Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Very Sad and Frustrating Loss

I need to write because I am frustrated, I am upset, I am pissed, it has been a really crappy week and today topped it all. I was contemplating writing about this about maybe someone reading will understand or maybe give perspective to a really bad situation.

Approximately 4 years ago I bought my beautiful mioget ram Yankee. He was going to be my foundation ram for my new Shetland flock. I was very proud of my choice and he was just beautiful. That first year he bred all my ewes which resulted in 3 ewes, a ram, and a cross-bred ram which became a wether. I decide to keep the ram as I had inspirations for him as I knew I wanted to get more ewes that year and therefore I thought I would not have to buy a new ram as I already had 2 now. Samuel, as he was named, was turning out to be a nice boy. My flock was starting to grow and just over a year ago I was reading about the polled shetlands. I really liked having TJ, my polled Cotswold. TJ has a wonderful temperament, easy to get along with, doesn't destroy fencing like my 2 horned rams were doing so I decided to go with the polled Shetland ram......I fell head over heels for Jed who is just as mellow as TJ.

The decision now was to move Samuel out. He was not aggressive with me but had had a few altercations with Yankee & TJ resulting in some cuts. I tried to sell him but to no avail and yet I could not gather up the nerve to take him to auction so he stayed.

This Tuesday morning Samuel and Yankee had a very bad run in. I found Yankee on his side by the back of their barn. At first I honestly thought he was dead. I got him propped up on the side of the barn and realized he was almost in an unconscious state. It was about 5:45 in the morning and that side of the barn is dark so I was having a hard time seeing. I could tell Samuel was not giving this up and I had to led him to the back pasture with grain to get him away from Yankee and me. Once he was back there and gated off, I ran to get my flashlight. Yankee was in bad shape. Quite a few gashes on the face and the blood was sickening. I checked Samuel's face and he was just as bad though he was standing, Yankee was not. I attempted to get Yankee up to stand but by the second attempt it was not working. I did the rest of the chores and then was finally able to get him up and hold him up by the rear to get him into the barn. I had to go to work and prayed all would be okay, though my heart was just not feeling it.

He was alive when I got home, though still in the same place. I gave him water which he drank and some hay though he was not interested. I could tell he was just really hurting. I tried to get him up but he just couldn't hold himself up. Front legs were not broken, back ones appeared fine. I was thinking a possible fracture to the hip, leg, maybe nerve damage, internal injury?? It was a bad fight. It had to have happened early Wednesday morning because they were fine the night before when I checked on everyone at 9:00 pm. This morning he had moved some, but not enough to indicate he actually got up. He ate some grain and drank but his eyes were just sad and confused. Samuel was still staying in the back gated pasture. I called the vet at lunch and they gave me some leads on where to go. I stopped to get some meds after school and headed home.

Yankee had moved himself to the outside of the barn but it was not good. He had obviously fallen as he was muddy, face, and sides and his leg was back left leg which was sticking out from underneath him was very broken, a break that I knew could not be fixed. And his eyes told me now was the time, and I knew it too. I will never know what happened though I think he fell and landed wrong and because of his weight, it broke but perhaps it was broke in the fight and I just didn't notice it but I know I checked his legs. To see such a proud animal go down like this just breaks my heart. Sure he was a shit when he wanted to be and I will never deny he made some big messes out of my fences and once busted out a wall in my barn but he still was my big shit. Within an hour, I held Yankee in my arms as he was humanly put to sleep.

So much to learn, mistakes made, decisions to be made. Oh, hobby farming and raising animals is very rewarding and wonderful but this is the hard stuff, this is the reality that all the pretty pictures don't show. It does take a lot out of your heart. I know I get stronger with every experience and I understand more about the nature of animals and what it takes to raise animals. I was not prepared for something of this magnitude. It was one of those things you hear people talk about but its not suppose to happen to you. I want the best for my animals. I do my best, I try my hardest, but sometimes it just plain sucks.

I have decide that I will be taking Samuel to auction was soon as I can find someone to help me take him as I do not have a trailer. I can't keep one horned ram that occupies a very large area of pasture with a nice barn nor can I keep him knowing what happened to Yankee. I just can't. The area can be used for so many of my other animals and other purposes. My inspiration was to breed Shetlands. I still will but as beautiful as the horns are, I just can't breed for them. I love the polled Shetlands more. I know that not all of them are as docile as the ones I have but they are what I truly prefer. I have learned this and perhaps I learned it the hard way. This was a heartbreaking experiencing, it was a learning experience one that I pray will never happen again. Things happen for a reason. Today I am trying to make sense of why.


ae1501 said...

Sometimes life just sucks.

Tracey said...

I AM SO SORRY!! You are such a good farmer and care about your animals so much, I know things like this must break your heart!
I wish I did, but I don't have any words of wisdom for you, just know that I am thinking of you.
Give yourself a big hug!!

Claire said...

Oh Kristi, I am heartbroken to read about this. I am just at the tip of the farming iceberg and so new to it all, but I have experience with two greyhounds that I loved dearly and one of them attacked the other and I was horrified. She needed stitches and a drain for her wounds and I felt like it was all my fault and I should have seen it coming. Over time, I have come to realize that it was not my fault, but it took a long time to get there. I truly believe you did everything you could and while you will not forget what has happened, the emotions will become less raw. It is so easy to forget that, despite their domestication, they really are still animals and sometimes, they actually behave that way. Wishing peace and healing light for you.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Oh Kristi, I can only imagine your heartache; I am SO sorry you had to go through this! This is part of the reason I only have one ram, and am scared to give him a wether companion. I have read that the bigger the ram group, the fewer problems you have, but I don't have the land or set-up for that. No easy answers, I guess, except maybe to not breed.... For now I work towards having fully polled animals with one ram at a time. Better lonely than dead - or causing death!

Pat in east TN said...


I am also SO sorry this had to happen. You're such a good mom to your animals and you certainly did everything possible. A big {{{hug}}} from this end.

Christy said...

I'm so sorry! What a tough day. You can never prepare youself for such things.

Tammy said...

Hey Kristi,
Very sorry to hear about the trauma and loss. Honestly, I love my sheep, but I hate rams. There are rams I care about, but as a whole, I just hate 'em....because they are rams... If that makes sense. Particularly this time of the year everything becomes so much more exaggerated. The more rams you have (I've heard) the easier the dynamics are, but I don't have room for a whole flock of rams, so the two rams I have are sometimes very rough on their wethers. (I keep the two rams seperate as one is a 300 lb merino and MEAN, and the other is a horned Shetland who would fight to death). Several years ago, my Shetland ram nearly killed his brother--I think fractured his back. I was able to save him, and he is okay now, but it was a very long haul, and I really despaired at times. Just take care of yourself, and do what you have to to make things work at your little animal kingdom--and sometimes that means individuals have to go, and we have to be at peace with that. If you find a gentle ram, then they are worth their weight in gold!
Take care,

Kara said...

I just checked your blog, I am so sorry for your loss! I guess we both had a terrible day. I think going the polled route makes more and more sense. I am at a loss of words to cheer you up, just know that we all care and think you are an excellent shepherdess.

Juliann said...

Kristi, I'm sorry to hear of your sad experience. Shepherding is a series of joys and bliss, and sorrows and heartbreak, weather our rams are horned or polled.
Having a sheep die unexpectedly is the absolute worst, but it happens to ALL of us! This doesnt mean that we are bad shepherds, just that...we have sheep. And sometimes sheep die.
We grieve, we learn, and we go on. You are not alone. (((huggs)))

Deb said...

I am so have experienced one of the hardest lessons of raising sheep. So many of us have been down that road at least once, sometimes more. You know this has nothing to do with your care and compassion for your animals! This is animal behavior at is worst but this is animal behavior.
I have four rams and two wethers that live in the same space. It's not a large space and I think that makes it more manageable. MOST of the year they are very good together. Breeding season is a different story. It's just a few weeks and then things get back to normal by making a few changes to their living quarters.
As sad as you are, please don't let this discourage you from proceeding with your breeding plans. This is all part of shepherding. It stinks......but you can handle it.

Susan said...

Oh Kristi, I'm so sorry. I can't even imagine knowing how much you love your woolie guys how you felt finding them in pain/how you feel mourning even one of them.

kristi said...

I just wanted to say thank you for everyone who stopped by. It is truly comforting to know I have friends out there that I have never physically met but have come to count on as support and words of advice when things stray off in the wrong direction. I really was grappling with my emotions those 2 days. I was mad at the boys for just acting that way, I was hurting for Yankee because he was my first ram and inspiration for breeding Shetlands, I was hurting because I knew he was but I knew what I had to do to make the situation right. Sometimes I worry that I am becoming numb to the death of an animals but I think its more that I am better understanding the circle of life on the farm. Perhaps it is what it is, though I will still mourn the loss of others harder than I will some. Today I have been doing a lot of reflecting on the direction of the animals and for me personally, I will focus on the polled Shetlands. The horned Shetlands are beautiful and majestic but for my lifestyle and farm arrangement, I must focus on the polled ones. Perhaps its the road less taken but for me its the right one. Yankee fathered 3 wonderful ewes for me, one of which produced a fully polled Shetland ram lamb when bred to Jed. this past winter. This grandson of Yankee is gorgeous and will be staying with me. The circle of life at Harvest Thyme is better today:)

Garrett808 said...

wow. I'm just catching up with blogs after a week of terribles for me last week! I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. I had a ewe (my softest, friendliest, best mom, and also SHAELA) come in from a pasture that had been grazed for two weeks.....I didn't notice her come in as i was in a hurry and she ended up bloating while I was out AI'ing cows. Came back 20 minutes later and she was dead. Had I counted and checked the pastures like I ALWAYS do every night before I bring in the sheep, I would have seen her. That was my fault, not hers, and your situation was THEIR fault, not yours, so its not completely the same, but close enough that we both lost someone dear to us.

big hugs!

ps. JoAnne and Ferris are coming to St Paul in January for the three day dog should ask them to tag along! It'd be great to meet you! :):)