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A creature of habit.

Everyone has probably heard how animals are creatures of habit. Well, I never realized how much until this week.

One of my best ewes, the only survivor from a great line, had her first lamb a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the lamb was extremely small (like first-timers sometimes are). Since we were concerned about the lamb's health, we moved the ewe and her lamb into a pen inside the barn.

After a few days, although the lamb thrived, the mother began to act unusually lethargic. I was very concerned, since last year we lost 40% of our ewes to a selenium deficiency, and they all started off the same way. By the end of the day she refused to eat, no matter what we coaxed her with.

After three days, we were really worried. She was getting weak from hunger, yet there was nothing we could do to make her eat. We even resorted to pumping her full of vitamin injections in order to keep her alive.

Finally, in desperation, I let her out of the pen, hoping that a little fresh air might help. She immediately ran, full-speed into the barnyard and began to nibble on the snow covering the ground. After a moment, she would spit it out, move over, and try another spot, and keep this up.

I was really confused. She couldn't have been thirsty; maybe she was in the last stages of mental collapse or something, I started to walk into the tackroom, when I glanced at the boxes of stale bread stored there. "Hey," I reasoned, "bread is white... snow is white... maybe ... ?

Sure enough, when I presented a slice of stale bread to her, she gobbled it down as fast as possible.

Here's what had happened: our semiretired neighbor drives a bread truck, and every day he brings home the day-old bread. Some he gives to his chickens, but the rest he brings to the fence and feeds to our sheep. Apparently, our ewe had missed the daily ritual of the bread-feeding so much, she simply stopped eating. Once I started giving her bread again -- by hand, mind you, just like the neighbor does -- she perked up immediately.

I am happy to report that mother and child are doing fine.
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Title Annotation:a sheep's feeding ritual
Author:Hoyne, Andreja Mateski
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:377
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