Last week we took our beloved Zelda to her new farm. We traded her for an Icelandic ewe, named Skye. The farm and the farm owners are excellent. We couldn’t have hoped for a better place for Zelda or a better place from which to get a ewe. Still, it was heartbreaking to drive away from her! I learned a lesson with that experience. I think I allowed myself to consider Zelda a pet. There is no reason to not love and have affection for your farm animals but one must compartmentalize. To avoid such a difficult farewell in the future, I will try to do better with that. I consoled myself knowing we couldn’t keep Zelda because her brother would be our sire this year and we couldn’t risk an accidental breeding.
Fast forward to this week. Jacob, Parsley’s ram lamb, was falling behind the rest of the flock when running in and out to the pasture. He also was laying down to forage and had a bit of a limp. Eek. I wondered how this can be as I’m very diligent with their hooves. That evening I trimmed his hooves and thoroughly inspected them. They looked perfect. I stood him up and checked his legs over. It seemed his joints in his front legs were swollen and a little warm. Time for the vet. She is coming out on Monday. I’m pretty sure it is either arthritis or he is deformed, like his brother the vet had to put down hours after he was born. More pain from a breeding which shouldn’t have happened. Grrrrr. Their pedigree is a mess, with way too much inbreeding. Yes, another lesson we learned; always check the pedigrees. We were complacent with having only dealt with 2 excellent breeders before this one. At least Clover’s pedigree was wonderful! While inspecting Jacob, I decided to inspect Evie, his sister, as well. I didn’t see the same problems in her. She hasn’t thrived like everyone else and has her own problems, but her legs look ok. Then Link (Zelda’s brother, and our chosen sire for this year) came walking by. I noticed that with his recent increase in size, his front legs, which were slightly knock-kneed from the beginning were bending inward much more. Oh dear. I took a photo and sent it to our mentor. I asked her if this meant what I thought it did. The reply: yes, he isn’t breeding quality. Also, this will likely cause him considerable pain if we allow him to reach full size. Damn.
The vet will confirm or rebut all of our concerns on Monday. As of now, it seems we got one healthy ewe lamb out of all our effort since Feb with these Finnsheep. We’ve gotten a lot of joy too but man, what some heartache. And that is just taking us humans into consideration. Our poor Finnsheep have been through so much! This is what happens when someone cares more about mass producing animals than they care for the quality and welfare of their animals. When we brought Clover & Parsley home, then found out they were so unhealthy and near time to lamb, we feared the worst, yet tried our best. We knew it might be a losing fight. At least Zelda is incredible and they were all worth our effort.
Now we’ll need to find a ram. We’re going back to our original plan. We never intended to raise anything except Icelandics, so that is what we are going to do. Our mentor is helping us locate a ram which meets our requirements. Expect a happier, healthier lambing season next year.