Listeria is present in the soil and affects <2% of ruminants. If that's the case, Eudora was one of the unlucky few to contract it.
Regardless of the diagnosis, that little sheep is still very sick. We won't know if the therapies are helping for a few days at least. Every day she hangs in there is a result.
To make all our lives easier (and night checks less gruelling), I've moved her to the empty kennel in the garden. I laid her in the back of an open flatbed truck and we made the 2 mile journey home without so much as a twitch from her.
That is a poorly-bad-sick sheep.
Mike and Underkeeper Pete helped me lift 60 kilos of Eudora into the truck. We got talking about the local sheep farmers in the area and their varied approaches to animal husbandry. One farmer is notorious for his laissez faire attitude to his flock, leaving sick or injured sheep to get well naturally or die. Whatever's left goes on to market. I wondered if this approach to producing lamb was more economical, in an effort to explain what otherwise seems cruel or irresponsible.
I thought of Eudora. I've spent the entire profit generated by one meat lamb on her medication so far, with only a 1 in 3 chance of her recovering. But, she could have 10 years of breeding in her. Even a single lamb every year from her would more than balance out this cost. Or she could be predisposed to Listeria and pass this weakness on to her progeny. Or she could live a long life without ever requiring another jab of penicillin. It's a bit of a crapshoot.
I do know that I'm not caring for her out of love, like I would a pet. I feel kindness towards her and I don't want her to suffer, but she's purebred stock and intended for breeding meat lambs. I feel like I have an obligation to do what I can for her, even if I'm going to eat her young.
Not everyone who reads this blog keeps sheep, or chickens or turkeys, but I would guess almost all of you are meat eaters. So here's what I wonder: what is the real price of meat? When you buy meat, would you accept paying more for meat produced from small flocks who consider animal husbandry and welfare a priority? Or do you feel that commercially produced meat raised in facilities which have passed inspection, but on an economy of scale that means you can purchase it much cheaper, is reasonable enough?
Those of you who keep your own livestock, and especially if you despatch and process your own livestock: what caused you to choose to do this? Because it's not easy to care for something and then kill it yourself. And keeping livestock is a bind, a demand on your time with no days off, and it's rarely economically feasible on such a small scale.
Please tell me your stories. I can't explain why I feel that a farmer who lets sheep die still seems wrong, even if it's economically viable. That's the million dollar question.
Now, I'm going out to the kennels to feed my sick sheep her electrolyes and give her a scratch behind the ear.