My Barn: A Life Or Death Experience

Show-Me Life

What would an animal activist do?

Published on: March 20, 2013

During lambing season, I make my morning trek to the barn to see if we had any additions over the nighttime hours. I look forward to enjoying the sights and sounds of newborn baby lambs.

Then there are those mornings when you crack open the barn door and realize--today will not be that day.

After identifying a ewe having difficulty delivering, I find myself at the backend trying to assess the situation. First, there is the visible sign that there is no water bag, just remnants of the uterine wall. Second, there is a foul smell. And third, there is just one hoof. Realization sets in that I will be helping deliver a dead lamb.

I settle in to begin the pulling process. Then I hear my youngest daughter, who is holding the head, start talking—to the ewe. "It's alright girl," she says. "We are almost done. You are doing great. Just hang in there. I know it hurts. Just a little more. I am so sorry. It will be over soon."

It is quite a humbling experience, given that on more than one occasion this ewe has run her over in the pen, drug her to the show ring and stamped her foot at her when she nears the gate. Needless to say, this was not my daughter's favorite animal in the barn.

I find legs and a head, but the lamb is too large for this first time mom. It's shoulders are stuck. My husband comes and helps pull. Once we finally have the lamb free of the ewe, my daughter gently releases the ewe's head.

I collapse to my knees. Arms shaking. Head hanging. Tears flowing. And then, I feel a nose brush up against my face. I look to see that same ewe just staring at me. All I can say is "I'm so sorry girl." And she nudges me again. I look up only to see my daughter backed up against the fence, fighting back her own tears.

It has been an emotional morning. And while washing my hands over the kitchen sink, I realize that if there is one thing agriculture has taught my daughters it is how to show compassion in life and in death.

Early lessons
I credit their involvement at young age in agriculture organizations like 4-H for teaching them the value of life and the finality of death.

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  1. Diana Stornetta says:

    I've been lambing out 50+ ewes every year for 40+ years. You nailed exactly how I feel everytime I walk into that barn during lambing season. I can't tell you how many life lessons my daughter's learned in that same barn. Many lessons that have made them the compassionate caring young women they are. I too wish that the animal activist would just spend a day in my shoes and then tell me I don't care and love my animals sometimes more than I care for myself. I spend many long nights in the barn sitting with ewes, feeding bottle babies, helping ewes through the first critical moments with their lambs. Thank you for your great article! Even though I live this on a daily basis - it still brought tears to my eyes. Glad someone else sees things through the eyes of our animals.

  2. Michelle Wade says:

    Love this story. I, too, have cried over a difficult birth that ended with a ewe without a baby. Never thought of the animal rights activist take. My thought on animal rights activists has always been that I AM the animal activist. I believe in humane treatment of animals. And unlike the people protesting, I am actually helping animals to live safely and well cared for.

    • Mindy Ward says:

      Well put, Michelle. That is truly what farmers do on a daily basis. Thanks for sharing that perspective.

  3. sue duncan of facebook says:

    Mindy you have done such a wonderful job with your children....I have a feeling you also where taught the same kind of love

    • Mindy Ward says:

      Sue, without a doubt! From an early age, my parents displayed a love of animals, love of family, love of community and love of people. I believe that is a legacy many farmers and ranchers pass on to their children as well. Thanks.

  4. Kristie says:

    So wonderfully stated. I sat and cried as you described the scene in the barn. I have been the daughter growing up in that situation and the mother with her own children in that same situation. I and my children understand that in life there is also death. It is, however, LIFE that generally out-weighs death on the farm. Without life there would be no next generation. Thank you for a wonderfully 'described' scene from many farmers lives!

    • Mindy Ward says:

      I agree that life out-weighs death on the farm. Thank you for reminding me of that fact. Truly that is why we farm--to bring life to the land and livestock.

  5. Jan Case says:

    As I read this blog post my coworkers are wondering why I am crying at my desk. Very well written eloquent recount of the sad reality that some do not make it. Most of my coworkers read the daily news blast, then they try to recount the heinous actions that one human has taken against another at that point I plug my earphones in and read agriculture and farm blogs, Thank You for sharing.

    • Mindy Ward says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read farm blogs. Sorry to create tears in the workplace. But, as ag writers, we appreciate being a part of your day.