Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lamb Born With Unusual Coat

Just two days ago we had a lamb born on our farm that has an unusual coat.  The mother is a Barbado x Jacob sheep, she has wool and hair, but evenly mixed.  We do not know who the father was as we had a few rams at the time, I suspect an unrelated Barbado cross Dorset ram (due to the color) although we also had some Katahdin and Katahdin cross rams too.

The lamb was born outside in the afternoon and we got her into the barn within hours of birth. I thought she had a sort of gray color to the fur on her shoulders but then noticed that she looked almost bald there.  In fact the hair on her shoulders looked very fine and totally different to the hair on the rest of her body.

The lamb is one day old here, photographed with her mom.
Could she be a Chimera?  I know they can occur in any mammal.  Or did she just not grow proper hair in that area prior to being born?  I am keeping an eye on her to make sure that she gets more hair, or wool, there prior to going outside.

I have noted in the past that when I have a white Katahdin they often have orange in the same area and that it tends to look a bit different for a few days, although not "bald", which does make me suspect a Katahdin connection of sorts.

This photo was taken within hours of her birth
I should note we have had other lambs born earlier, none of whom exhibited any signs of having different hair.  I am very curious to know of other sheep keepers have seen the same thing on their lambs or know anything about hairlessness on newborn lambs?

Monday, January 5, 2015

So Many More Ram Lambs Than Ewe Lambs

What are the odds that out of 11 lambs only 2 would be ewes?

I have had 6 lambs born so far and only 1 was a ewe.  Somebody who bought 2 ewes from me has also had lambs born, out of the 5 lambs they had only 1 was a ewe.

It is the sperm from the father that determines what gender the young are going to be so I am wondering if the early breeding somehow predisposed things so that we would get more ram lambs born than ewes.  These sheep would have been bred in the middle of the summer in order to have lambs now, so I am not sure if that somehow affected the odds and caused us to have so many more males?

 I am wondering if there are any other people out there who have noted that the time of year when they breed their sheep seems to have any bearing on what gender the young are more likely to be.  Usually its a bit more of an even ratio.

Getting a high percentage of ram lambs would be great if I were strictly breeding for the meat market, because most of the buyers in my area want ram lambs for meat, but I am a sucker and prefer to sell my sheep as pets, so I prefer to get ewe lambs.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Surprise Triplet Lambs Born at the Wrong TIme of Year

On Sunday, November 23, I went outside to feed the sheep as usual.  We had known that at least one ewe was pregnant but did not expect lambs for another month at least (ideally later than that), so when I went out to feed them in the morning and found one ewe with triplet lambs following behind her I was quite surprised.  Especially since the weather had been below freezing and there was snow on the ground.

I got them into a stall in the barn and made sure they were okay.  They were already dried but the tails on two of them were frozen and I expect may fall off due to frost bite.  I tried to warm in my hands but it could have been too late.

After a day it was clear that the ewe, named Girlie, was not producing enough milk for all three lambs so I went to the feed store and bought a bag of lamb milk replacement formula which cost around $50.00.  I also bought more nipples for the bottles.

Two of the three lambs, the one in front is not being bottle fed, the one in back is.


I am currently bottle feeding two of the three lambs at least three times a day, four if I am home from work.  Unfortunately the weather only got worse, we have a huge amount of snow now and the temperature fell to -34 C (including windchill) which is about the same as -29 F.

The lambs are doing okay and I am monitoring the other ewes as well, it looks like 3 of them are pregnant too, so we have started giving them extra rations and bringing them in the barn for the night too (mind you with the cold temperatures I would have started to bring them in the barn at night anyhow).


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oh Gosh a Starving Stray Cat Has Shown Up At My House

The other night my daughter's boyfriend said he saw a fluffy (he thought it was black and white) cat run out of our garage.  Drat!  This meant that a stray has shown up on the farm and one thing we do not need is more cats.   We have five cats already (only one of whom we adopted).

The following day my husband was cleaning out the deep freeze, and found a couple of meat packages that had been ripped so he put them in a box and set the box on the deck so we could take it to the dump later.  It is below freezing here and we did not think the frozen meat would attract coyotes, but it did attract the stray cat.

I was just about to go outside and I noticed a fluffy tabby and white cat sitting at the box trying desperately to get some food.  I opened the door but the cat took off.  At that point I figured it was feral.  Later in the afternoon I spotted it again trying to get some meat but this time when I opened the door the cat did not run.  I approached it and patted it.  I went back inside to get it some cat food.

As you can see this poor cat is really hungry.
I do not want to bring the cat inside as we have plenty of cats indoors already and the oldest cat gets very upset as it is, and we do not know if this cat is vaccinated or anything about it.  I have plenty of sheltered areas outside and put more food outside for this cat.

It is definitely friendly so I assume it was a pet, perhaps abandoned, or scared off its home by coyotes.  I put up a poster at the mailboxes but so far nobody has called about this cat.  It is thin and so I am going to continue to give it extra canned food.

If nobody claims the cat then we will end up keeping it, but for now I do hope somebody calls and says "Hey that's my cat".

Here is information on what to do if you find a stray cat.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Trapping A Problem Skunk On The Farm

We have had skunks here before.  I remember one year seeing a mother skunk and her two little ones.  We had one skunk that would come onto our deck and help itself to the food we left out for the cats when they were outside.  None of these skunks were ever really a problem, and for the past couple of years we have not had any skunks around that I was aware of.

This year we were awoken at night by the nauseating smell of a skunk on more than one occasion.  I am not even sure what the skunk was spraying, they are usually very accurate but none of our cats was sprayed, nor where the sheep.  It seemed like this skunk was just "spraying" so I suspected perhaps it was a male marking territory.  I saw it a few times in the compost, and tried to scare it off, but the skunk just kept hanging around.

Finally I went and rented a skunk trap from the county office.  The charge was $5.00 a week.  I baited the trap with cat food (sardines also work well) and put it in the barn, shutting all the doors to the barn so the cats could not get in.  I knew the skunk was in the barn, it had a hole that it used to go under the tack room floor.

Skunk trap, with skunk in it.

After a couple of nights I did catch the skunk, so now all I had to do was to release it.

I should back up my story here a bit.  When I went to rent the skunk trap I asked the man what should I do with the skunk after catching it, he said to either hook it to my exhaust pipe and gas it to death, or to release it in the yard of somebody I dislike.

As I was not going to gas it, I drove it far away to a park.  I pulled over, set the skunk trap near the side of the road (I had tossed some cat food into the bushes for the skunk to hopefully find later) and waited for it to come out.  It took a few minutes before it moved and left the trap, scurrying into the bushes.

It is fall, and we are expecting good weather for a couple of weeks more so I do hope the skunk will use that time wisely to set up new accommodations before winter.

The skunk as it left the trap and made its way into the forest

According to the guy at the county office this year has been really bad one for skunks, he was glad I returned the trap as quickly as I had, some other people had skunk traps out for several weeks.

Skunks are cute and I have heard of people making them into pets, but this is illegal in my area, and mostly people have to buy them from breeders and cannot catch wild skunks and turn them into pets.  Other than the obvious problem of their smell, skunks are also known to carry rabies so caution should be taken around them at all times.

Just in case you have a dog that has been sprayed by a skunk, here is some information on how to get the smell of a skunk off your dog

Friday, October 3, 2014

What is Heartworm in Dogs?

Heartworm disease is a problem for dog owners worldwide but more so in warmer areas.  Many dogs are infected with heartworm and the owners are totally unaware until the disease is fairly progressed.   Do note that many herding dog breeds are extra sensitive to some medications used for heartworm.

Cause of Heartworm Disease in Dogs


Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis. This is a worm that is spread by mosquitoes and it is most prevalent in areas with large mosquito populations.

Dirofilaria immitis pass through several life stages, starting when they are sucked up as tiny larvae in the blood by a mosquito. The next time a mosquito bites an animal the larval worms, known as microfilariae enter a new animal and start to grow to a length of 12 inches. When these worms become adults they move to the dogs heart and that is when problems begin.

As the worms grow and build up the dogs heart becomes full of worms causing it to lose energy and will eventually kill the dog.  This is not an overnight problem, it takes months to progress to a life threatening stage.


Drawing by author ©

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in Dogs


-Coughing, particularly after, or during, exercise
-Lack of energy
-Vomiting blood
-Heavy Breathing
*It must be noted that less active dogs may not have any symptoms.

How is Heartworm Diagnosed?


A diagnosis can be made one of two ways. The most common method of testing for heartworm is by a blood test. The blood test can determine if a dog has microfilariae in the blood and adult worms in the heart. The test is often found to be most effective if done in the early spring.

X-Rays will also show if worms are present in the dog's heart or lungs.

Treatment of Heartworm in Dogs


Once diagnosed there is no guarantee that the treatment will cure the dog, but without it the dog will certainly die.

The veterinarian will want to determine how infected the dog is and if there are other problems that may become issues when treatment is started, such as a risk of heart failure, and liver or kidney failure.

The veterinarian will try to kill the adult worms using twice daily injections, for two days, of an arsenic compound.

The dog must be kept resting, and inactive during treatment. The concern is that the dead worms will circulate and cause other problems. If the dog is allowed to rest its body will absorb the dead worms.
The veterinarian will ask to recheck the dog, usually three weeks after treatment and again the following year.
Treatment for heartworm is both expensive and risky, as such prevention is very important.

Prevention of Heartworms in Dogs


The only way to really prevent heartworm in dogs is to prevent the dog from being bit by mosquitoes, otherwise medications which are said to prevent heartworms are not really doing that; but they are killing the larval heatworms that may be in the bloodstream, and as such are preventing the adult heartworms being a concern. 

There are several products, both oral and topical, for prevention of heartworm. Every dog owner should discuss the level of risk in their area and what are the best prevention methods. Again, the risk of heartowrms is lower in colder areas.   Also remember that some herding breeds, including Border Collies, are sensitive to some medications.

It should be noted that all canines are at risk of  heartworms (in case a person owns an exotic canine such as a Fennec Fox) and cats can get them too. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Selling Lambs via Private Sales

As there are no regular sheep auctions near me and as I only have a few lambs (so not worth it to drive to a farther place where there are regular sheep auctions) I sell my lambs privately if I can, taking them to the odd and unusual sales if I cannot.  I prefer the private sale, you get the money yourself (no worries about unknown prices and commissions) and there is less work.

I have had ads for my lambs for sale for a while now and had only a little interest.  However since yesterday I have had at least 4 people call and ask about the ram lambs for sale.  One person has already come for two, others have asked if I would hold them until this Friday, or next.  I generally do not like "holding" sheep for anyone, even if they pay in advance, it is just not worth the hassle.  So many times people insist they are coming and do not show up.

I have had people say they would send me the money in advance, but what if they do, and then something happens to the sheep I have reserved for them (a coyote, or if they suddenly cannot make it to pick the sheep up).  There are also lots of scams in which supposed buyers pay by check, then cancel the check, or make an "overpayment" and ask you to give them cash back due to their "error" then cancel the check too!

Now my rule is cash only, first come, first serve, I will not hold sheep for people, nor take advance payments.  If you want it, get here, pay for it, and take it!

Ram lamb in front, some of my older ewes behind.

Some buyers come prepared, with a couple people to help load. That is always the best, or at least people should ask if they should bring help.

I have had people call and ask if they can butcher the animals on the farm, even though my ads always say they cannot.

I have had people call and ask if they could "fit the sheep in the back of their SUV" to take it home!  When I say "NO, he has horns and will break your windows", they say "but we will tie it up!".   Of course I would not allow an animal to be transported like that.

For sure selling sheep privately, off the farm, is easier in some ways, but there are complications a person needs to be aware of when selling their own animals and not using an auction market.