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  • Donna

I Killed Wendy's Sheep

I didn't mean to, but I did, as a result of two bad decisions.

A few days ago, as evening approached, our neighbor brought a couple buckets of corn from another neighbor's field. "Pour les canards," he said. The ducks do like corn and it's always nice when Serge thinks of us. But the last time he gave us corn it lured a rat to our barn, so I wasn't sure where to put it. I had a choice to make: figure out a rat-proof way to store it and dole it out a little at a time, or pour it out away from the barn so the ducks could eat it at will. I decided to go with the latter.

The ducks spend a lot of time in the sheep enclosure because there's a little pond, so I decided to dump the corn in the enclosure so everyone could enjoy it. That was my first mistake.

We don't feed grain to our cows and sheep because we believe natural forage is better for them. But I thought it might be a nice treat for the sheep. I thought they'd self-regulate like they used to do with the kitchen scraps we'd give them. They'd eat some and leave some, even things they loved, like cabbage.

As soon as I woke up the next morning, I was afraid the sheep might be dead. Doubt had crept in while I slept and I was afraid they wouldn't self-regulate after all, gorge on grain, and die. But I was relieved to find them both happy as ever. So I decided to leave the grain in place.

That was my second mistake.

The next morning Wendy said Harry wasn't acting right. I went out to check on him and we called the vet, who examined Harry and said he had a mild case of acidosis. He explained that sheep (and other ruminants) are good at self-regulating with fibrous things because they feel full. It's the volume that tells them to stop eating, not the carbohydrate content. As a consequence, sheep keep eating corn way past the point when they should stop and it lowers the pH of their rumens to a point where their bodies don't function properly.

So he administered a variety of treatments to both Harry and William, and gave us some instructions for further care. We made a sick bay of sorts for them in the barn with water, straw, and a heat lamp. Wendy and I administered their medicine and said goodnight.

When I checked on them at 6:30 this morning, they had died.

I feel horrible, and I deserve to. I killed them - not out of ignorance but incompetence. My intuition tried to warn me and I didn't listen.

I won't make the same mistake again.


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