“Is he still with us?” someone nervously asked as the blanket was peeled back to reveal an almost frozen and lifeless newborn lamb. With his feeble body still covered in amniotic fluid and his wet and bloody umbilical telling us he was only hours old, little Connor rolled his head ever so slightly and gave us both an answer and hope. Working to warm his moribund form, our every being was set to fulfil the promise mother nature had offered—a life truly worth living. Warming the lamb was our first and foremost task as frozen colostrum was thawed. With a lamb as weak as this and unable to suckle, our only option to introduce life-enhancing nutrition was by direct stomach tube, something we have sadly had cause to do a zillion times before. And then we waited.
Hypothermia, not disease or predation, is one of the greatest killers of wee lambs here in Australia. In 2012, “The Australian” newspaper reported that an estimated “15 million lambs die in Australia a year within 48 hours of birth; equal to one-third of the 42 million breeding ewes in Australia all losing a lamb every year”. They go on to add: “Most newborn lambs die from exposure to cold weather, usually at night, or a lack of shelter and food. Some are abandoned by their mothers; others are too small to survive, usually when born a twin or triplet”. And all-too-familiar sight, whilst traversing country roads in Victoria during the winter months, are lifeless white bundles of wool dotting paddocks; equally tragic, they will remain there until the ravages of time and foxes mean they are seen no more.
Such figures of needless death of innocent babies are daunting in anyone’s language; that is why we here at Edgar’s Mission firmly believe the language we must speak is one of kindness. Kindness for all regardless of form. Precious are these babies and vulnerable they may be, but they are resilient. And little Connor was to prove no different. In a matter of hours, he was able to stand, and thankful were we that it was not only his body that rose, but so too did his temperature. Another stomach tubing, then the determined little man said, “I’ll take it from here” as he seized the teat in his delicate lips and sucked in the sweet and delicious fluid with all the gusto and pluck a little lamb could muster. This was to give him the greatest boost for a strong and robust life he could ever receive. Each day now, Connor never ceases to amaze us with his gentle and affable nature, and he stands testament to the powers of warmth, kindness and a full belly. Rock on little guy, rock on!