Friday, February 25, 2011

Scours in Young Sheep and Goats

Scours is not a disease, rather it is a symptom of another problem. Scours is basically another name for diarrhea in livestock animals. Scours can be caused by many things, but because it dehydrates an animal, it in itself can be deadly and should be addressed immediately, especially in young lambs, and goat kids.

Scours is noticed often because the rump of an animal with be dirty with diarrhea. The lamb, or kid, may stand hunched up, look thin, hang its head, be lethargic and not interested in eating. An odor may be noticed if they are penned, and ideally their stool should be checked for signs of blood, if present a vet should be called to determine if the problem is bacterial, or the result of parasites, both of which will need to be treated.

In a pinch a sheep, or goat, keeper can treat scours with Pepto Bismol, or better still, Kaopectate (which does not hamper food absorbtion). Neither should be given for more than two days, and if the problem continues, or the source of the problem is unknown, a veterinarian should be called.

A healthy lamb!

We currently have two lambs with scours - brought on by the cold weather (-39C) chilling some of the lambs, as this can be a cause of scours in both lambs, and goat kids. 

In the summer an additional risk - Fly Strike - can be brought about because of the dirty bums attracting flies to lay their eggs, as such care should be taken to prevent flies on such animals.

More information on Scours in Lambs and Goat Kids

More information on Scours

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Triplet Lambs are Growing Up

If you are a regular reader,  you may recall one Barbado ewe had triplets in Januaray.  She was not producing quite enough milk and as a result we started bottle feeding one of her ewe lambs a few times throughout the day.  Well, as it happened the other brown sister also wanted to get in on the bottle action, so we shared one bottle between the two lambs.  Both were also drinking from their mother.  Their brother was much bigger in size, but the two ewe lambs are pretty much caught up to him now.

The two ewe lambs are brown, the ram lamb is white and even has small horns, the lamb furthest back looks extra small due to the angle of the picture but is the same size has her sister in front.

Now the lambs are just waiting for spring!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sheep Mutilation in Australia, Mulesing

Mulesing is the act of slicing off a dinner plate amount of skin from the rump of a Merino sheep lamb.  Mulesing is often done when the lambs are weaned, and only to those lambs that are going to be kept for breeding, not those going for slaughter.  The lambs are lifted into a holding cradle which holds their legs and puts their rump into the air.  The skin is pinched together and without any pain killers, or antiseptics (both of which cost money) the skin is sliced off.  The lambs are released to heal, which may take four months - some will suffer from stress, infection, or tetanus.

This practice is almost exclusive to Australia (with a bit done in New Zealand) and in the Merino sheep breed, as they tend to have more skin around their rump which, when woolly, can become covered in feces, and attracts flies.  The flies can be a real problem, laying eggs on the rump of the sheep, which hatch out to maggots that will eat the sheep alive, killing it, this being known as Fly Strike.

Mulesing is the cruel, and cheap, way Australian farmers deal with the problem of fly strike.  Crutching is a better alternative but needs to be done yearly.  Crutching involves shaving the wool only from that area, prior to shearing the animal later in the year.  Tail Docking also helps reduce problems with fly strike.

To Read More, and find out where to complain, please visit:

What are Mulesing and Crutching

Live Export Shame

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Elastrator Tool for Tail Docking and Lamb Castration

In sheep, both tail docking, and castration, are optional.  In some areas these are not done at all as they are seen as cruel, or unnatural.  Some meat buyers of certain cultures or religions prefer unblemished animals, meaning those that have not been altered in any way; they want full tails, and testicles, on the animals they raise, and/or buy.

We, at Kaleidscope Acres, do not dock our lambs tails, hair sheep not need this done, and we have never had problems with the wool sheep having natural tails either. 

The reasons for tail docking are so the fleece can be cut easier, and will be cleaner, as well there is less of a risk of fly strike.  Castrating sheep is done to make a ram into a wether, a sterile male sheep.

Tail docking, and castration, are often done to lambs, along with being vaccinated, around 3-5 days of age. 

In both cases there are a range of tools that can be used, one of which is the Elastrator, shown below.  The tool is opened to stretch out a small (special) rubber band.  Either the tail, or scrotum and testicles, are pulled through the elastic and it is released, pinching off the blood supply to that part of the body - which will fall off in a week or two. 

There are a few risks, one being tetanus, the other being if the rubber band is not placed correctly - if the tail is made too short the sheep could have problems (rectal prolapse being one).  If the testicles are not down into the scrotum they could be missed.

If asked about cruelty, I would have to say the proceedures are cruel, they may be necessary, but are still cruel.  The lambs do feel pain, if even for a short time.  Tail docking is not necessary in hair sheep, and even those which are hair sheep crosses, as the tails are often shorter than usual, and less wooly.  I would say that there are other methods of tail docking, and I do feel the elastrator is the least cruel method.

Related Sheep Links

Tail Docking in Sheep

What is a Wether?

Advantages of Hair Sheep

Fly Strike

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How Cold is Too Cold?

Yesterday morning, I woke up to temperatures that were -39C.  I went out to the barn and it was clearly too cold for the lambs to go outside.  I put the ram out, and the two ewes that are not due to lamb for a little while, then came into check the weather forecast on the Internet.

This is what I saw:
You will note that the Yahoo Weather chart seems to taunt me, showing the actual temperature at - 39C (roughly -38F) and tries to lighten it by saying it feels like only -38C!

Later in the day it got warm enough to let some of the more woolly ewes with bigger lambs outside, this being Diamond, Blackie, and Patsy.  Everyone else stayed in the barn (boring, but slightly warmer).  Of course they all got extra meals throughout the day.

I think they blame me for the bad weather, and refused to look at the camera for their picture to be taken.

A sheep keeper, especially when there are lambs, must be aware of the temperatures for the week ahead, and be willing to plan accordingly.  The ewes who are not doing as well should be kept in and fed extra, any with small lambs, young lambs, or even triplets, should be kept in, as should those who do not keep their lambs close.  Any ewes who are due to lamb should certainly be kept indoors in climate extremes. 

Lambs should be watched for signs of chilling, frost bite, or even pneumonia.  Sudden drops in temperature will also cause scours.  As I also keep hair sheep, I found that the hair ewes, and their lambs, needed to be kept in on this cold day.