Why farmers have phones

April 3, 2018

The other night we had a lamb with a bit of a health crisis.  As an older farmer told us "Murphy must have been a sheep farmer, because anything that can go wrong will".  Basically, sheep will look for any possible opportunity to cause trouble, whether by getting hurt/sick at inopportune moments, running away, getting stuck in ridiculous places, etc.  

 

Other wise folks have told us that "you have live sheep and you have dead sheep, but never sick ones" because sheep tend to go from one state to the other quite quickly.  Also, in all honesty, an after hours vet call can easily run more money than a single animal is worth, meaning that anything we can reasonably fix ourselves (or that can't reasonably be fixed) we tend to without professional intervention.  Every livestock farmer I know has a reasonable facsimile of a veterinary practice going on in their barn, depending on personal level of squeamishness and comfort with needles and blood.

 

Long way to say, a few nights back we had the luck to actually catch a sick lamb in the 28 seconds before it went straight to dead lamb status.  It was of course after 10:30 on the Saturday night of a holiday weekend (prime sick animal time) which is of course when the vet starts charging to even answer the phone.  Before y'all think I'm complaining about our vet, let me say that WE LOVE OUR VET!  They are a fantastic resource, they're always available when we need them, they're nice folks, and honestly they probably don't charge enough.  But still, the risk of getting a bill for double what this little dude is worth, if he even lived long enough for the vet to get here, is substantial.  Because this is a business, there are only a few animals on this farm where value vs. cost isn't a primary concern.  Sometimes we make really hard decisions because that's how we keep our farm going and our family fed.

 

Anyway, here comes Jim trucking in to the dining room at 10:30 Saturday night with a lamb from one of our best ewes.  Little dude is definitely not happy, struggling to breathe, with foam coming from his mouth and nose.  Thankfully the foam is generally indicative of only one diagnosis, frothy bloat.  Frothy bloat is what happens when a ruminant (sheep, cattle, goats, camels, etc) gets a belly ache and can't burp up the gas being produced.  Eventually the gas will build up enough to compress the heart and lungs and then you get dead sheep.  This little dude had been a little too ambitious in how much hay and grain and milk his belly could hold, and had made himself sick.  I'm attaching a photo of the offending creature so you can see how sad he was.

 

 Now, time and again at farmer gatherings we hear older folks chiding the young pups for their reliance on technology.  Frequently they have a point, but I can tell you this lamb is sure grateful for my smartphone and the omnipresent Dr. Google.  Woken from a sound 36 weeks pregnant sleep my brain was firing on enough cylinders to come up with a diagnosis, but not the appropriate treatment.  Less than 45 seconds of appropriate search terms brought me both home remedies and the Merck Vet Manual, which is basically the Bible for our animal health needs.  6 cc's of olive oil down the throat and some vigorous lamb burping (seriously) by my intrepid husband, and little dude was feeling a thousand percent better and had been reunited with his mother.

 

Moral of the story: Dr. Google and a data plan is cheaper and faster than bothering an actual doctor on a holiday weekend.  And having kids of our own has taught Jim a LOT about burping babies! 

 

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