Typically, if you asked me what I would be doing the Sunday before an exam, I would tell you that I would be up to my ears in study notes. Instead, this past Sunday, I found myself covered in sheep placenta and milk.
The ewes at our university research facility were ready to lamb and the staff needed all the help they could get. Disregarding the fact that I had an exam the next day, I decided to volunteer to assist with the process. I had witnessed lambings in the past but had never been able to participate. As a veterinary student, I was no longer expected to be an innocent bystander but instead was expected to get myself involved in the action.
The farm manager demonstrated how to process the lambs which involved tail docking, administering selenium injections, and placing RFID chips. She walked me through how to assist if there was a suspected dystocia and also how to encourage the lambs to nurse.
Prior to my arrival, only two of the ewes had lambed. Each had twins and the newest mother had just given birth. Throughout the night I watched the lambs begin to stand. With some necessary guidance, the larger of the two had begun to nurse. I was concerned as the night progressed and the smaller lamb was still hesitant to stand and nurse. She seemed weak and did not improve after a bottle feeding. As the night went on she made little progress and my concern only worsened. There was not much I could do for her aside from bottle feeding and providing heat. Soon she was too weak to try to nurse and I thought for sure she was not going to make it. I made a last ditch effort and tube fed her some fresh milk from her mother. After her meal, I bedded her down with fresh straw and hoped for the best. To my surprise, within fifteen minutes, she was up and walking around. For the first time this year, I felt as though I had truly made a difference in an animal’s life.
That was just the reminder I needed to give me to motivation to continue to push through. I left the farm that evening feeling renewed and as motivated as ever. I studied for the rest of the night with a new sense of purpose and drive.