After staying up until midnight last night trying to comfort Nera in her long labor, I finally decided to get some sleep. I guess I just got to the point where I had to admit there was nothing I could do except pray and hope nature resolved whatever issues were going on inside her body. She’d had five successful lambings, two of which were triplets, and the other three of which were twins — so I knew her body was capable.
Before calling it a night, I did don a latex glove and feel inside her birth canal. The lamb was very clearly in “launch position,” with the head and hoof exactly where it was supposed to be. I could put my hand all the way around the lamb’s head. I just couldn’t get the lamb to budge. I suspected, from her size and shape, that she had triplets in there. The other two must’ve been somehow pinning the one that was set to launch. She kept standing up and laying down and changing positions, so I hoped that would get the lambs to move around.
It didn’t. I woke up at 5:30, with first light and birds chirping, and wanted to go back to sleep. But all I could think about was Nera. By 6am, I was dressed and in the barn…and examining her dead body.
I suppose it was inevitable that this happen at some point. Icelandics are very easy lambers, and almost never need assistance; it’s a trade-off for their smaller size. But “almost never” is different from “never.” To put this loss in perspective: This is our eighth year of lambing. We’ve had over 80 lambs born. This was our 48th delivery. And the first time we’ve had to even think about getting help for an ewe. This is also the first time we’ve lost a mature ewe to any cause.
Still…I’m just sick about losing Nera. She was one of our best ewes and mothers, always had plenty of milk, and provided wonderful black fleeces. And she was one our earliest sheep, born to Dot (the leader sheep and queen of the flock) in our second year of lambing.
A more practical problem is what to do with her body. She was big, and even bigger with three lambs inside her. Back in Illinois, we had a friend who let us dump large animal bodies in a huge vacant field he owned. We have 15 acres here, but the trick is getting the body far enough away from everything else — and the hay in the hayfield we have to cross is something like 3 feet high. But with a heat wave forecast to be moving in later today, we need to get the body away from the barn fast.
I’ll leave you with this photo, of her 2007 lambing (the last in Illinois):
She was a real blessing. And will be truly missed. We are grateful for all the years we were allowed to have her.