Sunday, April 01, 2007

Laurel isn’t so pretty

Last night, the farmer mentioned to me just before heading off to read his book “I’ve got a situation at the farm.” Okay now – what would you say?

Me, being the ever supportive wife, sensing his call for concern, said, “What’s the matter?”

His answer was “The sheep got into the laurel.”

Most people don’t have a clue what this means. Laurel is that pretty plant “mountain laurel” that grows in many suburban yards. In my mom and dad's yard in NJ, there were a few beautiful shrubs which we girls loved to hide in. In the spring when they were blooming, we would pick the individual blossoms and stick them to our ears – just hoping that one day, Mom would let us pierce our ears so we wouldn’t be stuck with the fading blossoms as earrings just once or twice a year.

Now, I know better. Mountain laurel is bad news for sheep. We have it in many places on our land – it grows wildly and beautifully. In the woods, away from the pastures.

But, then yesterday, the sheep had spring fever. They broke through the fences and started looking for green grass and anything else green. Some of them headed into the woods and started eating the laurel – unbeknownst to us.

By this morning when we went to check on them, one ewe had died and tonight it isn’t looking good for a few more. There are eleven that are visibly sickened. Their symptons are foaming at the mouth and vomiting. Luckily, they aren't pregnant and so their bodies may not be under too much stress. Luckily none of the lambs decided to take the woodland adventure.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Monday Morning Update: This morning we’ve got six sick ewes – the others seem to have recovered, thank goodness. I'll post more updates here tomorrow.

Tuesday Morning Update: This morning there are three ewes who are still feeling quite poorly. The fact that they are alive is a good sign. One of them is eating and all of them are on their feet. All three still look very ill.


deedledumpling said...

Oh Kristin I am so sorry. Poor lambies! Amazing how such a lovely plant can be so poisonous. I do hope no one else goes. Diana

Lisa said...

Oh how awful. I hope the rest of them pull through!

Cynthia said...

So sorry for your loss. I hope you don't lose anymore. As a veterinarian it is always tough to hear these kinds of stories. I feel for you.

Jan-Knit said...

So sad. We're hoping for the best.

bwilliams said...

We have the same problem with our Boer goats. Usually, they only become very sick, but don't die. The good news is that a goat (and I'm assuming this would apply to a sheep as well) that has recovered from eating these plants will not touch them again. Also watch out for rhododendron and boxwood, as they are toxic as well.

Dawn Brocco said...

Oh, the poor sheep. Hope they all get well quickly and remember NOT to go into the laurel. Seems like there's never a dull moment on a farm!

mary lou said...

Before I got to the sad part of your post, I was reminiscing about the mountain laurel in my childhood yard in NJ, and feeling sad that I can't have it here in Zone 4. I had no idea it was poisonous. I also wish I could order lamb from you. Here in MN I used to get lamb (and the lambskin) from a family with a small farm but they moved away. Now I can get it frozen at the farmer's market, but it was nice to have the personal connection. Good luck with yours.

Kathleen C. said...

I had no idea that Mountain Laurel was poisonous! I've always loved seeing it when I hike in the woods here (Eastern VA).
I hope the good recovery rate continues.

Baa Bonny Belle said...

Kristin, I hope you have passes anymore problems with the mtn laurel and the sheep. So sad for the ewe that didn't make it.

Kelly said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. So so sad.