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Author Topic: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?  (Read 377 times)

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« on: April 02, 2021, 01:53:51 am »
OK, I haven't got this one figured out, so let me write it down while it's fresh in my mind, and let's see what you all think. Please be gentle though - this hurts.

So today was the earliest day I thought any ewes might lamb, though after surprise twins yesterday, I have been keeping a close eye all day.

9pm: First-time lamber (2 yrs old) standing up and looking decidedly uncomfortable. Strained and did a wee poo, but that was all.  Decided to keep an eye.

11 pm: Similar. No discharge from vulva.

12:30am: Now standing in the corner of the field, straining and clearly in pain. Foaming at the mouth (the foam looked like frothy milk). Chomping with jaws and grinding teeth. Decided to bring her inside. Wouldn't follow a bucket (IME with a Zwartbles, this means imminent death is pretty much guaranteed  ::) ), so put a halter on her and pushed gently from behind, to walk her the 50 yards into the shed.

Checked dilation - four fingers inside easily, but definitely not my whole hand. Couldn't feel any lambs. Ewe clearly in distress, but still no real clue as to why. Went inside to tell the Shepherdess something was wrong.

Went back outside two minutes later, and she was lying in the pen, legs stretched out, and having some kind of seizure (the ewe, not the Shepherdess). I'll be honest, I didn't have a clue what to do at that point. After perhaps a minute, it was clear she was dead or very nearly, so (look away now), I grabbed a knife and pulled the lambs out of the side door - one already dead, and another I couldn't revive :'( . The lambs looked perfectly normal. No sign of yellow slime etc.

The only thing I can add is that she had a reasonably sized bag and very small teats (but I don't think unusually so for a first timer). The teats were not engorged. However, when I squeezed them, what came out didn't look like colostrum - it was light green coloured and watery.

Honestly, my first question at this point (1.45am) is Glenlivet, Laphroaig or both?  Sod it. Both.

Second question - what the hell just happened?  :-[
« Last Edit: April 02, 2021, 01:55:40 am by Womble »
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2021, 06:23:12 am »
No idea, Womble, but I feel your pain  :hug:

harmony

  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2021, 07:44:26 am »
Really sorry to read about that. Doesn't sound as though you could have done anymore. A chat with the vet today? Maybe an infection of some sort?  :hug:

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2021, 08:26:47 am »
Thatís pretty rough going  :tired:  wonder if she ate something or as harmony said an infection? Had the lambs been dead a while- could be sepsis if so? Or maybe lambs ruptured something inside. I guess you could do a full pm with the vet if you wanted. Whether it would be cost effective to do so, Iím not sure. If it happens again definitely pm, but hopefully it wonít.

NewLifeOnTheFarm

  • Joined Jun 2016
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2021, 08:42:53 am »
So sorry, it's awful isn't it. Could it have been mineral deficiency? We have never had a problem before at all, but I lost 2 ewe last week in a similar fashion. These were post lambing though. First girl came for her breakfast, went to get some hay cake back and she was on the floor, jaws clamped, foaming, having a seizure, legs running. I was absolutely devastated. I actually thought she had choked. A few days later the exact same thing happened again. Rang gets and presumed magnesium deficiency as both ewes exactly same post lambing days. I had a high trace mineral lick in with them already, but now they have a few different brands, and magnesium flakes in water. Touch wood all ok since, but I felt so unbelievably guilty 😭.

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2021, 08:50:13 am »
Well, in the cold light of day, I don't think she was lambing at all. (Rationale: Not dilated, no proper colostrum, no sign of distress / yellow goo on the lambs, lambs definitely not dead inside either).

If I had to say now, I'm going to go with some sort of gut blockage and serious distress which then brought on a heart attack.
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2021, 09:04:49 am »
Could be some form of abortion  :gloomy:  some types will make the ewe sick, some wonít. Sadly I had enzootic abortion this year despite vaccination (would have been much worse if Iíd not vaccinated). One of my shearling ewes aborted same sort of description- didnít open, lambs very malpresented, no milk. She wasnít sick though.


Iíll find the link to abortion types- it might be worth a read
https://www.msd-animal-health-hub.co.uk/sites/default/files/content/media/104180_flockmasters_guide_a5_v2020.pdf
Scroll to page 8

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2021, 09:19:06 am »
Hypocalcaemia would be my explanation. One of the main reasons for prolonged and often unsucessful labour is lack of calcium - I will give a goat a Caliciject (the cow one at 30 to 40ml subcutaeneously over the ribcage) if she has been uncomfortable for more than 5 hours or so, and the kids are delivered within the hour (unless they are dead already inside, which happened this year).


Unwillingness to move and then a massive fit when actually dying is also characterisitic of this.


Hypolcalcaemia in sheep is much more difficult to detect pre-lambing than it is pre-kidding in goats, as the goats are in the shed and are much better at showing that they are in pain. Hypocalcaemia is extremely painful.


Sorry you lost her, but there is probably not much you could have done.

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2021, 06:15:46 pm »
I don't want to guess as it could be anything ,the symptoms say she was in very much pain , while it may be a step to far you could do a small home pm since you have already opened her up , looking at liver , kidney , intestines ,lungs , heart . While i appreciate it may be to much you may find it interesting & educational , plenty of pictures on the internet of healthy & damaged organs

Womble

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2021, 09:44:06 pm »
Thanks folks,

Hypocalcemia is nagging away at me, but doesn't quite seem right. I also don't think she was in labour at all. Her movements, stance and gait didn't look like lambing, she wasn't opened up and she made no attempt to lie down and push. Also, she didn't have milky colostrum in her udder - it was more "just add milk, and this will be colostrum in a couple of days time", I think?

Everything I've read about hypocalcemia says that they go downhill quite quickly and can't stand, and then die a day or two later. However, ours went from standing and walking with good muscle co-ordination (albeit clearly in pain) to dead in less than five minutes. Does that match anybody else's experience?

@shep53 - yes, I was thinking that myself this morning (mainly because I wanted to check her liver for fluke scarring, since she had lived all her life with us) and was on my way to sharpen my knife when I saw the knacker's van going to our next door neighbour. At that point I decided to save them a return trip and flagged him down on his way out. A missed opportunity perhaps, but I didn't have long to think about it!
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Sudden ewe death - what went wrong?
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2021, 10:08:32 pm »
Thanks folks,

Hypocalcemia is nagging away at me, but doesn't quite seem right. I also don't think she was in labour at all. Her movements, stance and gait didn't look like lambing, she wasn't opened up and she made no attempt to lie down and push. Also, she didn't have milky colostrum in her udder - it was more "just add milk, and this will be colostrum in a couple of days time", I think?

Everything I've read about hypocalcemia says that they go downhill quite quickly and can't stand, and then die a day or two later. However, ours went from standing and walking with good muscle co-ordination (albeit clearly in pain) to dead in less than five minutes. Does that match anybody else's experience?



Hypocalcaemia can present as for example the animal standing very stiffly and unable/unwilling to lie down (I had a goat with about 10 day to go to kidding that stood all night - she was on camera) and only repeated IV of Calciject got her to relax - that was an expensive kidding with two vet call-.outs!


But I don't think you would see anything for hypocalcaemia in a crude on-farm pm.


Probaly just one of those things, I never do a pm on a sudden single death, only consider it for a second or third one under similar circumstances.

 

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