Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Christmas Week in Review part 2...Our First Pasture Predation

We lost a ewe last week. We think it was to a coyote, but then a couple days later 4-5 sheep were injured all at once. The first 4 we found right away and brought them to the house, the 5th  the next day and we are not sure if it was one we missed or if the predator came back.

We learned a lot in that 24 hours.

1) Our first aid kit was insufficient.
2) It is better to keep all vetrenary supplies in one place not in various places.
3) Sheep are amazingly resilient if you can get them out of the initial shock.

and 4): Lil'Bug. Is. Amazing.

The night was a normal mundane night, I sent the girls to bed, tucked them in, and was nursing Baby Zap. Chad went out for chores.

Suddenly he is kicking open the back door and yelling for towels. In his arms, Paddington a brown wether, who was bleeding profusely from his neck.

Lil'Bug jumped out of bed, put on her jeans and boots and appeared in the kitchen, "What can I do mom?"

She held a dishtowl to Paddington's neck wound while I searched for more towels and thought about what to do.

I emailed Lorraine at Hedgeapple Farms. I couldn't find her number anywhere. I thought and thought (quickly).....then I called Lois at Reicharts Dairy Air. She has goats, but in my mind goats and sheep are similar so I called. At 8pm. Lucky for me she was home. She walked me through what supplies I had on hand, dispensed advice, and as I repeated it out loud, Lil'Bug paid rapt attention.

Chad brought the other lambs in one by one, driving each one up from the pasture in the front seat of his car. He was really upset. These lambs were in the pasture with our llama and a full grown wether and should have been protected from coyotes and coyotes don't usually prey in the late afternoon.

As I explained to him that Lois had first aid supplies we needed, he decided to wait for the vet. Confused, I asked him why he thought waiting was a good idea? He didn't think driving 5 hours was a good use of time. Ah, I reminded him I was talking to Lois, not Lorraine. Lois lives 25 miles to the north of us (in farm terms, just up the road). So he decided to go after all.

I was exhausted, the baby strapped to my chest in his Moby wrap, which was getting sopped with pasture mud and blood.

Lil'Bug on the other hand, very much awake, hopped up and started mixing up some honey water. She had heard discussion about trying to get the sheep to drink and decided it would be her job to get them to drink the sweet water. The sheep would not lap it, so she asked for a bottle. Despite having a newborn, we do not have bottles. So I suggested the syringe that we use to squirt water in her ears. She gathered it up and started squirting the fluid into the lambs mouths, gently lifting their heads to her lap one by one.

Each lamb was bleeding and Lil'Bug was covered in blood. Not that she noticed or cared as she tended to them. Winston (lamb wether) and Mary (lamb ewe) were examined. Mary's foot was torn up, possibly broken. Winston had puncture wounds, possibly a neck sprain too. Marshmallow also had neck wounds.

I set the kitchen up so the sheep could not get to the other rooms and moved this and that to make them more comfortable. Chad came home and bandaged and cleaned and gave medicine and Lil and I went to bed.

In the morning, we woke up to Marshmallow (ewe) throwing open the box of hats and gloves by the back door and unloading the contents. We knew she was getting better is she was bored. Ha!

Lil resumed feeding them sweet water and I spent the day cleaning up sheep poo in my kitchen only to have it quickly replaced.

Chad spent the day at home, assessing the pasture, taking Paddington to the vet, and doing first aid on the wounded.

I felt pretty helpless,  Baby Zap limiting the amount of help I could be. Lil'Bug really shined though. She's only newly six and had more patience, calm, and clear thinking (more than most adults I know) in a crisis than I think anyone would expect of a child. Yet, here she was, self motivated and directed in a time of need. Not present in her was the girl with a short temper or the child who gets jealous of her sister's toys or of the baby's attention. Here was a responsible, caring, level headed girl doing what needed to be done.

Chad was deflated. Our confidence in sheparding was shaken and these little lambs were the victims of the horrible proof of our inexperience. In our minds it was not the ferral dog that was to blame, nor his teeth, but our own mistakes.

The result: we bought 2 additional llamas. We moved all the sheep together. We buffed up the fences. We bought a bigger...item that takes care of coyotes. We built up our first aid supplies. We learned. None of that makes our pasture predator proof, but maybe just a little less like a giant coyote dinner buffet?

As of the writing of this post, Marshmallow is back in the pasture and the other lambs are on the mend, soon to join the others. Paddington's neck wound is healing and he is finally eating and drinking on his own. Mary (ewe) and Winston are almost ready to go back out too.

And my kitchen floor is clean. CLEAN. It took quite a bit of effort, mind you. I am definitely designing a vet stall into the new kitchen design AND we really need to push up getting a barn. In the meantime, we have some ideas.


  1. What a horrible thing to have happen! Kudos to Lil'Bug though! Sounds like it was more likely a dog attack than coyote. Dogs tend to kill for fun rather than food, usually attack multiple animals in the flock, and cause more random damage since they aren't as "efficient" at killing as coyotes. Not always, but those things tend to be true in my experience. I hope your improved defenses hold strong against whatever did it. Congrats on handling the trauma so well, and keeping at it! You obviously care a great deal about your animals!

  2. Agreed Rae. The next day we saw the local feral "chicken eating" dog visit our pasture around 3. Likely it was him.

  3. Pam in Monroe, WA17 January 2011 at 19:51

    Oh my....I can't even imagine what this was like for each of you. What an incredible job you all did. True farmers, with such good hearts.
    Hang in there.
    Thanks for sharing.


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