At this time of year, the milk room is our warming spot. It's heated, there's a table and a place to sit, hot and cold running water, a telephone, a microwave oven, a fridge. There's even a blender, in case anyone wants a milkshake. But the best part - it's large enough to build a couple of good sized sheep pens in the center and the concrete floor has a drain, so it's also easy to clean. Handily located, just off the main aisle of the birthing barn, this room has been a godsend on many occasions.
LIke today for example, when a couple of hogget (yearling) ewes went off their feed.
We led Violet, Coral and Konna down the aisle and around the corner into the milk room where Holly had whipped together a cozy little pen with fresh hay in the feeder. But still no appetites.
I began to get suspicious. Going off feed is an early sign of ketosis, a metabolic disease that effects pregnant ewes. But the yearlings are not suppose to be bred. Up until now I've been crossing my fingers that none of them were caught by the ram last November when Teaberry made his unauthorized foray.To be on the safe side, I called Doc Majors who arrived after lunch bearing ultrasound equipment.
We started by examining the three girls in the warming room. Temps were taken (Violet broke a thermometer!) and they were tested for ketosis (in case you're wondering, you get the ewe to pee on a stick by holding her nose). Negative. Given the possibility that they might have been bred, we decided to give each of their bellies a scan. The portable ultrasound is a wand attached to a monitor that Doc straps to his forearm. We held the girls and watched the blips and squiggles on the screen. The good news, the girls were open. No lambs. We administered vitamin b, a dose of wormer, and decided it best to keep an eye on them in the milk room until the cold snap passes.
While we were at it and since I was already paying for a barn call and Doc had the thing strapped to his arm, we decided to check the rest of them. Catching them went smoothly in a small pen. Holly and I held each ewe steady while Doc conducted the scan.As he declared each ewe "open," Holly dabbed red crayon on the forehead so we wouldn't scan anybody twice.
We had only scanned a handful when Doc paused mid ultrasound, applied more goop to the wand and did a double-take of Papaya's midriff. "This one has lambs." Holly and I simultaneously leaned in for a closer look. The tell tale signs: cotyledons attaching the placenta to the uterine wall; one little leg . . .
We marked her face very clearly so she would stand out and returned her to her siblings. Fortunately, Papaya appears to be the only bred yearling. But darn, I had so hoped to keep numbers down this spring and not to have the added worry of new mothers. Now we know, and can start adding grain to her rations when we get a little closer to birthing time.
She's taking all the attention rather well. Spent a few minutes with her after dinner. She's one of the calmer yearlings and really good sized. Although this was not part of the plan, she should be just fine. And it will be easy to predict her due date.
BTW, Violet, Coral and Konna were mowing down hay by evening, enjoying their comfy digs in the milk room.