Sunday, May 8, 2016

Days 6,7 and 8

HELLO OUTSIDE WORLD! I apologize for the lack of posts lately, the ewes seem to have met with each other and have decided that lambing together in large quantities would be fun! However, they did not ask for our input! It's difficult to recall the events in the last three days, because so much has happened and the days just blend together. So, let's recap:

Yesterday (I think)...

The farm vet came for a visit to exam a lamb that we were concerned about. Snaedis noticed that the little lamb was getting more and more bloated as time went on, and after further investigation, she discovered that the lamb had no anus! The bloating was due to an inability to pass feces! Sometimes it is just a case of a thin membrane forming over the anal opening, but there is only a 1 in 10 chance of that occurring. Most of the time, the result is that there is fusion of the skin completely, and in that case, there is nothing that can be done for the little lamb without extensive surgery that is quite costly and they may not even make it out of the surgery alive.

Yesterday (for certain)...

In commercial farming, there is an average of 10% death rate during the birthing season. Scott and I were very fortunate for the first few days to not handle too many deaths, but our luck ran out yesterday. The first hardship was a VERY difficult birth, where the ewe's twins had their legs all tangled and one was backwards. If we had an X-Ray machine that we could just hold over the ewe's back, it would have been a piece of cake. But, since that is something that is only possible in dreams, we had to sort the legs out using one our touch sensation. I assessed the ewe after quite some time of observing her struggle with contractions and some serious pushing without any progress. Sure enough, both babies wanted to be the first, and they were quite large, so there wasn't a lot of room to move them around. I called Helgi over because I knew I wasn't going to be able to sort things out and I needed someone with more experience in this situation. As soon as Helgi felt the position of the lambs, he face said it all. Not good. After some time of trying to untangle the lambs, Helgi found a pair of legs that seemed to match, and at that point, time was running out. We had to move fast. Even though he had found a matching pair of legs, he was only about 40% sure they were the right ones to come out first. Thankfully, they were the right legs, and pretty soon there was a baby lamb on the ground. Both Helgi and I were astounded when the lamb gasped for air. We were sure it would have been dead from the trauma of the birth. The second lamb, however, did not survive the day. One of the hardest parts of lambing is putting so much time and energy into a birth, and being so emotionally invested in the well-being of the ewe and her babies, that when something goes wrong, the battle feels like a complete loss. Between lambs being too big and dying during the birth, to babies with deformities and mutations, there were quite a few deaths yesterday. We worked so hard all day and late into the night trying to save as many as we possibly could. At the end of the day, we just had to remember that we helped so many (mostly when the babies entered the birth canal with one leg forward and the other one back) when they needed it. Scott and I have both found multiple ewes who have begun the lambing process but have only been able to push the head out or the head and one leg. Without noticing that, the lambs would have died, and possibly the ewe herself. So although it was an incredibly frustrating and exhausting day, we were able to appreciate the sadness that often goes hand in hand with happiness.

We did a lot today! In the morning we assisted with lambing, and in the afternoon we helped Helgi trim the rams horns, as well as gave them vaccines and dewormer before they went outside for the summer! Pictured here is the subcutaneous vaccine gun that I was given to vacinate the rams with! Once a ram was given the vaccine, the chamber would refill as the handle was released! It was pretty slick! I don't think the rams liked it as much as I did!

Scott and Helgi trimmed horns and took turns holding the rams. I jumped in a couple times to hold them, but boy are they strong! If there is Running with the Bulls in Spain, we should have Wrestling with the Rams in Iceland! As you can see in the picture (here on the right), the rams horns curl down and typically spiral out. The horns are trimmed in order to avoid any facial injuries or having the horns grow in toward the face.

Trying to hold the rams took all of my strength, which they made me feel like I had none of!

                                                                                     Some of the rams were much more
                                                                               interested in being pampered than others.

Scott and I are still very much enjoying our time here at Hestur. Learning new things every day, embracing the small successes and processing the losses. Every day is a fresh start, and all you can do as a farmer is give it your best effort, and help the animals in every way possible. Cheers!


  1. Becca, thank you for so much time devoted to telling your and Scott's Hestur University Farm story. You have a great story-telling gift and you take us "there". Can't wait to hear more when we see you! Nonni

  2. Little lamb it! So proud of the work you are doing!

  3. Thank you for honestly sharing both the ups and downs. I hope many folks who hold idealized images of farming in their minds, will read this and understand that one has to take the sadness with the joy. Not all offspring make it, regardless of species. Having successfully untangled triplet goats -- solo and without support -- I was hanging on every word as I read about your tangled lambs.

    1. You are very welcome! It helps me personally to write about it as a tool for processing the events of the hard days. Most days are rewarding, but there are the few that are very hard to handle.

  4. Thank you all for your comments!!!! It's so incredible to have so much support while we are here! Thank you for such kind words!