Journal Entry # 11

April 25, 2003

    It's now Whitsun term of 2003.  Our term dates are April 22nd through June 18th.  We've now completed one week of mostly anatomy lectures, meaning we have exactly three weeks to study for the upcoming professional examinations.  I started to study for professionals on Monday.  I have all my flashcards from both years divided into subject piles in my room.  The stacks I have worked on so far: proteins, enzymes, cell biology, DNA, general nervous system physiology, autonomic nervous system physiology, central nervous system physiology, and sheep.  Today I plan on catching up on the past week's lectures about the eye and ear.  We had 5 hours of eye anatomy and 1 hour of ear anatomy.  There's supposed to be an essay question about one or the other on our professional exam. 

    Spring break went just as planned: one week of free time and three weeks of lambing.  My lambing job was in Marrick, Richmond, North Yorkshire (England).  The farm was located within Yorkshire Dales National Park and it was beautiful.  There were about 350 ewes to lamb and about 40 had already lambed when I arrived.  It was indoor lambing and most of my time was spent in the huge sheep shed.  The ventilation was via slatted boards, and the shed was open on one side.  Four big pens were created with fencing and hay racks.  The ewes were usually grouped into: singles, twins, and triplets/quadruplets.  They had been ultrasound scanned and the expected number of lambs was known.  The painted spot on the middle of their backs indicated the amount of lambs expected: black for zero, purple for one, green for two, orange for three, and red for four (I might have the orange and red reversed, they were similar colours).  Usually the first pen contained ewes expecting twins, the second pen contained ewes expecting singles, the third pen contained ewes expecting twins, and the fourth pen contained ewes expecting triplets or quadruplets.  There were only two ewes expecting quadruplets.  Outside of the large pens containing pregnant ewes, there were multiple tiny pens created with fencing for the ewes that had already lambed. 

    It was my/our duty to feed the "pet lambs" (orphans) four times per day.  9am, 1:30pm, 6pm, and 11pm-12am.  I made up new formula (powder that you add to warm water and mix well) each time.  Each lamb got half of a 500ml bottle.  Lambs that were weak or ill received glucose powder in their milk.  Lambs 1-2 days old received cow colostrum, ewe colostrum (milked out), or synthetic colostrum (there were two different brands).  Duties at 9am and 6pm also included care of the ewes in lambing pens.  Fresh bedding (wheat straw) was added, hay racks filled, water buckets filled, and "cake" given.  The cake was a grain/pellet ration.  The twin and triplet/quad ewes in the big pens (pregnant ewes) were fed pellets by the farmer at these times as well.  The sound of a rustling bag would cause havoc in all the pens..."baa!"  Oh yeah, the breeds we worked with were: North Country Cheviot (from Scotland), Texel, and Suffolk.  The cheviots and texels are white faced breeds, while the suffolks are black faced.  N.C. Cheviots can be identified by upright ears and a Roman nose.  Texels have horizontal ears and look like a bulldog; I would also say their body is really box-shaped. 

    During my three weeks of lambing, I aided many ewes in the lambing process.  I would say I helped around 20 or more ewes.  It was not nearly as gross as I had expected...placing your hand and arm up the ewe's vagina and into the uterus.  The pelvic bones are just as sharp as we had experienced on our "box practice" at Cochno Farm.  Sometimes the ewe felt downright hot inside and you have to admit that the lamb wouldn't want to be born into such a cold world (and they did resist birth, LOL...you'd pull on a foot and it would pull away from you).  I delivered lambs in these positions: 1. Head first, no feet.  2.  Head and one foot.  3.  Two hind feet.  4.  Head between front feet and down below the pelvic bones.  My favourite was the two hind feet.  There never seemed to be much resistance and you had to pull them out quickly to prevent suffocation.  We always had lubricant on hand, and string to tie to various parts of the lamb. 

    If you "went into" a ewe, way into her uterus, you had to give an antibiotic injection afterwards to prevent infection.  If you just put your hand in (not your arm), the ewe was usually OK without an injection.  I carefully watched the ewes in lambing pens and occasionally observed one "puffing" (breathing hard and fast).  I always told the farmer, and one time I even caught a mastitis case in this way.  The puffing ewes were given antibiotic injections (I gave them in the rear leg, intramuscularly).  Any puffing lambs were given antibiotic injections ("oxytec"), but these were less common than puffing ewes.  Other procedures performed: tube feeding a weak/sick lamb, tailing and castrating lambs (using an elastrator system, but the farmer did most of these), ear tagging lambs, painting numbers on lambs to match their mother, moving ewes and their lambs out to fields using a wood cart attached to a quad bike (ATV).  I also had to occasionally milk a ewe so I could feed her lamb (or other lambs) the milk in a bottle.  I'm not a good milker. 

    The farmer also raised beef suckler cows.  There was about one cow calving every other night.  She was put into a large pen and observed from a digital video camera inside the house.  Usually she had no problems, but twice I saw a calf pulled out (tried to help on one but it really took a lot of strength).  Other cow things I did: observed a Caesarian section on a heifer, bottle fed an unthrifty calf, helped/observed with Brucillosis blood testing and TB testing, dehorned 30-40 calves, injected antibiotics into a heifer and a couple of calves, ear tagged calves, and helped herd some cattle across the street into a field. 

    I should have pictures of my lambing experience developed in a couple of weeks.  I will put them in a photo album on my website (not all will fit, obviously). 

OK...running off to study now!


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