Up until this weekend, Lady (our surrogate puppy) pretty much left the sheep alone. I’m not sure if she just finally noticed them, or if it’s some sort of developmental milestone for dogs, but something clicked in her brain and she started chasing the animals.
Yesterday morning, Will found the pasture in disarray. The electric fencing for the pigs was off and the wires were pulled from their posts in places. The sheep were hiding in the woods and Big Bertha (our largest ewe) had blood on the wool of her chest and her face looked damaged. Lady had been chasing them in the dark of night and in their flight, the sheep plowed through the fencing and Bertha must have plowed into a tree.
We had the vet come out and check on things and she discovered that Big Bertha is now blind. She has a bit of a limp but otherwise seems to be doing okay – she’s walking around a bit and even found food at one point. The vet gave her an anti-inflammatory and some vitamin B to potentially help her vision. Depending on how she’s doing tomorrow, she may come back to give her an antibiotic. The other sheep, who up until this point were silent members of the farm, now baah to help their sister find her way. If we’re lucky, we’ll still have some lambs come spring. This kind of stress can lead to miscarriage.
We were torn about the injections. We want to be as organic as possible, but we also want to be humane. Just like our decision to de-worm the sheep, we decided it was best to try to save our ewe if possible. Sure, it would be a shame to lose her in terms of an investment, but more so here was an animal that got injured on our watch. And while it is a slippery slope, there is a difference between giving a potentially pregnant ewe a single course of antibiotics and therefore having non-organic lambs, and having antibiotics used prophylactically in their feed on a daily basis like commercial producers.
If she looks better tomorrow, we may get a pass on antibiotics. If she looks much worse, we’ll probably put her down and eat her. Anything in between involves antibiotics. Farm life really does have a way of putting things into perspective, especially compared to my days spent as a desk jockey.
As for Lady, she is officially banished from the pasture. If she was our dog, we could try to train her, but she’s not our dog. Even Watson wasn’t allowed in the pasture because he chased the sheep. We thought Scout had Lady under control, but that was our mistake. Will lined the cattle gate with hogwire so she can’t get in anymore. I’m sure she’ll still hang around the property, but she and Scout will have to place chase on opposite sides of the fence.
Scout appears heartbroken to lose her companion.