A terrible day

I think today may well be one of the worst I’ve experienced as a crofter. I lost one sheep and will probably have to have another put down in the next few days.

To tell the story, I have to go back 2 weeks. When we were dipping, we noticed one of my sheep had a burst eye. The vet came over, gave her some antibiotics and cleaned it up a bit. He said in the ideal world, the eye would be taken out as it could cause problems but it could be a danger to the sheep to put her under general anaesthetic so we left her as she was and she looked like she was improving

Anyway, today we were taking all the sheep home from one of the village parks, where they’d been since dipping

As soon as I went into the park, I noticed that one of my sheep was acting strange. I recognised straight away that she was blind. As soon as I got closer, I saw that her eyes were clouded over and quite swollen. I phoned the vet straight away, as I guessed it was probably related to the sheep with the burst eye.

We got them all into the fank and checked the rest of them over, it looked like there were 5 or 6 others displaying the early symptoms of the eye problems.

Here is the blind sheep.


The vet came shortly after and had a look. I can’t remember what he said the problem was but it is a contagious eye infection which they can sometimes pick up from eating silage. I don’t feed my sheep silage so she must have picked it up somewhere else.

The treatment for this is an injection into the eye lid


Tony the vet injected both the sheep’s eyes. The left eye looks to be too far gone to regain sight, but there is an outside chance the right one may recover. The treatment should work within 3 days and hopefully she’ll have some sight in the right eye, otherwise she’s a goner.



We then went through the pens where the rest of my sheep were and injected the eyes of 5 or 6 of them. They were all showing symptoms, either clouding over, or discharge from the eye. They should all make a full recovery. This is when things took a turn for the worse though. We discussed the sheep with the burst eye and decided to have a look at it, seeing as Tony was over anyway.

We caught her and noticed that things had got worse, a cavity about an inch behind the eye itself had also burst and there was a bit of a mess. Again, the prognosis was that it would be best if the eye came out. Tony and I deliberated over it for a while and I agreed that we would remove it. Instead of general anaesthetic, she was to be sedated and then local anaesthetic applied to the eye. This would lower the chance of things going wrong – but there is always a risk.

We took the sheep into the barn and were going to use the freezer as the operating table. We waited probably fifteen minutes for the sedative to kick in but as soon as it did, that’s when things went wrong. Tony lifted her up onto the table and it was then that it appeared that she had a heart attack.


I had popped out for a few minutes and came back in just as Tony was realising that she had stopped breathing. Her heart was beating but she wasn’t breathing at all. We tried a few cheat compressions but it wasn’t long until the heartbeat became irregular and stopped completely.

So that was it. A sheep that was only 18 months old and as lively as can be half an hour before was now dead. I felt terrible at the time, and still do. I think it’s a feeling of guilt and maybe letting the sheep down. She may have gone on to lead a healthy life if we’d left her – but she may also have picked up multiple infections in the eye and suffered a lot.

I felt a bit for Tony too, definitely put his day/week on a downer but these things happen and I don’t blame him at all, it just didn’t work out.

I’ll bury the sheep after work on Monday, as it was getting late-ish when we’d cleaned up and I wasn’t really in the mood to do it anyway. I just hope that there won’t be another sheep to do on Tuesday, should the other sheep be left blind in both eyes.


  1. Hi from Ireland, it sounds like you did the best you could. You would have felt worse later if you didn’t try to do something about it and the sheep suffered. Sounds like you really care for your animals. Tioraidh an drasda.

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