Confessions of a Really, Really, Really Bad Shepherd

So the sheep broke into the chicken food last night.  This has happened to me twice before, so I should know better.  The first time was slightly more than one month after I first got sheep.  Ebony and Sadie managed to bust into a Rubbermaid tub with locking handles full of grain.  I had this tub in with the goats without any difficulty, but the Shetland sheep managed to knock the tub on its side and jump up and down on it until the lid came off.  They did get bloat from this, but the vet prescribed medications.  I was scheduled to leave on a non-refundable trip so my farm sitter at the time kindly agreed to administer their mediations and watch them closely.  They survived and are still alive today.

The next episode was in 2003.  Then I had decided to put the bags of grain in the hay barn.  I figured this was OK since they hadn’t been able to break into the hay barn when there was hay in it so it must be secure.  Well, they busted in and gorged themselves.  At this time I had quite a few sheep and was not sure who was going to bloat.  So I chose not to treat them all at that time.  Unfortunately they did not begin to show symptoms until the next day.  When I came home to check on them during my lunch-break from work, three of them had obviously bloat.  I moved them into a pen and thought about surgically opening their rumen but since I had to get back to work I didn’t.  When I returned home from work they were dead, a very painful death I might add.  I have never forgiven myself for not treating them and for prioritizing work over their lives.  And naturally they were my favorite sheep: Babette, Hershey and Collette.



Hershey (the brown lamb on the left)

So this morning I found the door to the chicken pen open (I must not have latched it well yesterday) and the garbage can with the feed in it trampled on its side with about 50# of grain missing.  I found Lou looking droopy next to the gate, and Moni grinding her teeth in the corner.  I looked at the rest of the flock and noticed Bobbitt (Babette’s last lamb) grinding his teeth.  So I grabbed  them up, put them in a pen, and called the vet.  He was too busy to come out, but I could come in and pick up some Therabloat and Magnalax, which is what I did.  I administered these to the three sick sheep and then closely watch the rest of the flock.  Tanya was no interested in eating grass nor hay so she got caught.  Spike seemed a little droopy so he got caught.  Heidi seemed to be laying around and had droopy ears so she got caught.  Now it is a hot day so they may not be bloating, but I am not taking any chances.  So these three also are treated.  None of the rest of the sheep nor any of the goats are showing any signs, but I am watching.  If any of them so much as droops one ear they are getting drenched too.  Now I feel like I am on a death watch.  Moni is looking the worst.  I am really hoping I do not have to do a rumenotomy today.

Moni and Lou

Spike, Tanya and Heidi






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20 Responses to Confessions of a Really, Really, Really Bad Shepherd

  1. Zakgirlsfarm says:

    Oh, I hear your pain. We have a horse that likes to test the boundaries and “pig-out” at social events. We held our wedding on the farm and Murphy (our horse) helped herself to everything that the generous guests gave her including beer, lucerne, potato chips, bacon rings, you name it! The next day my new husband (with his hangover) and the horse (with colic) ran around and around until the colic symptoms subsided. It was not a pretty site. I don’t know who was “sicker” the hungover husband or Murphy.

    It’s worth new horse owners being aware that horses cannot vomit, so whatever goes in has to come out the other end. If it doesn’t the horse can die. It’s when the horse rolls on the ground that it twists it’s gut and ends up with a twisted bowel and this leads to a terrible painful death.

    My trick for stopping hungry monsters from raiding food is those barrels that people use in canoes. They are waterproof and screw tight shut. As long as you remember to screw the tops shut, the critters can throw those barrels around all they like but they can’t get the contents out.
    It’s worked for us so far.

    You’re not a bad shepherd, animals can be hard work, as you know.


    • Thanks Zak. Your wedding/colic story is quite amusing. I can see them running around not feeling well. At least your husband had a good idea of what he was getting into when he married you.
      I will have to look into those canoe barrels. The garbage can tied upright with baling twine and a locking handle sure did not work last night.

  2. Michelle says:

    It is a tragic fact that animals cannot be taught what is good for them and what isn’t; appetite rules. Your readers know you will be most vigilant and do all you can; our hopes go with you for a good outcome for all!

    • Thanks Michelle. It feels like I am being vigilant after the fact though. I should have latched the chicken pen and had a better system for securing the grain in there. So far, so good. I caught and treated Daphnie because she was looking droopy and her rumen looked a little big. One of the goats has diarrhea but is acting and eating fine. I caught another sheep because she was droopy but when I put her in the pen she started piggy out on the hay so I will just watch her. Moni is the one I most worry about but her rumen is still not too full. Tom isn’t home, but he is calling to give me advice about what knife to use if I need to open her belly. This may be the ultimate shepherd’s test.

  3. Chai Chai says:

    This is my nightmare scenario, I’ll pray for your sheep. That was a horrible story about you losing your three favorite girls, let’s hope there is no repeats.

    • Thanks. It is a nightmare, particularly if I am not successful in the treatment. Because it is totally my fault, and the sheep suffer so horribly. So far I have caught and treated two more sheep (Jet and Monette), and there’s one more (Mona) I am watching closely. None of them are too distended though.

  4. sheepsclothing says:

    Keeping a good thought for you and the sheeps. Hope it all turns out ok.

    • Thanks Denise! I grabbed another one and treated her- hard to say who it was in the dark. There’s another that is grinding its teeth, but I cannot tell who it is in a group of 10. If I had enough medication, it would have been better to treat the whole flock rather than terrorize them all day trying to figure out who is having symptoms. We will need your good thoughts to get us through the night.

  5. You and your flock are in my prayers Donna!
    And you are NOT a bad shepherd…you just have silly sheep!

    Do you have rumen buffer available to the sheep? In my experience with my own flock, those with a stomach will chow down on that and it seems to prevent the bloat. Of course, I’m sure it depends on how much they eat.

    Hang in there! You’re doing everything that you can.

  6. ACHE!

    Those with a stomach ACHE will chow down on the rumen buffer.
    Of course, if they LOOK bloated, I’d go ahead and give the bloat remedy as well.

    • Thanks for the advice and prayers Nancy. I do not have any rumen buffer- wish I did.

      • I’m sure that you DO have Rumen Buffer! It’s just BAKING SODA! It soothes the sheep’s rumen and helps break up the formation of gas. If you’ve got a box in the cupboard, I’d put it in a feed dish and I bet they’ll gobble it down. Then again, my sheep always refuse to try anything new. I bet they will though ~ the sheep seem to know when it will help them.

        My heart just breaks for you and what you’re going through. You’re in my prayers!

  7. Tina T-P says:

    Oh dear – poor Moni – she’s had a time of it, hasn’t she? I hope she and everyone else (and you) recovers. T.

    • Moni’s doing OK this morning. But Spike died. The vet and I worked on him and 4 others all morning, and he did not make it. My heart is completely broken. Why Spike?
      Hazelnut, Mona, Daphnie and Heidi are still quite ill.

  8. I truly hope they recover.
    We had a lamb get bloat this past spring and I will never forget it as he almost died.
    The Vet put a hole in each side of him. I cannot imagine doing that myself.
    Sheep are vulnerable to so many things really scares me at times.

  9. Michelle says:

    Oh RATS, Donna! I’m so sorry! I hope you can pull the others through.

    • Thanks Michelle. He was my favorite. There’s two more I am really worried about, Hazelnut and Mona. I am supposed to drench them with more activated charcoal in one hour. The other two I was concerned about seem to be doing better.

  10. Franna says:

    Dang! I’m sorry, Donna. The sheep sure can baffle our attempts to keep them safe sometimes. I almost think it’s good to give them “some” grain so they’re not so slammed if (or is that when?) they find the chicken feed or grain bin. I’m lucky in that the garage is close enough to the sheep so that we store grain in there. So far, at least, the sheep haven’t learned how to open those doors. – Franna

    • Thanks Franna. They would sure like some grain. I worry about the wethers and grain though. Lucky your garage is close. I have moved the garbage can with chicken feed into the feed shed where I always triple check the lock before I’m done. Now all they could get to is the feeder itself if I am boneheaded enough to not latch the pen.

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