Yes, it all started twelve hours before, I noted as I was giving Hubby a telephone update. I wanted to try and nap and thought I should call him before he called me. I lit a fire in the wood stove to ward off the dampness as it continued to rain, and heavy at times.
I had driven up to the "Big O" to attend a guild meeting and when I arrived home and was unloading the car I heard a sheep bleat. It was just past 11:30pm. It had been raining lightly for most of the drive home. It wasn't cold; just damp. It was Monday and lambs were due on Friday but it's all a range of estimates so it was a good idea to check the barn.
Sheep don't usually bleat without a reason. And there is a certain tone to a mother looking for a yet unborn lamb. I took off my city coat and shoes and donned by overalls, winter barn jacket, muck boots and light winter hat - the one with the head light built into it.
Duchess was outside at the back of the barn where the overhead light was bright. It rained lightly. She was obviously in labour but I could not tell for how long. I let time pass by preparing a pen for her, fetching a bucket of water, and putting hay there for her. I worked a bit at setting up some other pens for later in the week.
After awhile I headed back to the house to get warmed and give her a bit more time. When I returned to the barn at about one o'clock, I got out the intervention gear. I got out my OB gloves and lubricant. There was a lamb's head, but no legs. Oh dear! I struggled with this for some time and eventually delivered a dead male lamb. It was followed by a belch of gas of a disagreeable odour.
Poor Duchess. She was a long time getting up. By then I had the little guy wrapped up in a plastic bag for disposable. She followed me as I held a soiled towel and the bag of dead lamb. I put her in the prepared pen.
I observed and waited to see what would happen next. I expected she would have at least one, if not two, more lambs. She was large enough and it was her mother, Smudge, who had the quadruplets last year. One can never know however, as Duchess herself was a single who had twinned last year.
I went back to the house for another break and had a quick snack and tea that was already in the pot. Back to the barn and intervention mode. I could feel a large ball which turned out to be a sac of fluid. What I observed could be another lamb or just afterbirth. But I could not feel another lamb. The sac wasn't right. It was thick and hard to break but I did succeed in doing so.
It was three o'clock and I was three hours short of being up for twenty-four hours. I went to bed. I mostly slept but it was a worried sleep. When the alarm went off at six I bolted, dressed and went to the barn.
In Intervention mode I could feel a lamb head but the feet were far back, but they were there. I pushed it back. Were there more feet? Was that another lamb? This was too much. And in consideration of the long labour and dead lambs I decided to call the Vet.
First I consulted my neighbour who I knew would be up. She agreed with my plan. I got the Vet's answering service as it was just before seven. The Vet phoned me back a short time later. I had long enough between phone calls to put on the coffee and make myself some breakfast. Oh, I made Hubby's breakfast too.
I had a quick peak at Duchess and all was the same. I carried on with my chores. It was pouring outside and the flock was out. I then realised - and observed - that Millie was keeping everyone out. I also saw Ruby - in a more kind way - chase a few ewes outside. But not Fleur, neither one of the Maremmas bothered last year's bottle baby. My neighbour's dog does this too. They are keeping the others away from the lambing ewe.
Dr. K arrived and delivered Duchess of another dead lamb. We discussed follow up. Then we went to the other barn and I had Dr. K look at the Holstein calf. As Dr. K. drove down the road I carried a bucket of water up to Duchess. As I neared her pen I was shocked to see a mass of red at her back end. I quickly put down the bucket and jogged to the house as Dr. K's truck disappeared around the last bend. I called the Vet's office and they called Dr. K who returned in less than ten minutes.
She gathered together the equipment necessary to replace a prolapsed uterus. As we gathered at Duchess' pen I began to lament the end of her reproductive life. Then Dr. K looked closer and said, "Wait a minute! It's another lamb!"
She pulled the dead lamb out of the red membranes, and tossed it into the corner. Dr K examined Duchess again and I saw her off once more.
Duchess drank lots of water in the day and was eating hay. She was bleating for more food. I checked her udder but as of yet it was not a problem. I needed to monitor this over the next few days.
My neighbour came by for coffee and we had a nice visit. She brought me a partial bag of calf milk replacer, a kind of trade as I'd given her a partial pail of lamb milk replacer. It worked for each of us. After she left I decided to call Hubby....
Twelve hours and the Duchess ordeal was done. She will continue to be a productive member of the flock, next year.