If a shepherd has a momma ewe who can’t or won’t raise her lamb, or a lamb who can’t nurse well enough to survive with their momma, then the baby gets to be a bottle lamb. Also, very appropriately called, a bummer lamb.
Here’s how raising a bummer lamb goes. You take them from the ewe because they are not doing well. You remind yourself and your kids over (and over and over) that this lamb is a bottle lamb because it’s doing poorly and there is a good chance they won’t make it. You feed the lamb, keep it warm & clean. And you start to get attached. Honestly… how could you NOT get attached to a frail little critter like this:
They start to get stronger, days go by, they get bouncy. Then they get pneumonia, or they start refusing the bottle, or they scour, or for no apparent reason AT ALL… they die. Or they miraculously get better for a few days and you begin to feel cocky then it all starts again. It truly is a bummer.
So far, we have been fairly fortunate. At 6 days old, after eating well and starting to get really playful and active, the smallest lamb started not wanting to eat & having respiratory distress. Her temperature went up to 103.5 and she became extremely listless. So we gave her a big dose of penicillin G (3cc) and in a few hours she started perking up and being more willing to eat, with assistance.
I always add buttermilk to their bottle, because I feel that it helps keep their gut working better (we have less problem with scours on formula by using a ratio of 2:1 replacer to whole milk & a squirt of buttermilk). But I know how quick antibiotics will destroy the good gut bacteria along with the bad pneumonia bacteria. So I break open a capsule of lactobacillus and add a pinch to each bottle to try to help re-populate the gut.
Still, the little lamb started scouring & we’re putting her on 1cc pepto 2-3x per day until things firm up. Our veterinarian advised us to continue treating with 1cc PenG daily for the next 4 days. And we absolutely will be.
Now, we have tiny lamb (who I call Mona Lisa) stabilized & BOOM, my daughter’s lamb – Belle – starts going downhill. Listless, no appetite, rapid breathing, fever. Hit her with the 3cc PenG (IM injection BTW) and she starts doing better. She’s a bigger lamb, always eats more, but wouldn’t you know it, she just isn’t bouncing back like Mona. Why does it have to be the child’s favorite that seems most willing to throw in the towel? You must understand that I insisted that she raise the larger lamb because I thought the little one wouldn’t make it more than a day or two. We remain cautiously optimistic.
So here we are, a week into raising bummers & I’ve got gray hairs multiplying like chickens in the shed, two sad little lambs and a worn out little girl. But I still love baby time & I wonder if the stress is something I thrive on. Maybe not at a two AM when I’m checking to make sure everyone is still breathing, but afterwards… when all is well for a little while. It makes those happy bounces of the little babies even more precious.
Magnifying gratitude for the moment.