The event itself wasn't a surprise, based upon how she looked this morning. The way it unfolded was, however. I was watching her carefully all day; we had moved the ewes to the old pig pasture, so she didn't have a shed to hide in and I could observe her a bit better. When I saw her vigorously digging in a corner by herself around 1 pm, I headed out with fresh towels.
I had time to go back in and put on a hat and sunscreen—it was an unseasonably warm 80+ degrees here. I had time to play a few rounds of scrabble on my iPhone. I even had time to make this helpful video, in case you ever need to know the classic signs of a ewe just about to lamb (digging, licking, whickering).
Unfortunately, she was not just about to lamb. After 45 minutes of pushing, I realized we were in trouble: all I could see was a nose and a tongue. The lamb was head-first.
This is very bad news.
The last time we had this presentation, we lost the lamb and almost the ewe.
And I was by myself.
But actually, I wasn't. My husband, monitoring the situtation from the back porch in between his human patients, saw I was in trouble and came to the rescue during a break, with muck boots over his dress pants and a surgical gown and OB gloves over his dress shirt. I got her into the barn, after an unpleasant chase around the field, and he managed to get the lamb out. In case you ever need to know how to deal with a head-first presentation: you have to push the lamb back in (hopefully the head isn't too far out to accomplish this) and try to fish out at least one leg, and ideally two. These lambs are usually bigger than normal and there isn't a lot of working room. He managed to get one leg out, and we pulled and rotated and eased the lamb out while the poor ewe hollered her head off.
It is not a one person job.
I am grateful for my husband on a daily basis, but it will be pretty hard to top my gratitude this afternoon. It is impossible to measure the sheer relief of not having to deal with the situation by myself. Without him, we would have definitely lost the lamb and probably the ewe as well.
Lambs born this way often have trouble getting started, because their heads and especially tongues are swollen from being stuck in the birth canal. Breathing is an issue, as is nursing. As of tonight, the swelling has gone down considerably and he seems to be on the right track. Of course it was a ram lamb. Of course there was only one, despite her considerable girth.
Poor Kali was a bit shocky after working that hard in the hot sun, and then running around avoiding us, then enduring a lot of rough intervention—completely necessary, but rough all the same. We have treated her with vitamins and minerals, we have given her every shot recommended to deal with the situation, we have cleaned off the blood as much as possible, we have even talked to a vet about what else we may need to do. So far, she seems to be making a recovery, but we will have to keep a close eye on her and her lamb the next few days.
The final tally is 10 rams, 4 ewes. I remind myself that every lamb was born OK, and that is enough of an accomplishment for a lambing season.
A thunder storm is rolling through tonight. All the ewes and lambs are tucked up safely in the barn, in their respective groups, nickering and nursing and nuzzling. It is more than enough.