It’s gotten to be that time of year that is hard on both man and beast. The pictures, taken in September, show an old ewe–one of the flock of Clun Forests I rescued from going to slaughter in the spring–that Craig and I have come to call “the skinny old Clun”. When you have quite a few sheep, they don’t all get names. She got hers because she was always among the first to be checking us out and asking, “what’s going on? New pasture? Fresh mineral?” While others flourished, her condition declined in late summer. I easily caught her, checked her inner eye membranes for signs of parasite-caused anemia, and though they didn’t look too bad I drenched her with wormer. It didn’t bring any change and by the time hay feeding season rolled around she was even thinner. Yet still very much in the forefront of the flock; when Craig drove out with hay, he would have to get off the tractor and move her out of the way so she didn’t get run over. We rounded up the flock about a week ago so we could take out the rams and ram lambs and give them grain, since they all had gotten so excited about breeding season that they simply weren’t eating enough, and my intention was to also sort out skinny old Clun and put her on grain. Craig and Newton brought in the flock and when I asked about her he said, “well, I wasn’t going to carry her” or something like that, so when we were done sorting I fired up the Kubota, went out, loaded her up, and brought her into the barn. She was able to follow me and the grain bucket into the barn and ate her fill and then bedded down in the hay I gave her. But, since then, she has mostly been lying down. We give her grain and hay and Craig carries warm water down to the barn for her and the goats. I really don’t have much hope for skinny old Clun. And sometimes I think, should I shoot her? Every livestock farmer, eventually, comes to this place of decision with individual animals and it is never an easy decision. I rarely euthanize. I’ve watched plenty of critters in their last days, even weeks, and they seem quite capable of facing death on their own. As long as they want feed and water, I will put it in front of them. When they decline, I will respect that. I will not inject them with antibiotics or drench them with nutrition. I hope the skinny old Clun chooses to endorse life and I will support her decision. I hope she makes it through until Spring. Ah, Spring! Many years when it comes, I feel so energized that I say, “I feel like an old ewe who has made it through the winter!” Only a little more than 3 long months until fresh grass, folks.

One thought on “Decisions

  1. Your comments about the natural processes of life and of death on the farm are excellent, Bonnie, and really hit home. Thank you for sharing them …

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