We have a happy outcome with Blue Streak, thanks to some good decisions and a big dose of good luck. She was the highest-risk pregnancy this season; she had been ill off an on with weakness since early February. She was down all day yesterday, and seemed to be in early labor, but never really progressed to obvious contractions. She wasn’t eating, and we gave her electrolytes to give her some energy. At 9 pm, Lisa and I were in the barn trying to decide what to do. I had talked to Dr Harlan earlier in the day about whether we should induce labor; he thought it might be a good idea because of her declining condition, but I was still unsure of whether I wanted to go down that road. I examined her and found that she was beginning to dilate, so we decided to wait it out. I was worried that part of her problem may be a calcium deficiency, since she hadn’t been eating well, and that can prevent a ewe from contracting properly in labor. So we injected her with 100 cc of calcium gluconate. Lisa rigged up a clamp-on lamp to shine right on the ewe, so that I could easily check her progress on our barn camera (in darkness it is hard to see clearly what is happening in the barn, but we don’t like to leave all the lights on as it keeps all the ewes up).
She was in good view of one of the cameras, and we knew she wouldn’t be moving, as she wasn’t strong enough to get up on her own. Because she couldn’t get up, we knew that if she did lamb alone, she would be unable to lick the lambs out of the sack as ewes usually do. I decided to set my alarm to wake up every two hours all night and check the barn camera, which I can do from my phone, and to go up if she was in active labor. We left, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I realized that the lambs could be dead already from lack of nutrition due to the ewe’s weakened state; and if they were alive, they might be breech or otherwise positioned in a way that would not properly dilate her cervix. I expected that we might lose the ewe or all the lambs or both. But there was nothing to do until morning but stick to our plan. I checked the camera at midnight and she was quiet and unchanged. Then I woke spontaneously at 1:45, before my alarm. I was exhausted and thought I would look at the barn, see nothing changed, cancel my 2:00 alarm and go back to sleep. But when I looked, she had a lamb! It was behind her, clearly alive and moving. I was 100% awake in an instant, jumped into my clothes and shot up to the barn. I walked in and turned on the lights and there was Blue Streak and the white lamb, in the same position.
There was a black lamb half-born and still in the sack. I thought I had seen something black on the camera, and I imagined that this lamb could have been half-born for some time and was probably dead. I pulled it out and it was alive! A black girl to go with the white boy. Both were vigorous and when I put them by the ewes’ head, she licked and loved them. I examined her and found that she had a third lamb, which took another hour to be born, a white boy. Meanwhile the first two had good drinks of colostrum, and the third had a good drink also when he was ready. I couldn’t get her up, so I cleaned around her and put down fresh bedding, and built a pen around the ewe to contain her and her lambs. I played back the barn-camera and saw that, miraculously, her first lamb was born at just about the moment I woke and checked my phone. And although I thought I saw something black on the camera from home, I actually hadn’t, because the recording showed that the black lamb was born literally the instant before I opened the barn door and turned on the lights. Lisa and I made some good decisions, but the luck of timing was also on our side. If those lambs had been born a half-hour earlier, they might not have survived. This morning Melinda and Lolo got the mother up and today she is walking around the barn, trailed by her triplets. Sometimes middle-of-the-night lambing is so exhausting and frustrating and I just want to say to the ewe, “couldn’t you have waited until morning?” But this one was invigorating–I was so amazed at our luck with the timing.