There will be a time when every old sheep has come to the end of their life, this is inevitable unless you keep the flock young.
But some of us have pets which have endeared themselves to us and if, like me you have such a bond – when the end comes you really have to study that animal and make sure you do the right thing at the right time. So here is what happened to Amelie.
Amelie was about 4 (allegedly) when I bought her, she was just a number, so I decided she should have a French name. She was a bit wild then, having only been used for breeding, but she quickly responded to my sitting with her and making friends. She was not the prettiest of sheep, but she made up for that by producing about 4 cracking lambs., all with the same thick impenetrable coats like a Brillo pad! Their coats surely would have been the type to survive any weather on a stormy island, it never parted even in the stiffest wind!
However, as time went on she started to loose her front lower teeth (no top ones anyway of course), but she seemed to still do well. She needed longer grass than the others which was difficult as I tend to move hurdles each day for fresh grass ( otherwise they trample it all down then won’t bother with it). So, I gave her a year off breeding and she was doing ok.
The following autumn, I had a very promising ram growing on, and the practicalities of keeping her separate was a problem, so the following year I asked our local shepherd to body score her for me, to decide if she could have another lamb or whether I should put her down. as I thought she was getting a bit thin. But he said she would be fine, so I let her breed with the ram.
During the pregnancy I gave her extra sheep nuts and she quickly knew she should go into a hurdled-off pen to eat her nuts in peace twice a day, as by now I was unsure how much grass she was getting. She had started to throw cuds at an alarming rate (if you don’t know what they look like – they look a bit like khaki coloured flat bits of partially digested grass, a bit like an oblong mouth-sized small cowpat).
I had the vet come in to visit late in her pregnancy, to look in her mouth to see if I could do anything for her, but Amelie wasn’t having any of that! Eventually the vet managed to get a look at the inside of her mouth and said she had an impacted tooth. At her age (was she really 4 when I bought her? maybe not!) it would not be viable to spend hundreds of pounds to operate on her. It was suggested that I kept her on pellets until she had lambed and when the lamb was weaned, to have her put down.
In due course the lamb was born – another bonny but noisy ewe lamb, which was sold at 4 or 5 months old, as I had given up breeding Ouessants. By now Amelie was not throwing cuds, probably because the impacted tooth had been shed but she wasn’t getting grass with her teeth. However, she still cantered across to get her nuts. She was now painfully thin, but still seemed happy in herself.
After a month or so I realised something was not right. Just before I started the feeding one evening, I noticed that Amelie was away from the others, which is not good news. She was backed into the hedge looking clearly unwell, so I decided that the time had come as I didn’t want her to be unhappy. As it was too late to do anything about it, I put some feed out for her and would address the situation in the morning. Overall I couldn’t help her anymore, extra feeds and worming never helped and it had been a long time since she took any hay. So there was little else I could do. However next morning, she was worse with a sudden case of scours, so I decided today was definable the day.
So what do I do now? The options are, the vet to come and do the business. Pros of this was: vet could do it soon (maybe if they weren’t all out on calls) and it would be an injection and she would go to peacefully to sleep at her home, with no travelling. The cons were: vet call out fee, injection fee, then you are left with a dead sheep to deal with. You then have to find a licensed carrier to take the carcass away, and that could take a while, not only to find one but would they come today? This also would incur another fee. As I have never faced this before, I’m sure there must be some vets who deal with all of this – at a price.
The other option was the local hunt. The drawback was that she would have to travel, although she was well used to travelling. It was not a savoury thought, but poor Amelie needed to be put out of what had suddenly become a miserable existence, she probably had awful belly ache with the diarrhoea. So I rang the local hunt and within the hour I had travelled with her in a dog cage for ten miles – it was a smelly ride to say the least! I met the slaughter man, gave him the ear tag details, signed a book and he carried her off to a nearby shed. Then I heard the shot, which I will always remember, but she suffered no more. The killing was done within seconds from being taken from the dog cage, very professionally and calmly carried out. The price was £15.00 which included her cremation.
Author: Marie Clarke