Monday, April 28, 2014

Viveka's lambing

Friday, April 25th was the date that Viveka decided to start lambing.  It was early afternoon when she finally got down to active labor.  First thing that happened was the bag broke with lots of fluid.  I'd never saw that much fluid come out prior to a lamb being born.  After about a half hour of active pushing, nothing was proceeding, so I applied some super lube to my hand and reached in to see what was happening.  I could feel the head and from the feel of it, the baby was completely upside down as the throat was up and I could feel the ears below.  I searched around for a leg and found one, pulling it forward.  I then searched for the second front leg and couldn't find it, so I went back to the first front leg.  Unfortunately, it had reverted back to where it was when I found it.  I attempted to turn the baby's head around so that the presentation was a bit more normal and searched for that leg again.  At this point the head was in the pubic region, so I did what I could to get the head to pass beyond her hips.  Finally, the head was presenting and I kept reaching in to find the front legs.  Still no luck keeping the front leg forward, so I began putting steady pressure on her head.  During this time, I had called to speak to one of our vets and was waiting for a call back, since this would be my first solo assisting of a birth.  I was able to get the head out and kept pressure on the head until a good portion of the lambs neck was out.  I tried again to get that front leg out and was able to get it out, but it hooked around her vaginal opening weirdly.  With steady pressure on the head and one front leg, I was finally able to get the shoulder area to pass and finally the rest of the baby passed as well.  I brought the baby to Viv to get it cleaned up and remarked to myself that the baby had some good horn buds ... typical.  Last time she bred she ended up giving us boys and the first was full on butt breach!  The lamb's front legs looked a bit weird and I tried straightening them with no luck.  Here's a shot of what they looked like, hopefully you can see that they're tucked in a C shape.

Soon after the lamb was fully birthed, I got the call back from my vet.  I told her about how the baby presented weirdly, but I was able to get it out, but that the front legs looked kind of weird.  She said that it could be that they were just a bit stiff from being in one position for a while (similar to my ram lamb from the first birthing that had a loose hip joint).   She also suggested that it could be a disease known as arthrogryposis, but that she wasn't willing to say that was what it was without seeing the lamb first.  She suggested I continue to try to straighten the legs and get the twin out and if the legs wouldn't straighten, then I'd need to bring the lamb into the clinic for a looking over.  If it was the disease, then the lamb would need to be put down as there is no fix for this disease and the lamb wouldn't be able to walk.  I went back to mom and baby and found that the baby had passed away while I was on the phone with the vet.  

Next thing to worry about was the second lamb.  I waited for her to get back down to brass tacks and luckily for me the second presented well and came out fine with virtually no assistance from me (front legs not full on superman, so I gave them a tug and they popped into full superman mode).  
Another boy.

Once the second lamb was out, I contacted the vet and told her that the first lamb had passed and I wanted them to look at his front legs, so I drove over to their clinic.  Unfortuantely for us, the diagnosis was that the lamb had arthrogryposis.  

"Arthrogryposis, congenital fixation of multiple joints, has been reported to result from infectious, toxic and genetic causes.  Affected animals have severely flexed forelimbs and overextended hind limbs.  A spiral deviation of the spine also is evident"  According to the book "Sheep & Goat Medicine" by D.G. Pugh and N. Baird.  My vet also mentioned that sometimes the jaw is affected (in this case the fore and hind limbs were affected, but not the spine or jaw).  

The vet suggested that I could have the lamb sent off and be tested, but I wanted Tim to see what the lamb looked like so she suggested we place the lamb in a garbage bag and place it in our freezer.  This will help us in two points: 1) By keeping the body we're less likely for it to happen again (you know Murphy's Law and all) and 2) if it does happen again this year, we still have the body for sampling purposes.  When Tim got home, I showed him the lamb who passed and his first thought was that it was a black based katmoget.  I hadn't really looked at the coloration of the lamb as I was so focused on not losing the mother and getting the lamb out that it hadn't occurred to me that he was a katmoget.  This loss is sad for a few reasons.  We do not plan on breeding Viveka again as she has turned 10 years old and since we've not kept a katmoget from any of her or her sisters breedings, we have not retained the pattern.  If we want another kat, we'll have to purchase one.  Secondly, of all the breedings, this is the first time we've got a black based katmoget only for it to not survive due to problems.

It's at these times that I have to look at the big picture.  Viveka is alive due to my intervention and she still has a lamb to take care of since the second is perfectly healthy and gaining weight.  Add to that the knowledge that I've gained with assisting a birth and this new to me disease and I feel better armed to handle another birthing issue (even if I'm hoping I never have another problem again!)

Waiting for the next sheep to lamb.

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