Friday, June 22, 2012

Sue Weaver: Updating Arthur

Last year on Mother’s Day a sweet, white Classic Cheviot lamb named Wolf Moon Wee Mad Arthur made his appearance as part of the worst birthing experience we’ve ever had on our farm. I wrote about his birth in Welcoming Arthur. Arthur’s led a star-crossed life since he drew his first breath. Here’s what’s happened since then.

Arthur and his mom, Hope.

Due to Arthur’s stellar bloodlines and lovely conformation, he was destined to become a breeding ram. When the time came, we penned Arthur with several beautiful ladies but we didn’t get the results we expected. Instead of placidly waiting until the ewes came in heat, Arthur harried them, impatiently ramming them with his head and shouldering them around the pen. After several days of that, we took them out and returned them one by one as they came in heat. We also decided that Arthur would join his family as a fleece wether.

So, Arthur was castrated and settled into life as a member of the flock. But he still had one major eccentricity. Arthur liked to climb on things in goat-like fashion. The feed cart? Easy! The top of a big bale of hay? Piece of cake! And he obviously enjoyed leaping off the top.

Arthur on the hay.

On Friday, April 13, when I went out to feed the animals, Arthur was standing near a bale of hay, on three legs, his left front leg dangling in the air. The bone between his knee and fetlock joint was plainly broken.

We quickly took him to a roomy 18 x 20' stall, bedded it deeply with straw, and penned him in. Then we fashioned a temporary splint and posted to the sheep and goat groups I moderate. A broken leg among sheep and goats is far from rare and most small ruminant owners apply their own casts but we’d never done it before.

We quickly learned the splint we made was wrong, so that evening we gathered materials for a new one (a piece of PVC pipe sawed in half, with the ends beveled and long enough to go from Arthur’s elbow to just below his hoof; a big roll of wide, sheet cotton; and self-adhesive veterinary bandages). Next day we set out to splint Arthur’s leg.

One of the mares we rescued years ago goes ballistic when her hooves are trimmed, so our horse veterinarian sells us an animal tranquilizer called Xylazine to give her before we do. We called and asked him how much we should use to make a sheep drowsy, drew it into a syringe, and gave Arthur the shot. He quickly passed from drowsy to sleep to snoring very loudly and drooling. This was not what we expected. We supported his head, quickly applied the splint, and waited for him to wake up. We waited. And waited. And worried. What if he didn’t wake up! In the meanwhile, since he hadn't been shorn and our shearer wouldn’t be able to shear him with a broken leg, I scissored off his wool. Three hours later, with both of us still waiting, Arthur, who now looked as though he’d been attacked by giant moths, slowly came around. He was woozy for the rest of the night but adapted to the splint by morning.

Arthur adapted to his splint.

During the next six weeks we changed the splint two more times, without Xylazine. Arthur remained chipper, hopping around his big stall on three legs and schmoozing with Miss Maple, one of his former girlfriends, who lived in the adjoining lambing stall and paddock to keep him company.

Arthur on his first outing after the cast came off.

We sheared him with sheep shears when his leg got better and at last the cast came off. In the meantime, Miss Maple had given birth to Arthur’s only lamb. After another week, Arthur got to come outside. He hobbled over and attached himself to Miss Maple and his son, Gunnar, and they’re now a happy threesome living together in the lambing pen. What the future holds for Arthur is anybody’s guess but he’s here to stay. And he’s lived an exciting life to date.

Arthur, Gunnar, and Miss Maple.

Miss Maple shows Gunnar how to graze.

Sue Weaver sold her first freelance article in 1969. Since then her work has appeared in major horse periodicals, including the Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Chronicle of the Horse, Flying Changes, Horseman’s Market, Arabian Horse Times, the Appaloosa News, the Quarter Horse Journal, Horse’N Around, and the Brayer. She has written, among other books, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, The Donkey Companion, and The Backyard Goat. Sue is based in the southern Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.

Read Sue’s blog: Dreamgoat Annie

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