Punky: A Pennsylvania Farmer’s Compassionate Decision Brings Nine Sheep to Live at Farm Sanctuary

Thanks to the compassionate decision of one man and his wife, Punky and her friends are living the good life at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter. This man, a long-time sheep farmer, raised his animals next-door to OohMahNee Farm, an animal sanctuary in Pennsylvania. Curious about the sanctuary, he and his wife started spending time there, getting to know the staff and animals.

The more time the couple spent next door at the sanctuary, the more they changed inside. They began to see animals as living, feeling creatures, rather than tools of production. They started building relationships with their own sheep and realized that farm animals do feel joy and pain, and that they do have their own interests. They learned, first-hand, that animals enjoy life and fear death, just as people do.

When the farmer and his wife helped raise and bottle-feed two fragile, newborn lambs who had been abandoned by their mother, they felt closer to their animals than they ever had before. When they witnessed the stillbirth of a lamb, or saw one of their flock taken by a predator, they allowed themselves to feel sadness. Most importantly, the farmer and his wife no longer felt comfortable sending their animals to slaughter.

The farmer and his wife were both impacted by time spent at the sanctuary. When they spoke to each other about their own animals, they knew it was time to make a change. They decided to get out of the sheep businesses – right away. They knew getting out was the only option; they could not bear the thought of sending even one more precious soul to the slaughterhouse.

The farmer and his wife did not sell their herd of sheep. Courageously, they risked their own economic well-being, and surrendered all of their 145 animals into OohMahNee Farm’s custody, expecting nothing in return. They also donated a portion of their own land, a tractor and baling equipment to the sanctuary. By opening their hearts to compassion and extending their mercy to animals, this kind couple saved 145 lives. In the process, they also transformed themselves.

Due to the influx of sheep at OohMahNee, Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter gladly took in nine of the sheep to provide them with lifelong care. Once the sheep were at the shelter, caregivers were surprised to find out that all six of the female sheep were pregnant! They were also underweight when they arrived. Knowing that malnourishment in pregnant ewes can take a toll on unborn lambs and cause difficult pregnancies, we kept a very close eye on the expectant mothers, fed them good, nourishing food and hoped for the best.

Update 02/10/05
On October 22, 2004, Punky gave birth to two beautiful lambs named Aedan and Addison. The two boys were born healthy and strong, and were very excited to discover everything they could about the big, new world in which they had arrived. Punky and her sons spent many happy weeks here at our New York Shelter before being adopted by a kind couple in Hector, New York. Now, all three will live out the rest of their days in peace and comfort with loving, vegetarian parents.

After Aedan and Addison were born, we created a maternity ward of sorts in our sheep barn and moved the remaining mothers-to-be into that area. Keeping the expectant mothers in this private suite allowed us to keep a close eye on them and provide them with medical care during their pregnancies. The location of the new “ward” also gave us the freedom to close the mothers in the barn at night, avoiding the risk of a baby being born outside in the cold.

A little over a month after Aedan and Addison were born, a ewe named Olive gave birth to two beautiful girls, Grace and Dore. Both were born prematurely and were very tiny as a result, but thanks to their doting and protective mother, they thrived. Olive recovered quickly after their birth, and all were thankful that her delivery had been an easy one.

Unfortunately, another ewe named Savannah, did not have such an easy pregnancy or delivery. Just days after Grace and Dore were born, Savannah fell and injured herself. At first, we thought Savannah was only bruised and sore, but when she did not show signs of improvement in a few days, we decided to take her to Cornell University’s Veterinary Hospital. Radiographs taken at the hospital revealed that she had ruptured the cruciate ligament in her knee, and her doctors told us that surgery was the only option to repair her leg. Not knowing how far along Savannah was in her pregnancy, however, we could not risk inducing delivery so that we could go ahead with the surgery.

Seeing that Savannah’s injury was causing her discomfort, we kept her at Cornell for several days. The pain she was experiencing had caused her to stop eating, and doctors began to fear that she would develop pregnancy toxemia from lack of nutrition. They kept her on IV drugs, fluids and nutrients as a precaution, and on December 12, she gave birth to three lambs. Bonnie was the first to be born and the strongest. Next came Marlene, a very weak and tiny lamb, born with low protein levels. She received a blood transfusion from her mother to gain strength, and gradually improved. Jeanne, the last to arrive, was born nearly 30 minutes after Marlene, and was totally unexpected, because she had not shown up on earlier sonograms. The deliveries went well for Savannah, despite her injury, and she was happy and rested easily after the births.

Five days after Savannah’s girls were born, Taylor, the youngest female sheep in the flock from OohMahNee, gave birth to a baby girl we named Isabel. Such a young sheep herself, and one who had never given birth before, Taylor seemed almost surprised to have a baby. Soon, though, while gazing down at the tiny brown and white lamb next to her, her motherly instincts took over and she proudly accepted Isabel as her own.

The day after Isabel was born, we had yet another birth here at our New York Shelter. A ewe named Tallulah, who seemed to have the largest and most pregnant belly from the very beginning, gave birth to Libra, Marcia, and Sweetie. Sadly, Sweetie was stillborn, but the other two lambs were healthy. An older sheep, Tallulah was likely used to breeding multiple lambs and having them taken away from her to be sold, so we were not surprised to find that she was very protective of Libra and Marcia. She stomped her foot at us if we got too close to her babies, so we gave her plenty of space to be alone with the lambs.

Finally, Midge – mother to Taylor (Isabel’s mother) and a nine-month-old lamb we named Graydon – was the only ewe left who had yet to give birth. Excited to help Midge welcome her offspring into the world, we stayed close by her side and monitored her condition. To our dismay, just days before she was to deliver, she collapsed and seemed very close to death. We immediately called a veterinarian out to the farm to see what could be done. The doctor diagnosed her with milk fever, which is a dangerous and sudden loss of calcium caused by the onset of lactation. To our relief, by quickly restoring the calcium levels in her body, we were able to get her up again right away. Two days later, she gave birth to two boys. One of the boys was stillborn, but the other was healthy. We named this little angel, J.J.

Two days after J.J. was born, his mother got sick again, and was soon to be diagnosed with a very dangerous condition called Ovine Ketosis. We were forced to rush her to Cornell, leaving little J.J. without a mother to care for him. We quickly moved J.J. into our new hospital facility, where Savannah and her triplets were living. J.J. made friends with the triplets right away and Savannah took care of him as best she could. She did not, however, have enough milk for her triplets, let alone for another baby, so we bottle-fed J.J. while his mother was away. During this time, he grew very attached to his caregivers, running to greet them at feeding time, and even curling up in their laps to sleep.

Midge recovered well here at the farm after a rather lengthy stay at Cornell, but never showed interest in her son J.J. after she returned. She did, however, immediately attach herself to her older son, Graydon, and to Taylor, leading us to believe that she was unaware that J.J. was her lamb. Despite this, J.J. continued to thrive, bonding with many of the other sheep and lambs in the flock and gaining healthy weight. Thanks to a special dog coat he wore to keep warm, he was able to spend even cold winter mornings running and frolicking with his friends.

Savannah successfully weaned her lambs and underwent surgery to repair the ruptured ligament in her leg. She recovered here at the farm in a pen next to her lambs, where she was able to spend time with them but avoid injury during her rehabilitation.The rest of the mothers and lambs remained cheerful and healthy in the months following the births of the babies. Happily, a very kind family in Henry, Virginia agreed to provide a safe, permanent home for seven members of the flock, including Midge, Graydon, Taylor, Isabel, Tallulah, Libra, and Marcia. The rest of the flock will live out their lives here at our New York Shelter.