After Tillie gave birth to the second lamb around 1.00 or 1.30 pm yesterday, I relaxed a little, perhaps too much. Aimee came home soon thereafter and we watched together for another hour or so to see that both lambs were on their feet and trying to feed, then we went indoors around 3pm.
I lay down to catch up on some of my missed sleep from jet lag and night checks. Later, around 4.15 pm and after that, I went out again several times to look for the placenta. By dinnertime nothing had happened and I was worried enough to look up "retained afterbirth" in the Storey book on sheep management. The book said to wait at least six hours before doing anything, so I checked one last time at 5.30 pm, made a dinner for myself and some pasta for Aimee, and then checked again at 6.30 pm.
And there was a third lamb, fully shrouded, and the entire plancenta, all in one package, warm but still. I peeled off the caul and slapped it once or twice to see if it would breathe, but gave up when I saw that there was no heartbeat. Perhaps there had been one when it was born, but I doubt it. The fact that it came with the placenta led me to think it stillborn, being the last lamb after 6 or 7 hours of labor. At some time or other the cord had probably been pinched, cutting off the oxygen.
So this death probably couldn't be helped, except perhaps had I felt inside for another lamb right after pulling the second one out, which I didn't even think to do. Thinking about it, Monday morning quarterbacking, I probably would have explored inside Tillie if there had been a long delay after a first lamb, but not after a second. I just wasn't expecting three.
We've never had a triplet at Womerlippi Farm. We still haven't had a live one. And I doubt Tillie, a rather aged ewe that we weren't even planning to breed, could have handled a third lamb. The two she has are doing OK, but they are small and very frail as lambs go around here.
But boy, Mother Nature is really kicking our butts this time around. Shepherds 3, lamb deaths 2. Not good. I hope we don't lose any more.
And I have learned a hard lesson or two about shepherding.