Farming & the Internet

Distressing couple of days for Farmer Tam.  On Tuesday morning I happen to be standing by at exactly the moment that Winky, my 2-year-old Shetland ewe, decided to slam into Gandalf, my 4-year-old Shetland wether.  Gandalf has had a weakened horn since he was a little guy, he tends to be the bottom of the pecking order around here and stays out-of-the-way of the others when he can.  The minute I heard the crack and smash sound, I knew it was his bad horn that she’d hit.  I knew it would call for removing him from the pasture as soon as possible, isolating him from the others for observation and for treatment.

Meanwhile I recited to myself over and over to stay calm.  My mind raced.  All I kept thinking of was our conversations last fall when we were trying to think of the best farm decisions for wintering all of the flock.  We considered putting Gandalf “in the freezer” because of his weak horn.  With all of the sheep, we were worried something like this would happen and then we’d be in an emergency situation.

But he’s a lovely pet and in the end, I voted for him to stay on because I thought that he’d been as long with us as he had without incident.  He’d likely be o.k..

So of course I bullied myself for this happening.

Blood poured out of his gaping, broken horn at the crown of his head and I could barely look at it.  Something about the pulsing, the dripping… just wasn’t doing well with it at all.

I desperately phoned, texted & emailed around, still beating myself up for not being able to take care of things myself like I imagined I should.  How did I get myself into a situation like this if I wasn’t prepared to follow through the consequences.  If this guy needed to be put down, I needed to be able to do it and here I was looking for someone else to do it for me.  I was doubly disappointed in myself.

Focusing on the problem, getting help – practical steps to try to help the poor guy.  Beating myself up -negative energy taking away from my inner strength.

A saint, in the disguise of my small animal vet friend up the road, appeared in his shining silver Subaru to give me some immediate support.  He let me know that though sheep were not his thing, he thought he was probably not going to have to be put down.  Also, he advised me to see about getting my sheep vet here. I panicked less.  So grateful, thank you, Dogtor.

My frequent ineptitude with my cell phone bit me in the butt again as my calls to my sheep vet were missed.  I hadn’t turned the ringer on so I was unaware that he was calling.  Finally we connected.

Community is everything in these parts. This lovely retired dairy vet that helps me out with my sheep is the same gentleman that I call on to help out with serving Communion at our church on Sundays!

Meanwhile, I had hopped onto the Vermont Sheep & Goat Association email forum to see which of my sheep-y friends were online today to field my questions about what to do, what was normal, what were my options.  Rather rapidly, my inbox filled up with replies and most assured me that as soon as the bleeding slowed down, he would likely heal and be alright.  Of course, there were the stories shared that were more graphic than I had wished for, but I am the one that sent them 3 photos of poor Gandalf’s head.

Ummm, those emails that told me I ought to go ahead and amputate and cauterised the wound with a soldering rod or whatnot?  I’m sorry.  I don’t have a tool like that, and if I did, I’m pretty sure I would faint while I did it.

And, don’t you just love Facebook?  Tonight my dear goat friend up the road saw my post about Gandalf and called me up to say I could come on by for some clotting powder if I wanted to.  I hopped in the truck and in 5 minutes I had a bottle of clotting powder in my hand.  In 10 minutes, Char and I had liberally applied it to poor, bloody Gandalf.  Sadly, after investigating more closely because of his subdued nature, I saw where the horn is piercing into the side of his head near his eye.

Troubled, my friends, troubled.  Having some hibiscus tea because I heard that it lowers blood pressure.  Hoping to get a little sleep tonight.

I’ll spare you the bloody picture and just let you enjoy Gandalf, my sweetie, before this morning’s injury:

Lily & Gandalf, when he was a lamb.

Lily & Gandalf, when he was a lamb.

Gandalf, all grown up

Gandalf, all grown up

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Aww, don’t fret….bleeding wounds tend to look, on average, more scary than they really are. I could tell you about many horror stories and most of them turned out just fine so take a deep breath, Gandalf will be fine im sure! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Mel! Every time something happens with the animals or the kids, I can’t help but become an alarmist. No matter how many times, you’d think that I’d learn by now! Trying to be chill, and in fact, doing much better than I might ordinarily. I get very attached.
      Thanks for the kind note. Love your blog – your photos are fab!

  2. Tammy- I totally understand your frustration with yourself for not being able to do what might (or might not) need to be done. This past year we had a chicken with a terrible prolapse. I’ll spare you the details, but it was one of the most terrible things I’ve seen. I knew she had to be put down, but I just couldn’t do it. Our gals are layers and we just keep them around until they go by natural causes. I berated myself – as a chicken keeper – for not being able to put her out of her misery. I had to phone a nearby farmer and he did it for me. Maybe next time I’ll have the strength. Keep us posted on Gandalf!

  3. Hey Lauren, so grateful to you for the reassurance. I totally understand about the chickens, too, as I’ve been a “chicken whisperer” to some of my friends and when I couldn’t nurse them to health, had to put them down. It’s a heartbreak, but something I feel better equipped to take care of. But when my hooved friends come into play, I think I’m less equipped. Maybe because I have a sheep vet and I don’t have a chicken vet…so I do what I have to, outsource when I have to? I’ll let you know what happens with my Gandalf. Trying to be positive!

    1. Julie, thank you so much! The tea was the ticket! I loved it! And I’m going to try to find some more. Boy am I beat tonight. Looking forward to seeing how Gandalf wakes up tomorrow. Thanks so much for the kind words!

    1. Thank you, Julie! Your finger crossing helped, I’m pretty sure of it! He made it through the night and day and now we’ve got to see if we can get him healed up before summer & the heat and flies of that season. Which I think he will. Oh, sheep!

  4. Tammy, I hope that sleep has found you. Poor, poor Gandalf. (I love his name!) I hope this story has a happy ending. Keep us posted.

    1. Thank you so much, Cathy! I’m glad you love his name, we do too! He’s certainly worthy of it to us! I think we’ve got a happy ending now. We’re classified as healing now, vs. crisis-situation! Such a weight off my shoulders!

  5. Oh my – poor Tammy. If this ever happens again please, please get in touch with either me or Joanna and we’d be happy to help (24/7). If you’d like you could email your non-wordpress contact information and we can connect more effectively that way in an emergency. First off … if the skull wasn’t cracked or damaged (in which case it would have been kind to put Gandalf down (another topic for another day)) all you needed to do was stop the bleeding. Blood-stop powder works as can a handful of cobwebs (in a pinch) – really – just shove ’em in there and they plug the hole! You could have simply shoved your glove (or a gloved finger) in and held it until the bleeding slowed (it would have eventually). Do you have a disbudding iron for your goats? If so, you could have used that to cauterize the site. It really isn’t that tough to do. Horns are problematic in wethers because these guys simply don’t have the hormone levels to drive proper horn growth – and they often end up stunted and weak. If you’d like to send me your address (via proper email) I can easily send you a bottle of blood stop. If you’re going to continue to have wethers you should get yourself a disbudding iron and use it as a cautery when and if necessary. Blood is always upsetting … but Gandalf had lots to spare … what was most upsetting to him was perhaps your level of stress! Being alone and unprepared when something like that happens is always distressing – I am sorry you had a bad day. You learned an important lesson however! Today is another day! And Gandalf is more than fine! Don’t stop holding on to wethers if that is your pleasure. Their horns can be problematic but now you’ll know how to deal with them if they present as Gandalf’s did yesterday. Upward and onward … in the great scheme of things this was a blip … and an educational one at that. Stiff upper lip lady! D

    1. Hi D:
      Thank you for such a thorough and kind response. Of course! I definitely should’ve thought to inquire with you & Joanna!!!!! I’ll try to figure out how to get your contact info, my email is jtwhite5@me.com. I’ve got it listed on my blog somewhere already, anyway, for the “Contact” info., I think.
      True, I have never thought to have a disbudding iron but am going to look into it for the future. After today I’m certainly wary about everyone and their horns out there, but your words were important in reassuring me. I had both of Gandalf’s horns removed today – his remaining horn was going to likely give us the same troubles in the future and I’d have kicked myself for not taking care of it all in one fell swoop today.
      Gosh I love my wethers. I tell everyone that’s starting with sheep that they should start with little wethers. So much fun and so easy to be with. Not so shy as ewes, playful, devoted. At least mine always are.
      I got some clotting powder from my go-to goat farming friend last night at around 9:00p.m.. That really helped. Now I know what else to stock in my tack room medicine cabinet…just when I think I have everything I need to take care of problems on my own…a horn gets broken!
      Yes, so many lessons.
      Grateful,
      -Tammy

  6. Hi Tammy, I couldn’t sleep last night due to psycho-trouble ( a different and more creepy kind of smashing horns against one another !) at the University and read your post early morning and have thought of you all day, thinking of what to say, not much, but I suppose even in our favorite way of life, we cannot avoid problems, regretting etc. panic, sorrow etc. and you know all that I know, but I hope Gandalf is improving his shape or what to say 🙂 again all this reminds me of the dear sheep I was taking care of in my youth at my fathers sheep farm, and now back to 2013, I hope you are doing better today !

    1. Oh no, Neils, sorry to hear you’re not sleeping either! Hopefully all will right itself soon for you. Darn troubled times!
      Thank you so much for such kind words to try to lift me up. I’m absolutely exhausted now from the ordeal of Gandalf’s accident and waiting and then today’s treatments. Also, it’s cold out and the barn is really not a great place to spend hours of time in during this time of year! That alone will exhaust me!
      I’m so relieved today because we got through it. Of course, I still think that I could stand to make more careful decisions. But I guess that won’t prevent accidents from happening, because, after all, they are accidents.
      Had so much support from the blogging & farming community. Really lifted me up.
      Thank you so much. Glad you could remember your old days from reading my blog!
      Sincerely,
      Tammy

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