RIP Anlit. It has been a rough few weeks here on the farm. Sheep started dropping dead for no apparent reason. They would appear fine one day, eating with full bellies, with the only sign of anything maybe being wrong was that they looked cold, and the next morning would be dead. Sheep hide their illness well because they are prey animals and don’t want to get picked off so by the time you notice something they are near death. The first two that had died I had thought had pneumonia earlier in the winter so I treated them for it but they didn’t get any better so I figured that wasn’t it. I reached out to fellow shepherds and attempted to troubleshoot a few nutritional deficiencies. They kept dying. I thought it might have been listeriosis as I have lost sheep to that before so I treated for it. They kept dying. Finally I took one in for a necropsy and it revealed severe pneumonia, which was frustrating to say the least. We treated and vaccinated the whole flock as by this point they were all looking worse for wear and I didn’t want to risk losing any more. That was two weeks ago, and it appeared that we were on the upswing. Then at the beginning of this week a few, Anlit included, started to act cold again. I treated her again and made the decision on Thursday that too many of them looked too thin going into lambing season, so we needed to up their nutrition by feeding some rye. We don’t feed grain to our lambs as they are raised on milk and pasture, but sometimes the hay we have isn’t good enough to keep the mamas in robust enough shape to raise their babies, so supplementation in the winter is necessary for short periods, especially after the illness they went through. Anlit was still weak from illness and I knew I had to watch them while they were eating their rye so she wouldn’t fall down and get crushed as sheep can be pretty aggressive(and stupid) in pursuit of food, but I took my eyes off her for 30 seconds last night and that was long enough for it to happen. A bunch of sheep had decided that her spot, despite there being many other feeding spots, was the best, and had piled on top of each other. By the time I got them dispersed she was dead. This episode of pneumonia has wiped out 20% of our flock and caused an unknown number of lamb miscarriages, and we are supposed to start lambing in the next week. Anlit didn’t make the best lambs, but she was the sweetest and hardiest girl with an independent streak. If she thought you had treats she was your best friend. Each loss has sucked, but hers was heartbreaking. I don’t even know if she would have recovered well due to the scarring in her lungs, but it still hurt like crazy. We have also spent hundreds of dollars on medications and lost thousands of dollars worth of sheep and unborn lambs in this process, all at the time of year that is hardest for us as we haven’t had income from summer markets in a long time. I am really hoping the deaths stop and we get some cute lambs in the next couple weeks to make this job a little easier. Thanks for knowing your farmer, in good times and bad.