Elliot, my Border Cheviot ram has pretty good feet. His hooves haven’t been looked at in over a year and really don’t need too much trimming.
Good Feet Need Little Trimming
I live in a very wet climate and often to deal with soggy pastures. Over the years I’ve noticed over that sheep with black hooves tend to do better on wet ground than sheep with lighter colored hooves.Wet ground can lead to foot scald in sheep and leaves the hoof susceptible to foot rot.
Some of the sheep breeds with light colored hooves are Dorset, Merinos and Polypays. Sheep with light colored hooves do very well in dry climates.
So the next time you’re thinking about buying sheep, keep in mind the kind of pasture or ground the sheep will be standing on. You’ll save yourself and your sheep a lot of trouble.
Now aren’t you glad you know that!
Spring has finally arrived here in western Pennsylvania!
Daffodils are beginning to bloom and lambing season is finished. For the most part this year’s lambing season went smoothly.
But there was one big surprise.
An unusual Badger Face ewe lamb was born about 10 days ago.
The ewe lamb is a twin out of two registered Border Cheviot parents. Her sister is white and her mother is one of my oldest ewes.
It’s recessive genetic throwback.
In Border Cheviots there is a recessive gene for black. Sometimes purebred Border Cheviot lambs will be born with a black patch or born completely black.
Lamb With A Black Circle Around His Eye
But an extreme reverse Badger Face?
In over 25 years of breeding Border Cheviots I’ve never seen anything like her before.
In fact when I first saw her, I was left completely speechless and dumbfounded.
A Black Border Cheviot Ewe Lamb With A Badger Face
My new Badger Face Cheviot lamb is marked similar to that of a Torwen Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep. Badger Face Welsh Mountain sheep are from Wales, United Kingdom, and come in two distinct types: the Torddu and Torwen.
The Torddu variety is mostly white with a distinctive black underbelly and black eye stripes.
The Torwen is the opposite. They are mostly black with a white or beige colored belly and smaller white eye stripes. The Torddu type is about three times more common than the Torwen and is known as the Badger Face.
Sadly my little Badger Face lamb is being picked on by a couple of the adult ewes.
Because of her coloring she’s not recognized as a natural part of the flock.
Believe it or not sheep do notice color and distinctions. In fact given a choice, sheep prefer to mate with other sheep of their own face color. More than just people are racist.
Badger Face Border Cheviot Lamb With Her Normal Marked Twin
Her mother is protecting her and doing a pretty good job of keeping her away from the main flock.
Hopefully some of the adult ewes will grow to accept her and she won’t become too over shy.
Just yesterday I noticed she was jumping and playing with some of the other lambs.
So there is hope that all will be well for her.
Because I’m keeping her.
Normally after lambing or kidding, a ewe or nanny will expel the afterbirth or placenta within an hour or two.
But sometimes the placenta can be stubborn about being released during the cleansing phase of lambing or kidding.
Normally The Placenta and All After Birth Is Expelled Within A Couple Of Hours After Lambing or Kidding
In sheep and goats a placenta that does not evacuate the uterus after about 12 hours or so is known as a retained placenta.
There are several possible reasons for retained placenta in small ruminants. Too much grain, low quality hay, a overlarge lamb or kid; lack of exercise, nutritional deficiencies, premature birth, stillbirth, abortion and infection are all associated with retained placenta in livestock.
Retained placenta is usually no cause for alarm as long as a few simple guidelines are followed.
Normal Sheep Placenta Shed Shortly After Lambing
It’s is safest not to try to manually remove the placenta.
Often the placenta is completely retained and there is no sign of it.
But sometimes the retained placenta will be seen hanging out of the vulva. After 12 hours or so, little harm will be done by very gentlytesting the adhesiveness of the placenta. In such cases if the placenta doesn’t readily flop out of the ewe or nanny after a very slight tug – leave it alone.
What is important to remember is that the placenta is attached to the uterine wall by disk-shaped cotyledons. If you try to pull the placenta away from the uterus before it is ready to be shed, you can injure the ewe or doe and run the risk of adversely affecting her future pregnancies.
Pulling on the placenta also increases the chances for bleeding and infection.
The best course of action is to prophylactically protect the ewe or nanny with an antibiotic and keep a very watchful eye on her.
In ewes or nannies that have retained their placenta, I use 10- 20cc of injectable penicillin (Penicillin G Procaine – 300,000 units per ml) via a SQ or IM injection every 48 hours until the placenta is released.
Injectable Penicillin G
Most often the placenta is sloughed away within 3 – 5 days and the ewe or nanny will go on with life as if nothing happened.
Border Cheviot Ewe With Lambs
If the nanny or ewe should go off her feed she may need an injection of Dexamethasone as a supportive therapy. Dexamethasone is a synthetic analogue of prednisolone. It has a similar but more potent anti-inflammatory therapeutic action than prednisolone and is available only on the order of a licensed veterinarian.
Gosh it’s cold outside!
Hypothermic lambs and kid goats can become a real problem in this kind of weather.
Throughout much of North America, the record cold is interfering with the health and well-being of many early season neonatal lambs and goat kids. Lambs and goat kids can take quite a bit of cold as long as they are well started, stay dry and get plenty of nourishing milk from their mothers.
But sometimes a new-born lamb or kid will suffer hypothermia because of inadequate mothering, a lack of regular feeding or simply because the lamb overslept and forgot to eat in extremely cold weather.
Hypothermic lambs and kids will die if not attended to immediately.
Hypothermia is the leading cause of pre-weaning lamb and kid goat losses in this country. Many deaths can be prevented with a few simple tools and a basic understanding of how hypothermia kills. Hypothermia is a condition where the core body temperature drops and the body’s vital signs begin to weaken. Heart rate and respiration decreases and the metabolism slows down.
A Mildly Hypothermic Lamb
Past a certain point, the digestive system cannot help a lamb or kid overcome hypothermia. Without energy delivered properly and directly into the core of the body in the form of glucose, brain function is impaired and results in a continuing weakness, confusion, drowsiness, coma and the eventual death of the kid or lamb.
This Hypothermic Lamb Will Die Without an Intraperitoneal Injection of Glucose
What follows below is information you may need to know to save a little life. If you are a new shepherd or goat keeper what I’m going to recommend may scare you. I encourage you to put your fear and apprehensions behind you. Do what you must do. Because if you don’t your hypothermic lamb or kid goat probably will die.
Thermometers and a Keen Eye Save Lives
That’s no hype or exaggeration. Nothing takes the place of good observation in cold weather. A very mild hypothermic lamb or kid goat can often be found before things take a turn for the worse. Mild hypothermic kid goats and lambs will commonly have a characteristic humped up look or will sometimes be off sleeping alone in a corner.
Such lambs and kids can be fed a little extra and warmed up without too much risk. The judicious use of a rectal livestock thermometer can save thousands of little lambs and goat kids. If you don’t own a livestock thermometer you need to get one. A human thermometer will work in a pinch. When I take the temperature of a goat kid or lamb I lay them across my lap. A thermometer is easily inserted with a little spit from me or Vaseline. I keep the thermometer in place for about 3 minutes. I’ve found it helpful to tie a piece of string or dental floss to the end of the thermometer so it doesn’t get “lost” while in service. I’ve never had this happen with a lamb, but it can happen with a big animal.
Normal Temperature for Lambs & Kids
Normal body temperature in healthy lambs and kids is 102 °F- 104°F
Moderate hypothermia is 99°F – 102°F
Severe hypothermia is below 99F° – and your lamb or kid is in serious trouble.
There Are Two Stages of Hypothermia & Two Different Treatments In Lambs or Kids
When treating your lamb or kid for hypothermia you need to understand which treatment is appropriate. Lambs and kids under 5 hours old have a special type of internal body fat that will keep them safe for a few hours depending upon the air temperature. Lambs and kids older than 5 hours have used up the supply of internal fat that they were born with and cannot be treated the same way. If your lamb or kid has a body temperature of 99°F – 102°F and can still hold its head up and suck and is under 5 hours old, warm sheep or goat milk is all you’ll need. About ½ cup fluid (120cc) every 3 or 4 hours by bottle or stomach tube is right for a medium breed of sheep; a little more for large breed sheep. Warm milk replacer works well but is expensive. Should none of those options be available to you, and while it is not ideal for lambs or kids, cow’s milk will work (raw is best) in an emergency. Melt about a tablespoon of butter per ½ cup (120cc) of whole milk or diluted canned evaporated milk. If you do not have butter on hand, find something else that is 100% animal fat – tallow, lard, chicken fat, bacon grease or whatever. No Crisco, vegetable oil or margarine. Make sure the milk is warm before you feed it. About 100° F– 105°F is perfect. If your lamb is fully conscious and can hold its head up, but cannot or will not suck, and its temperature is between 99°F – 102°F you should stomach tube the milk mixture.
Stomach tubing is an easy to learn skill and is a life saver for just about all neonatal farm animals. A thermometer and a stomach tube used correctly will save more neonatal lambs, kids and calves than any other thing I know of. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a basic homesteading skill. To use a stomach tube is really quite simple.
Stomach Tube For Lambs & Kids
Here’s how to do it: You’ll need milk, a Mason jar or pan and a large 60cc syringe with a stomach tube or catheter.
While sitting on a bale of hay or a bucket, lay the lamb across your lap or hold it between your legs. I do this well out of the sight of mamma sheep.
Have the warm milk ready in a Mason jar or pan.
Remove the catheter/tube from the syringe.
Dip the end of the catheter into the warm milk to moisten it. Now insert the tube in the corner of the lamb’s mouth. Gently pass the tube all the way to the stomach. The distance varies but is about 7”-11” in most breeds of sheep. If the tube doesn’t go in but a few inches or the lamb starts to struggle you are probably in the lungs and need to remove the tube and re-insert it. When a feeding tube is properly inserted the lamb will remain relaxed and will not struggle.
Draw a full 60cc syringe full of warm milk. Place the syringe onto the end of the tube. Slowly depress the syringe to a count of 10.
That’s all there is to it. To remove the tube, pinch it tightly between your thumb and forefinger and remove it very quickly. You don’t want any drops of milk to accidentally aspirate into the lungs.
If the lamb or kid cannot hold its head up and its temp is 99° or below or is unconscious DO NOT use a stomach tube or bring the kid or lamb into the house or try to warm it up in any way. You could kill it. You should give an intraperitoneal injection of glucose.
Intraperitoneal Glucose Injection
An intraperitoneal glucose injection is an injection of glucose directly into the abdominal cavity of the lamb or kid. The lamb or kid can no longer create energy via the digestive system. It must have glucose. It is the best way to save the life of a lamb or kid that is older than 5 hours and has a body temperature of 99°F or less. You must give glucose before warming the lamb because the lamb or kid may die from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
If you do not know how to give this injection get your veterinarian to do it or teach you how to.
If you can’t get a veterinarian fast enough here’s what you need to know to do it yourself. Be brave. It is very scary the first time you do this on your own. Just remember your lamb or kid is almost dead and you have nothing to lose and maybe everything to gain.
Here’s How to Do It
The needle size must be a 1” X 19 gauge used with a large syringe. A longer needle could nick internal organs and shorter needle will not reach the space in the peritoneal cavity. A 60 ml syringe works well.
Dextrose For Hypothermic Lambs or Kids
You need to use a sterile 20% glucose solution. You can dilute a 40% or 50% glucose or dextrose with sterile water if necessary.
The rough dosing is as follows:
50 ml for a large lamb or kid
40 ml for a medium lamb or kid
30 ml for small lamb, kid or triplet
If using 50% glucose or dextrose boil the water to sterilize it before mixing. For a large lamb or kid goat, draw up 20 ml of 50% glucose or dextrose into a sterile syringe. Now draw up 30 ml of sterile water.
The water can be very warm – in fact it works better if it is. You want the glucose solution to be slightly above normal body temperature -104°F- 108°F when it is actually injected.
Hotter water keeps the solution from getting too cold by the time you make it up and get back to the barn. I keep the syringe warm in the barn by keeping it under my clothes and close to my body until I’m ready to use it.
The injection site on the lamb is located 1/2″ to the side and 1″ down below the umbilical cord stump.
Be sure to have the warm syringe ready in hand before you pick up the kid or lamb. Hold the lamb or kid up by its forelegs in front of you while you lean against a wall or bales of hay. By holding the kid or lamb in this way the liver and other internal organs are dropped out of the way of the needle.
The lamb or kid probably won’t struggle much or at all. But you do need the lamb to be completely limp before you inject the glucose. Wait a few minutes if you have to for the kid or lamb to go limp. With an unconscious kid or lamb this isn’t an issue.
To give the injection when alone, first steady yourself firmly against a wall or bales of hay. Take the cap off the needle and insert the needle straight on and directly into the belly aiming slightly towards the tail or butt. Very slowly release the plunger on the syringe. That’s all there is to it.
Now it is safe to slowly warm the lamb or kid back up. The lamb should receive a course of antibiotics for 5 – 7 days. I use a long acting penicillin. But you should consult you veterinarian for the proper type, dosage and his/her recommendations for the appropriate antibiotic in your area.
One of the most practical sheep management tools during breeding season is the use of a ram marking harness. A ram marking harness is a small harness typically made of nylon or leather that holds a square colored crayon.
Ram Being Fitted With Marking Harness
The way that a marking harness works, is that a colored crayon is attached to the front part of the harness and is centered over the ram’s brisket or chest area. When a ram with a properly fitted harness and with a temperature correct crayon mounts a ewe, the color from the crayon is transferred onto her rump.
By monitoring the backsides of any given group of sheep it is easy to determine which ewes have been bred. Most ewes will deliver approximately 145 – 149 days after ram service. A note on a calendar indicating the service day records the breeding and helps to calculate when a given ewe can be expected to lamb.
Marking harnesses are available in 2 or 3 sizes to accommodate the various breeds of sheep; and marking crayons are manufactured in differing degrees of hardness. Marking crayons are temperature sensitive and the proper crayon should be selected according the expected weather conditions during breeding season.
Hard crayons are used during hot weather for temperatures of 85°F and above. Medium crayons are for mild weather of 60°F – 85°F, and soft crayons are for use during cool weather breeding when temperatures are less than 60°F.
Marking crayons come in a several colors and are used in a few different ways.
A Ram Working Wearing A Marking Harness
One way is when 2 or more rams are working in a single group of ewes. When two rams are working together each ram wears a different color crayon marker on his harness. This system is most often employed for 50 or more ewes.
Another way that crayon marking is helpful is when space is very limited. By observing the backsides of ewes 4 or 5 times a day, a ewe can be removed from the group after she has been marked if necessary.
When ewes are run with two or more rams there’s no way to determine the sire of her lamb(s) if a ewe has been marked by two or more colors. With grade sheep it’s not a problem and the extra ram power is an advantage. But this method should never be used for registered sheep or when the offspring may need to be papered.
When using a marking harness it’s important to be able to distinguish between a “jump” smear and a good, solid breeding mark. Often a ram will attempt to mount a ewe who will not stand for him and he will leave a faint smear or streak of color on her backside or flank. When a ewe has been honestly bred by a ram wearing a marking harness the mark is quite distinct.
Ram Covering A Ewe
Different color crayons are helpful when trying to determine if ewes are pregnant or if ewes need to be re-bred or to determine if a ram is possibly sterile.
Most sheep are naturally polyestrous short-day breeders. Active estrus in a ewe lasts for approximately 24 – 36 hours and it is the only time that she will stand to be mounted by a ram.
Without human intervention like sponging, a ewe will begin a normal estrus cycle every 15 -17 days when daylight hours begin to decrease in the fall.
(sponging is a method of altering a ewes natural cycle by using hormones saturated on a tampon like sponge that is inserted vaginally for a few days and then removed)
By changing the crayon color on the harness every 16 – 18 days, it is possible to observe if a particular ram is re-breeding ewes. If he is re-breeding most of the ewes, he probably was temporarily sterile when he first was turned in with them. Some rams are very heat sensitive and can end up sterile or with a low sperm cell count for many weeks after a summer heat wave. Most heat sensitive rams will recover fully once the weather turns cooler. A ram can also be made temporarily less potent if he is asked to service too many ewes at one time. 30 – 35 ewes is about a much as a fully mature and experienced ram can handle.
There are many different reasons why a ewe may not get with lamb and settle after the first tupping (tupping is the term for copulation in sheep) and it’s not unusual for a ram to have to re-service a few perfectly normal ewes out of a large group during subsequent estrus cycles.
Back in the old days before there were marking harnesses and colored crayons, sheep breeders would paint the brisket of their rams daily with a mixture of linseed oil and different colored pigments or lamp black (soot).
It was a low tech and much messier way to record sheep breeding activity, but it sure enough got the job done.
Bottle jaw is the vernacular term given to pendulous lower jaw swelling in sheep, cattle and goats.
The swelling is a soft tissue edema cause by anemia. It is characteristic in animals that are carrying a heavy load of blood sucking internal parasites – better known as worms.
A Bottle Jaw In A Young Ram
Most often in sheep and gaots, the worms are haemonchus contortus often called “barber pole worms” because of the red and white twisted appearance in large female worms. But other worms, namely ostertagia circumcinta and trichostrongylus colubriformis can also cause a bottle jaw.
What you need to know about bottle jaw is that if you see it in your animals you have a serious problem and must act quickly.
That’s especially true in sheep because most often the first sign of a heavy intestinal parasite load is a sudden death.
A Sudden Death In A Nursing Ewe Due To Barber Pole Worms
In sheep, cattle and goats the symptoms of worms can also include diarrhea, weakness, weight loss or thriftiness. All or none of those symptoms will sometimes also accompany a bottle jaw. The best test for worms
in sheep and goats is the correct use of a FAMACHA card system.
The treatment for most common worms is simple.
First check around to see what wormers work in your local area. Internal parasites can and do develop drug resistance.
Here’s what I do:
First administer a wormer.
Confine the animals for 24 hours after worming so they can pass out the dead worms. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water.
Release the animals onto clean ground or pasture that has had no livestock for at least 2 months.
Repeat again in 10 days.
At present in my area Cydectin or Ivermectin are effective by injection, drench or pour on. I believe both wormers are off label for goats but are still used. Eprinex , Dectomax, Prohibit, Rumatel, Nematel, Strongid, Tramisol and Valbazen are all good wormers but may have drug resistance where you live. There is drug resistance in my area to Panacur and SafeGuard.
Not all wormers are the same so be sure to read the label and pay attention to the milk and meat withdrawal times.
Did you know that the way a pregnant ewe or nanny goat is managed can influence when she will lamb or kid, and how quickly she’ll lamb or kid?
A Group Of Pregnant Border Cheviot Ewes
The time of day that a pregnant ewe or nanny goat is fed can influence when she will lamb or kid and how quickly she’ll lamb or kid.
Sheep and goats tend to lamb 6 hours prior and 6 hours after the time of their grain or main feeding. Knowing this can be of great benefit to those who would prefer to avoid late night or early morning lambing and kidding.
If you prefer lambing and kidding during daylight hours, feed your ewes and nannies around noon. It will result in most lambs and kids (70%) being born between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Also ewes and nannies tend to begin active labor when there is less human activity going on around them.
Human presence can slow down active labor so much that I personally make it a habit to leave the barn when I see an animal in labor.
Without me in the barn a ewe or nanny is able to get on with her business without the stress of the boss constantly watching over her.
The ewe in the picture below has sore feet. Her kneeling stance is typical of either foot scald or foot rot. The ewe to the right of her, who is lying down, also has sore feet.
Kneeling Is Typical For Sheep and Goats With Sore Feet
All foot problems in sheep and in goats should be investigated and treated as soon as possible. There are lots of different reasons for sore feet and foot rot isn’t always necessarily one of them.
But lameness in more than one sheep or goat is a red flag. Two or more limping sheep or goats is cause for an immediate evaluation of the entire flock or herd. Don’t ignore it or waste any time investigating the cause. I treat foot problems the same in both sheep and goats. For the sake of simplicity anything that goes for a sheep – goes for a goat except where noted.
Foot rot is an infectious and very contagious disease in both sheep and goats. Foot rot is caused by the interaction of two different anaerobic bacteria – dichelobacter nodosus and fusobacterium necrophorum.
Foot scald while not as serious as foot rot, can be just as painful and if not treated promptly can lead to foot rot. Foot scald is caused by the opportunistic interaction of fusobacterium necrophorum and another bacteria corynebacterium pyogenes during wet weather or damp conditions.
For the sake of better understanding, we’ll call the different bacteria, Bacteria #1, #2 & #3 for short, and make the words hoof and foot, toe and cleat interchangeable.
Fusobacterium necrophorum (#1) is a normal bacteria from the digestive tract of sheep and other ruminants.It can live up to 10 months in the soil. In wet weather fusobacterium necrophorum (#1) has the opportunity to interact with corynebacterium (#3) to produce foot scald.
Foot scald is an infection of the skin between the toes of the hoof and is the precursor to foot rot. Mud is the perfect vector for the above bacteria, and is easily packed in and squished up between the toes of the hoof when sheep are on wet ground. Keeping sheep on wet ground is a perfect recipe for foot scald even in sheep that are not genetically susceptible. More about genetic susceptibility later.
Once the hoof is compromised with foot scald, dichelobacter nodosus (#2) can begin to invade the foot. Dichelobacter nodosus (#2) produces an enzyme that destroys the connective tissue between the horn (the hard part) and tissue of the foot and allows the migration of bacteria under the horn. Once the bacteria are under the horn of the hoof it reproduces rapidly in the anaerobic environment. The bacteria are protected from air under of the hard covering (horn) of the hoof.
This is one of the reasons foot rot can be difficult to treat. It’s hard to actually get to the bacteria.
In my experience the best way to treat foot rot or foot scald is with isolation, a foot bath, trimming and Liquamycin -LA 200. It’s an injectable oxytetracycline solution. For dairy goats please consult your veterinarian before using LA-200 or discard milk and strictly observed milk withdrawal times.
LA-200 & A Syringe
Here’s what works for me:
First isolate the sheep into 2 groups -the limpers and the non-limpers. The two groups will be treated differently. Set up a bath for the non-limpers and make them walk through it.
Hold the sheep in the foot bath by a gate or hurdle if possible for a couple of minutes or so. After the foot bath move the sheep immediately onto fresh clean, dry ground.
Watch the sheep very carefully over the next week to make sure that none of them are limping even slightly. If you find another limper, move them immediately to the other group.
There are all kinds of products for foot baths, but a mild Clorox solution is what I use and recommend. Chlorine bleach is cheap and it is readily available.
The foot bath mix is 10 parts water to 1 part Clorox. If you don’t have a special trough for a foot bath or only have a few sheep, a plastic bucket with the bleach solution will work fine as individual or single hoof foot bath. Just stand each hoof in the Clorox solution for about a minute.
Don’t forget to wash your footwear too. Boots and shoes that have walked over contaminated ground will spread foot rot. That’s why it is so important to change your shoes before you go into the barn or pasture after you have returned from the sale barn, auction or from visiting another farm.
Now back to the limpers. Confine all limpers onto a heavy bedding of fresh clean straw and proceed with the treatments below depending on whether or not you have foot scald or foot rot.
Examine and trim all 4 hooves – not just the lame one. The hoof with foot scald usually looks moist between the cleats (toes) and is slightly reddened. Clean out any packed in debris and wash between the toes. Next apply between the toes, a light coating of LA 200 with a syringe that has had the needle removed.
To fill the syringe, draw the LA 200 up into the syringe with the needle attached and then remove the needle. LA 200 is runny and can be hard to control where it goes. Drip and drizzle the LA 200 over the entire interior wall and skin between the toes. Any place that looks moist or inflamed make sure that it gets well covered. After treatment, keep the sheep on clean dry straw for a week. A difference in limping will probably be noticed within 24 – 36 hours. LA 200 applied directly to the scald is an extremely effective treatment for foot scald.
The hoof with foot rot will have a foul smell. You can’t miss it. The hoof will sometimes look crumbly, soft or will peel away. Sometimes the bulb at the back of the heel will be over soft, white or spongy. Sometimes the hoof will be bloody.
Clean and well trim all 4 hooves. Try and trim the hoof so that a line of white or faint light pink can be seen around the fresh trimmed rim of the hoof. Try not to over trim or the hoof will bleed. Using the same treatment for foot scald, apply LA 200 directly to the foot with a syringe that has had the needle removed.
Next with a clean needle attached to the syringe, give a 10cc IM injection of LA 200, divided into two 5cc doses, into two different injection sites. Be aware that LA 200 is an extremely painful injection -it really burns. Expect bucking, rearing up and general carrying on from your sheep when you give it.
Keep treated foot rot sheep on dry clean bedding for at least 7 -10 days before they are turned out again. Do not let the sheep return to infected pastures or paddocks. Dichelobacter nodosus (#2) can live on pasture for up to 14 – 22 days.
Once the disease mechanisms involved are understood, both foot rot and foot scald can be prevented and eradicated with careful flock management. Genetic Susceptibility
Any breed sheep or goat can end up lame given the right conditions, mismanagement and bacteria. As a rule sheep with black hooves are less prone to foot rot. Fine wool breeds or sheep with white, pink or striped hooves are much more prone to foot problems and don’t do well on wet ground. Polypay, Merino, Dorset, Finn, Rambouillet and Columbia breeds of sheep have given me problems in the past. I think if my farm was drier they would do better for me.
Some individual sheep and Angora goats particularity seem to have a genetic susceptibility to foot rot. I have often wondered if it is not some type of innate immune system problem. I just don’t know. But what I do know is that sheep or goats that show a susceptibility to foot rot or foot scald and don’t respond well to treatment should be culled from the flock or herd and their offspring not kept for breeding.
Every once in a while for whatever reason, I’ll get a ewe that doesn’t want to properly mother her lamb or lambs. In sheep it is vital that within the first minutes after delivery, a ewe see, smell, hear, taste and touch her newborn lamb(s).
A strong ewe/lamb bond is formed by those behaviors. Any post-delivery interference between the ewe and her lamb(s) can upset the natural course and cause the rejection of lambs or poor mothering behavior.
This Ewe Refused To Accept One Of Her Lambs
It’s worth mentioning that a ewe that experiences a relatively easy delivery sometimes will not have as strong a maternal instinct as the ewe that has had a harder labor and delivery. The intense pressure of the lamb in the birth canal immediately before the full delivery of a lamb stimulates a ewe to accept her lamb.
Sometimes with an easy birth or twins coming quickly together, an inexperienced ewe will become confused. Often she will accept one lamb at the expense of the other. But sometimes both lambs are poorly mothered.
There are a few different tricks that I use to convince a ewe to accept her lamb(s). Each situation is different and requires an careful evaluation of the circumstances. But easiest trick I know of is called:
BRING IN THE DOG
Often the presence of a dog will encourage a strong protective instinct in a newly delivered ewe. The size of the dog usually doesn’t matter. Typically the ewe will stomp the ground or sometimes attempt to butt at the dog. Frequently she will direct her lambs behind her to protect them.
Any Dog Can Help A Ewe Accept Her Lamb
With a ewe that won’t allow her lamb to nurse, a dog into the barn, takes her mind off the lamb and puts it directly on the dog. This distraction buys time and allows her lamb to nurse. Once the lamb has nursed and ingested some of her milk, the ewe will recognize the lamb from the odor of its rear end. The lamb is now officially hers. If she doesn’t accept her lamb after 3 hours or so I will repeat the procedure.
With a truly stubborn or recalcitrant ewe I don’t hesitate to halter and tie her stoutly to a post; or stanchion her in a dairy goat head gate or hobble her back legs. I then tie a dog securely to another post or object to within 8 feet of her. I never leave the ewe and the dog alone. But instead find work in the barn while the dog and the ewe sort things out. Even the most wayward ewes will usually settle down and accept her lambs within 8 to 12 hours.
Accepting Her Lamb Because A Dog Is Present
First time mothers tend to give more trouble than older experienced ewes. I do make exceptions for them and will give them another chance. But for ewes that cannot or will not be convinced to get on with motherhood, the best course of action is to promptly cull them from the flock. Good mothering in sheep is hereditary. No sense in breeding bad mothers.
All lambs born on my farm get their tails docked. There are many different ways to accomplish tail docking and it varies by location, culture and tradition.
Tail docking (shortening of the tail) is usually done in the United States to protect sheep against blowfly strike.
Sometimes when young lambs or adult sheep are on lush grass or are wormy, their manure becomes loose and it will coat their tails, read ends and back legs .
3 Day Old Lamb
When the weather is warm and humid, a wet, dung coated sheep tail and backside is an attractive breeding ground for flies and is the perfect environment for them to lay their eggs. When those fly eggs hatch, they quickly turn into maggots that tunnel into the sheep’s flesh. Because sheep are so woolly and fluffy it can be hard to see what is happening. Often by the time a shepherd realizes there’s a problem maggots have been slowly eating the sheep alive. Blowfly strike can be fatal.
Lambs With Newly Banded Tails
Tail docking causes transient pain.
But experience has proved to me that the benefits of tail docking far out weigh any temporary discomfort to the lambs.
Over the years there has been much discussion about proper tail length. At one time very short tails were the fashion in show rings across the U.S.
Thankfully now a days most sheep producers will concede that no good comes from too short a tail.
It is generally agreed upon that whatever method of docking is employed, the tail should be shortened to just beneath the caudal tail fold.
A reasonable tail stump is one that is long enough to allow the sheep to “switch” their tails to keep the flies from biting their tender parts.
A sheep’s tail should be long enough to cover the anus in rams and the vulva in ewes.
Border Cheviot Ewes With Proper Tail Length
There are a few different methods of tail docking. Each has a particular advantage and drawback. The two most popular methods in the U.S. are banding and amputation.
Amputation is done in many different ways and I believe it is the most prevalent method worldwide. Tail amputation is the preferred method to reduce the incidence of tetanus. With amputation a lamb’s tail is cut between the vertebrae with a sharp knife or scalpel. Care must be taken with older lambs. Sometimes excessive bleeding is a problem, but usually it can be controlled and stopped with a hot iron or a clean rag applied to the stump.
A few people who I know who use the amputation method here in western Pennsylvania, heat bolt cutters until they are red-hot and then cut the tail off. The heat from the bolt cutters cauterizes the tail stump and prevents bleeding.
THE BANDING METHOD
The method I use and the one that I think is the simplest for beginners is the banding method.
The banding method is bloodless.
With the banding method a heavy-duty rubber ring is placed over the tail with special pliers called an Elastrator.
An Elastrator Pliers & Rubber Band Used For Banding Tails
With the band applied, blood circulation is cut off to the part off the tail beneath the band.
The tail will wither and drop off of its own accord in about 10 – 14 days.
A Dropped Tail From A Lamb
The banding method carries with it the risk of tetanus. That’s one of the reasons for ewes to be current with their booster shots before lambing. Neonatal lambs are protected from tetanus via the colostrum milk from their mothers
A tetanus antitoxin shot should be given to unprotected or at risk lambs at the time of their banding. And all lambs should be healthy and well started before having their tails docked.
With banding, I think the ideal time is when a lamb is between 48 and 72 hours old.
A lamb older than 7 days should not be banded in my opinion.
When the band is applied to the tail there is pain for the lamb, but within 30 minutes or so the pain appears to subside.
When I dock tails I hold the lamb between my knees and lift the tail.
Applying The Band Just Below The Tail Fold
I then place the band on the tail just below the caudal fold and roll the band off the elastrator with my thumb and forefinger.
The Caudal Fold On A Lamb’s Tail
Sometimes the bands are very stiff and hard to remove from the elastrator on to the tail, but in general, it goes very easy. Just remember that it’s always kinder to leave the tail a little longer than shorter.
Here’s a video I made that will show you how to dock a tail and how to insert a swivel ear tag.