Tag Archive for sheep

Healthy Sheep Feet

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.

Healthy Sheep Feet

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!

Ram Get Feet Trimmed

Elliot Is Getting His Feet Trimmed

Black Badger Face Border Cheviot Lamb

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

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.

Badger Face Border Cheviot Lamb

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 Lamb With Twin

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.
Good thing.
Because I’m keeping her.


How To Give Animal Injections

As a veterinarian, I’m always giving animals injections for one reason or another. I give vaccines, I give antibiotics, I give pain medications and other drugs.
Often when I’m treating an animal, I give owners instructions on how to administer the medication themselves so that they can continue the treatment. Many of my clients already know how to give injections, but sometimes I have to teach folks how to give injections.
Depending on what medication I’m giving the animal, the route of injection may vary.


2 Hereford Cross Pigs

What follows below are the two different types of injections I routinely have owners give to their animals.

SQ or Sub Q – This is short for subcutaneously. This means you give the shot under the skin.

IM – This is short for intramuscular. This means is a shot given in the muscle.

There are also IV (intravenous)injections. But I do not teach owners how to do these types.
Intravenous injections take a higher skill level to do. IV injections also carry a higher risk of complications especially if something goes wrong. Some drugs or medications will cause abscesses and extensive tissue damage if they leak out of the vein. If you should miss the vein and give a medication in the artery, the animal will go into seizures.

When giving SQ or IM injections, you must always draw back on the plunger to make sure you are not in a blood vessel and that you are not drawing air into the syringe.
If you do get air into the syringe, it means you’ve generally gone through the skin and back out again. You don’t have to draw the plunger back very far, just enough to know where you are.

Where to Give An Injection
Where to inject medication depends upon the species of animal and the preferred route for drug delivery.
Food animals tend to have injection guidelines based on meat and hide quality. Some medications can cause lots of muscle scarring which has to be later cut out of the carcass. Injections also may cause scarring in the skin which can devalue an animal hide.
Areas to inject are chosen for the ability of that particular spot to handle an injection.
The SQ space in some animals can handle quite a bit of drug volume. Muscles on the other hand can’t take as large an injection.
Muscle injection sites are chosen based on muscle size, animal comfort after the injection, and with consideration of the muscle value as a cut of meat.
Muscles should not be given more than 10 ccs (ml)of medication at one time.
Large volumes of medication for muscles need to be split into two or more injection sites.

What follows are the common farm animal species and where to give them injections.
I’ll try to hit the highlights and you can laugh and enjoy my drawing and tracing skills.

1. Horses – Many injections given to horses are IM. These injections are given either in the neck or less commonly in the muscles farthest towards the hind end. The neck is most often used because it is also safer for the person giving injection because they’re less likely to be kicked.

Horse Injection Site

Horse Injection Site

2. Small Ruminants – Sheep and Goats – Many injections given to small ruminants are SQ, but sometimes they are given IM. Small ruminants are considered food animals even though many people have them as pets.
The most common injection site for sheep or goats is right in front of the shoulder. This shoulder spot has loose skin which is good for SQ injections, as well as muscles for IM injections. Another spot for SQ injections in small ruminants is behind the elbow where the hair or fleece is thin. At this site it’s easier to find skin.

Sheep or Goat Injection Site

Sheep or Goat Injection Site

3. Cattle – Cattle are popular food animals. Even when a cow starts out in a dairy herd, she often ends up going to slaughter when her milk producing days are over. Because of this almost all cattle injections are given in the neck region. The neck region on cattle is a low value meat area and is not a valuable part of the hide. Both SQ and IM shots are given in this area. The one shot that is given differently is the antibiotic Excede which is given SQ at the base of the ear.

Cattle Injection Site

Cattle Injection Site

4. Swine – Pig and hogs are another popular food animal which some people also keep as pets. The ideal spot to inject a pig is in the neck, about 7 cm behind and below the base of the ear. Again, the area chosen for injections for pigs was decided based on meat quality and ability of the area to handle injections.

Pig Injection Site

Pig Injection Site

5. Camelids – Llamas and alpacas have gone up and down in popularity but are still quite numerous. Many folks have them as guardian animals or for fiber. Because camelids are fiber animals, injections can be a little interesting. There are a couple of places to give SQ injections. One is in front of the shoulder, and the other is behind the elbow, down where the thick fleece ends. Most injections in camelids are SQ. But should you have to give an IM injection, the recommended spot is in the muscles of the shoulder, above the elbow.

Camelids Injection Site

Camelids Injection Site

No matter what medication you are giving or where you are giving it, there are some things you should always do for cleanliness and animal safety.
1. Always use alcohol to clean off the tops of bottle. Use alcohol to clean a spot on the animal where you are giving the injection. This helps keep your medicines or vaccines uncontaminated, and it helps keep the needle from dragging dirt into the bottle or the animal.
2. Always use new needles going into a bottle (prevents contamination), and you should really only use one needle per animal. Sharp needles don’t hurt as much, and you won’t carry disease (like blood parasites) from one animal to the next.
3. Throw out contaminated bottles. This one can hurt, depending on the medication or vaccine. But what would hurt worse would be you injecting bacteria or fungus into your animals and causing abscesses or systemic disease.
So there are the main points about giving injections and where to give them. As always, if you have any questions, ask your local vet for help.
Dr. H

***Today’s post was authored by Dr. Risa Hanninen.
Dr. Hanninen is a 2013 graduate from Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.Her practice, Northwest PA Veterinary Service, is a mobile veterinary practice that stretches across seven counties in Pennsylvania and into eastern Ohio.

If you live in northwestern Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio you can contact Dr. Hanninen at (814) 573-7013

Retained Placenta in Sheep & Goats – Treatment & Considerations

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.

Planceta Expelled Within A Couple Of Hours After 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.

Sheep Plancenta

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 gently testing 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

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.

Ewe With Lambs

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.

Pick The Time Of Day When Lambs or Kids Are Born

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?
It’s true.

Sheep In The Snow

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.

Foot Scald & Foot Rot In Sheep & Goats

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.

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

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.

Try This Simple Trick To Make A Ewe Accept Her Lamb

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.

Ewe Rejects Lamb

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:

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.

Fat Dog In The Barn

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.

Poor Mothering

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.

How To Dock A Lamb’s Tail

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

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.

Banded Tails On Lambs

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.

Good Tail Length

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 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.

 Elastrator Pliers & Rubber Band

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.

Dropped Lamb Tail

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.

Band Is Applied

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.

Caudal Fold

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.