This morning when I went out to feed the animals I found Nera dead in the hut. She was on her back with her feet in the air. Although she was pregnant, it did not appear that she had been laboring. She was not due to deliver until the end of the month. My first thought was that she rolled onto her back and could not get up. I've heard other shepherds say that this has happened to them. I prayed that it would never happen to me, but unfortunately it did.
To make matters worse, the ground is still frozen and there is no way to bury her. As I called around trying to find out what to do with a livestock carcass I was getting very discouraged because several people said "well, most farmers just drag the carcass into woods for coyotes." That is NOT an option where I live. Sure, we have woods, but they are very close to our house and the last thing I need is for predators to develop a taste for sheep.
Fortunately, someone gave me the number for Countryside Hides of Alma Center, Wisconsin. They are willing to pick her up for $25. I told them I would happily pay twice that much if they could come today. For those of you in the area who might need this service, the number is 715-964-5021.
I'm so stunned and devastated. I've lost sheep before, but never a pregnant ewe. My vet told me that it is actually pretty common for sheep and cows to get on their backs and suffocate. She said it only takes two minutes for a sheep to die if they get on their back and can't get up. Makes me feel a tiny bit better to have this information...but it is still hard nonetheless.
Rest in peace, Nera. I'm going to miss your beautiful squinchy face.