yellow stuff.” (technical term obviously!)
Annathevet: “Good. Ok – you’ve got to hold the ewe still and push the lamb all the way back into her womb in-between her strains so you can find the other front leg. Once you’ve got both front legs forward she’ll be able to do the rest”
I should add that at this point I could quite clearly hear down the phone that Annathevet was simultaneously spoon-feeding her eighteen-month-old while she was instructing me. I paused momentarily to be impressed by this – she really is the only other person I know who can ‘extreme multi-task’ like I do (maybe even fractionally better – but don’t tell her that).
I won’t bore you with the rest of the details. Suffice it to say that 45 minutes later with the aid of husband, lambing ropes and gallons of lubricant – Victoria popped out a ram lamb and immediately turned round and started cleaning him up. This isn’t always a given with ewes who have never lambed before, and who have a difficult time of it – often the minute the lamb is out and the pain stops they leg it thinking, ‘sod this for a game of soldiers, you can look after it’. But not in this case. Victoria is turning out to be a good mum, and we’ve called the ram lamb Frank in honour of the farmer whose ram got my ewes knocked up in the first place.
I should add that while husband helped, he also got a bit soppy and emotional about it all. He couldn’t ignore the noise that the ewe was making while we were busy pushing the lamb back into the place from which it was trying to get out. He said; “I don’t think she can take much more”. I resisted the urge to say, ‘Well we don’t do epidurals or gas and air for ewes here I’m afraid’.
So that was Monday. I got grade 1 lambing-on-my-own skills. Annathevet got a gold star for over-the-phone-lambing-instructions. Christopher got to have a large glass of wine and a sit down to recover.
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