The ewe that I thought was going to lamb two nights ago didn't. After she didn't lamb, I thought I'd find her with lambs the next morning. I didn't.
I penned her and noticed a water bag (finally). When I checked her, I determined that she had a breech lamb blocking the way. I delivered the breech lamb with relatively little difficulty. It was fine. I decided to deliver the rest of the lambs, since she had been in prolonged labor and the viability of the other lambs might be in jeopardy.
I delivered the second lamb without too much difficulty. However, the third lamb had its head back. This is the malpresentation that has historically given me the most difficulty. During the past 10 years, I've had four lambs presented with their heads back. All four died after prolonged manipulation. One ewe had to be euthanized due to a tear in her uterus.
I was able to get the lamb out with a moderate amount of manipulation. Upon its entry into the world, it was bloody and lifeless. I was able to revive it. The other two lambs were already getting acquainted with their legs.
Needless to say, the ewe was worn out after the whole ordeal. She licked the lambs, but did not get up for awhile. This surprised me and made me think something was wrong. Plus, the bloodiness of the third lamb bothered me. Eventually, the ewe got up and mothered her lambs. She had a long drink of water, but had no interest in food.
A few hours later, she was back down and looking distressed, often grinding her teeth as if she was experiencing some pain. She hadn't passed her afterbirth. The lambs were hollering to eat, but she wasn't up to the task of feeding them. I had already given her an injection of penicillin, a common practice when I assist a ewe's delivery.
I had to be away from the sheep for the next six hours, so I decided to feed the lambs, in case the ewe did not get up. They weren't ready to nurse a bottle yet, so I tubed them. When I returned, I found the ewe in a similar state. I gave the lambs another feeding of colostrum, this time with a bottle. The ewe stood a final time to allow her lambs to nurse. She was dead a few hours later.
My diagnosis is septic peritonitis. Either the lambs or my manipulation of them in the womb perforated her gut. That's what I think happened. If that was the case, there was nothing that could be done for her. She would not respond to antibiotics or anything else. It was better that she die quickly.
The lambs -- two rams and a ewe -- are doing fine. Spry and hungry. The female isn't as eager to nurse from a bottle as her brothers, but I'm sure she'll come along. I have three lambs to raise artificially.
I hated to lose this ewe (#739). She was an outstanding ewe. She was only five years old and would have been expected to have several more productive years. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of things that can happen when your raise livestock.
I wonder if I caused her death. I wonder if I could have done things differently. I did my best to deliver the lambs. I try to be careful and deliberate. I've delivered many lambs with never something like this happening. #739 was not fat and the lambs, while decent size, weren't oversized. I wonder if something else could have been going on (inside her) that put her on this fatal path.