Resorting to the web

Things started well on my no-tech day … Before breakfast I biked down to a friend’s field to check on a dozen sheep.

Lambing has been sporadic and very spread out so far (the ram must have been lazy or getting on) but I was in luck on Saturday – a ewe had taken herself off to the top corner of the field and had just dropped twins. Always amazing to see how quickly they get up and are on the move, looking for colostrum. One of them was looking very pathetic so we decided to bring them down to the barn.

Older lambs needed turning out but not until they had been docked and castrated – a simple process using a very simple technology – a tight rubber ring which eventually causes the unwanted bits to shrivel and drop off.  I’ve done it plenty of times but it’s never nice to see the initial discomfort it causes them. A big two-day-old single lamb was a tricky customer – it’s important to put the ring in exactly the right place. It looked OK to me but afterwards he was really unhappy, showing signs of stress and flopping around in the corner of the pen, panting excessively. My friend was concerned so I agreed to take another look in an hour.

I biked home and had breakfast, a quick call to my Dad confirmed that it would be perfectly fine but I was worried so … I googled “lamb castration distress” and had a quick read-up about scientific trails that measured cortisol responses in lambs after the procedure. Of course it was fine, so I am annoyed with myself that I didn’t trust my instincts and the experience of Dad but instead resorted to the web, just because it was there!

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