Thursday, 25 November 2010

Dances with sheep

I'm no big sheep expert, but I could see something was up with the smallest one of the three who are currently on groundskeeping duty in our top field.

He was staying some distance from the other two, not moving around much and looking a bit sorry for himself. The pig rule - the one that says if a pig is keen on its rations and vocal in demanding said rations then everything is OK - doesn't exactly apply to sheep who don't seem to get enthusiastic about much at all, but it doesn't take a farming genius to work out when an animal is below par.

While dropping Sally off at the ferry, I met our neighbour Marcus who diagnosed cobalt deficiency - apparently it's common in our part of the island - and thrust a bottle of vitamin B12 into my hand with orders for an immediate injection.

Fair enough. I got home, fetched out a syringe, unwrapped a new needle and marched out to confront the sheep who was lying down, chewing half-heartedly. As I approached he got up with just enough urgency to avoid me reaching him.

The pair of us then got into the sort of elaborate routine more often seen on BBC on a Saturday evening. I've learned that being quiet and patient is the best way to deal with farm animals and, in any case, I wasn't about to started running around after a poorly sheep, least of all with a syringe and needle in my pocket.

After a couple of laps, we reached a stalemate. I tried pulling up some grass and offering it to him. It wouldn't fool a pig for a minute, but sheep joined the queue for brains rather late and he fell for it.

Injecting a pig of any size is a risky business. They get quite miffed about the whole subject of needles and it's recommended that you have at least two sturdy bodies and an old door or a gate to hold pig down/hide behind. So this operation was a doddle.

Grasping the sheep by the scruff of the neck I realised just how small he was. He put up little resistance as I quickly injected the stuff and trotted away.

Mission accomplished, I reported back to Marcus who said the next part of the treatment would be a cobalt "bullet". I don't know why I used inverted commas there because a bullet is exactly what it is with a kind of tube device to stick down laddo's throat and fire the thing in.

So the pair of us started up again across the field and back, the occasional motorist slowing down to work out what the hell I thought I was doing, and there was no way he was going to fall for the grass trick again. Eventually I had him cornered and with a move that was surprisingly quick for my size and age I got a hold of him, shoved the device into his mouth and pressed the button, holding his head up for a few moments to make sure the bullet had gone down.

I let go and he collapsed on the ground and couldn't or wouldn't get up.

"Bollocks, I've killed the sheep," I muttered, but he was very much alive, just not in the mood to go anywhere. He sat there for a while, chewing thoughtfully, and eventually got up and moved around a bit.

He perked up considerably, but this morning he was down in the dumps again, sheltering from the cold in the long grass in the far corner of the field.

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

3 comments:

Yorkshire Pudding said...

If you really cared for animals you would take that poor sheep into your own house. As Sal has abandoned you via the local ferry, there will certainly be a place for the sheep in your Orcadian double bed. Just tell her to turn the bedside light off after finishing the next chapter of "The Sheep-Pig" by Dick King-Smith.

Frith said...

I'm sorry your sheep's sick. My cat was sick too - I got quite good at all the needles and squirting drops down the throat, but it didn't make it any easier to see him suffering. In the end I had to have him put to sleep. Hope your little guy gets better soon.

Frith said...

Hey Malc,
Have you seen this? www.factoryfarmmap.org

How's your skinny sheep? Hope the cobalt's working!