Story time from the farm

Story time about a farm lesson learned the hard way…

Once upon a time… on the last day of April, one of the sheep I brought home not too long ago, had a little lamb. An adorable little brownie that stole our hearts right away.

This is the tale of what happened to Coco, the lamb. 

What’s to come is not for the faint-hearted so proceed with caution. 

Coco was our first lamb born on the farm. It was a Sunday morning when we, and all the animals, welcomed him to the family. Within hours, he was a little bouncy ball of wool that put a smile on our faces. The Wednesday of that same week,  yes – three days later, the evitable happened! Not a typo, what transpired could have been avoided…

And it’s all my fault! I put my feelings ahead of logic…

We run the dogs alongside the animals for the obvious reasons – prevention, detection and protection against predators. The dogs’ natural instinct tells them what they have to do. You read that right, for hundreds of years the Great Pyrenees breed was bred to think for itself; to make decisions on a whim and act on instinct. And they did just that on the Wednesday night in question.

I was out feeding everyone their dinner supplements and walked around to refresh all waters. Sometime between 7:30 and 8pm, before it started to get dark, I looked around and saw all the sheep, goats and alpacas make their way back to the pasture. I hesitated to lock them up and decided to come inside to feed the great dane first. I thought 10-15 minutes and I would be back out to lock everyone for the night.

That decision costed Coco’s life and my heart break…

Over the years, I learnt that the dogs’ instincts are to protect the herd by eliminating the sick and/or the weak. They always know if there is something going on with an animal. On that Wednesday night, the coyotes were lurking the forest adjacent to our property, and the female dog felt that my disappearance from the barn meant I was done for the day and she took it upon herself to save the night.

Through the living room windows, I saw it all: the female Great Pyrenees had little Coco in her mouth in the middle of the field. My heart dropped in my stomach and I felt like someone punched me in the stomach too. I got out there right away hoping for the best outcome. Maya walked away from him as soon as she heard me yell from the deck and as I approached Coco, she was nowhere to be seen. I sat by the barn, with the lamb in my arms praying and bawling my eyes out. Unfortunately, he passed away within minutes from internal bleeding. Everyone came to check on me… except Maya. She was lying down about 10 feet away, facing away from me. She didn’t look me in the eye for the next few days. Even when Mitchell came home, a couple of days later, he noticed she was acting differently.

I failed the sheep… and I set the dog up for failure. I should have trusted my gut feeling and locked everyone up for the night BEFORE I came inside. The dog did her job – protect the herd – just like she did each and every day. She was always out on the field with the sheep, watching over the lamb, but that evening she sensed danger was imminent.

 
To add salt to the injury… it happened again this morning when the second sheep decided the middle of the pasture would be a safe place to give birth. I wish the dogs could talk and we could all sit down and go over the set of rules we have in place and have them understand that all the lambs belong to me and they are not to touch them, at all… ever!

These two events absolutely proved I was not prepared for this lambing season. The sheep love to stay together and when I tried to separate them, to have their lambs, they kept calling for each other and trying to break free to join the herd. And as a softy, I felt for it! I now regret it dearly…

As everything else in this world, when one life is lost another one is born…or in this case hatched. I set eggs under a hen back on April 20th and I heard chirping yesterday, but today I got to see the little fluff balls!

Welcome to my life in shambles!

7 Thoughts on “Story time from the farm

  1. I feel the real, everyday challenge you’re facing doing the best for your animals. Sorry about your loss. <3

  2. That’s such a tough one.. I am sorry that this happened and I have full trust that you will get it all sorted before the next lambing season arrives.. and yes, I too have wished that I could “talk with different critters” and sort it out.

    • Thank you for your kind words. I propose all farm dogs come with an instruction manual with a “Notes” section at the back to add all the ‘exeptions’ and ‘customizations’ to current situations hehe We need some shelters in the new paddocks and hopefully fall lambing will go smoother as I keep the moms separate from the dogs to give both parties time to adjust to the new babies

      • For me, when it comes to the babies, my own hounds are as sweet as they come, but introducing and training my horse’s have been a different matter.. I have to be very careful when I introduce the lambs to new horse’s. And they have to be re-trained every single spring, its because the babies move wrong and they don’t “listen” to the herd boss, aka the horse.. one wrong hoof move and we have a big problem.

  3. What a heartbreaking story. I feel for you – that’s a truly tough learning curve. Working against nature is such a challenge. I admire you so much for living out this dream of yours.

    • Thank you. It’s so true, Mother Nature always wins…and this time the saying “livestock is dead stock” came true :s Hoping to have it all ready to go for fall lambing. And if Charlie does his job, late July we will be on lamb watch for Charlotte, the sheep raised by goats 🙂 fingers crossed

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