I had to earn my Farmer in Training t-shirt today. Our first arrival of this year's lambing season was listless and, when I checked on her between shoot drives, her belly was distended and she was struggling to breathe.
I rushed her to the vets but the only vet on duty was a young, newly qualified girl. She did her best but her inexperience showed. Still not knowing the cause, we both could see the lamb was fading fast. The vet could put her to sleep, but it would cost me another £40 including disposal charges. Or, I could take her home and put her to sleep with a .22 round.
I made the fiscally smart, emotionally challenging decision.
The lamb was made comfortable and I drove the few miles home, resolved to do what was necessary. I laid her on a soft, dry spot on the lawn and got the rifle from the cabinet, loaded it, and readied myself.
I came back to find the lamb sitting up. Sort of.
Maybe I should rethink this.
I mean, maybe she could make a miraculous recovery. I don't know what's caused it after all.
So I ran indoors, leaned the (unloaded) rifle against the kitchen cabinets, and rummaged in my animal meds drawer for a syringe. I was intending to load her up with antibiotics, as a start. To fight any infection. Maybe.
I was only gone a minute or two, but came out to find the lamb lying on her side, and starting to bloat up again.
I swapped the syringe for the rifle. As I loaded and pulled the trigger, I thought "Where there's livestock, there's deadstock.". It was cold comfort.
I saved the lamb's body in a covered bucket, in case a triplet is born tonight or early tomorrow. I might be able to foster one onto my grumpy - now lonely - ewe. If not, I'm going to have to catch her up and milk her, saving the milk for tubing any cold, late or small lambs in our future. I'm being as pragmatic as any proper farmer.
And it really sucks.