Monday, September 29, 2008

The curious tale of Wun Hung Low.

Back at the end of March, when our first three lambs were born, Gabrielle was away and I didn’t feel capable of embarking on castration—for the first time and on my own—using rubber bands put in place with an Elastrator (see pic). One places a rubber ring on the pliers, squeezing the handles opens the ring, two tiny sheepy bollocks are pulled through and the pliers released. The lamb may exhibit some discomfort for a small amount of time but thereafter seems not to bother. As the testicles grow, they are strangulated and soon drop off, painlessly ... allegedly! Our sheep are half the size of a regular farm sheep and so you might imagine how small their balls are aged one week (it’s not appropriate to use this method when they’re any older than this). Our friend Renée has encountered a difficulty with one of her own lambs this year, it becoming evident, some months later, that only one testicle had been trapped by the ring, the other growing to full size, giving him the comportment, and “firing power” of a normal ram. She called him “Womble” aka One-Ball. (The Wombles see pic, are stuffed furry characters in the eponymous children’s TV show of the 1970s.)

Having missed the one-week window of castrating opportunity, we were obliged to wait some five months later, when the vet would be able to use yet another set of pliers, called a Burdizo (see pic) to squash the connecting tubes (thus, more correctly a vasectomy). The day (4th August) arrived but not Dr Mouhli, rather his equally competent but very slight female colleague. My job was to hold the poor lamb by its rear feet, his head trapped between my knees, leaving his tackle exposed for the crushing ministrations of the vet’s Burdizo. The problem was, when the pliers were open, the vet couldn’t get her small, lady's hand around both levers to operate them. I understood the problem and wanted to help. The vet was crouched in front of me with the pliers in her lap. Delicately, so as not to cause alarm, I reached for the pliers … a slight confusion, then relief when she realised what I was after. I let her guide the head of the Burdizo over the target area and when she nodded, I squeezed. The lamb wiggled (male readers should now empathetically close their legs and inhale through clenched teeth) and a long minute ticked by before the pliers were released and the whole procedure repeated for the other side. Job done, the vet did tell us to let us know if it hadn’t worked and she, or Dr Mouhli, would redo it.

I remember thinking at the time: how we would know that it hadn’t worked? I have now the experience to tell you. We have four male lambs together in one field. One arrived this year, with his mum but without his testicles. He has therefore not developed horns and has grown less quickly than his testosterone-powered mates. One of the other three now has longer horns than the other two and has started being a bit more aggressive. Hmmm … a whiff of testosterone methinks. So, the other day, I decided to upend all our male lambs and have a look at their undercarriages. Sure enough, the aggressive tiddler with longer horns has got one small ball (correctly vasectomised) and one huge one.

So there you have it: the strange but true story of “Wun Hung Low”. I shall phone the vet tomorrow ...