As of Tuesday, we wrapped up lambing with 38 lambs on the ground.
Last weekend, we had a tragedy when I found a yearling spottie, Servilia, down and listless. We've never had anything like this happen before, so we ran her and her 17 day old ram lamb to the vet. Our vet ran blood tests and fecal tests and found her to be anemic from strongyles, a common and not very dangerous stomach worm. He dewormed Servilia and sent her home with instructions for supportive care and a 40% chance of recovery.
I spent the evening with Servilia, watching helplessly as she went downhill. I gently rocked Servilia's hips every few hours so she wouldn't bloat. At 6:00 p.m., Servilia rolled onto her side, stretched her legs out, gasped a few times, and passed away. Her poor little lamb pawed her side and cried for milk. He is now a bottle lamb and is doing just fine.
We are completely revamping our deworming protocol. I got some great advice from my fellow shepherds on "smart drenching" instead of blanket deworming. I also recieved some scary and sobering stories on a strain of worm called barberpole worm that is resistant to all the dewormers on the market. Any new sheep purchases will be fecal tested and if they carry barberpole, they will be culled. I don't even want to mess with that.
I am grateful that I have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other shepherds. Strongyles are not normally a big deal and since I've used Ivomec almost exclusively, I have other classes of dewormers that I can fall back on although other breeders are not so lucky.
It is a testament that the rest of our sheep are doing well. Servilia was probably an unthrifty sheep who should have been culled anyway. Nature stepped in an did it for us. Her full sister from last year, although perfectly healthy, will be culled along with all their lambs. I will make breeding for parasite resistance a top priority. I want sheep that can stay strong and thrifty while tolerating some worms.
We have always dewormed the same time every year, doing the entire flock with the same type of dewormer. It seems that blanket deworming is the worst thing that a shepherd can do. Rotating dewormers frequently is even worse!
The strong worms survive the deworming, and continue breeding strong baby worms. The new expert opinions say that it is okay to have worms, as long as they are not the resistant worms. You want to keep the wimpy worms around to dilute any strong worms. And just deworm the sheep that need deworming. Rotate dewormers only every year. We will also be making an easily disinfected quaranteen area for freshly dewormed sheep, so they will shed their worms in this area and not re-infect the pastures.
I was pretty shellshocked to have lost a ewe, but I received an education from the experience. I hope my experience gives other shepherds a reason to reflect on their deworming protocols before they too have either a loss like I did, or happen onto barber worms or a resistant strain of parasites.
So onward and upward... It's a beautiful day and I took some photos.
This is Twinkle's white ram lamb. This Bramble Dixen grandson might be my show boy this year. His full brother from last year, Lil'Country Damascus, placed at the Jefferson show. I do like white shetlands and this boy is sharp!
I am having a terrible time with the swivel tags we tried using on the newborns this year. We have several shredded ears already, some had the thick part of the poked halfway through the ear which had to be removed. I am cutting the tags out and replacing them with brass tags as I catch up lambs.
This is Sophia, an attractive and gentle crossbred ewe. I like this photo of her. She is for sale along with her black shetland cross ram lamb. I'm keeping my two purebred Clun Forest ewes, but do need to watch my numbers going into fall. I'm having a hard time deciding which ewe lambs to sell and which to retain. I'd love to keep them all but I can't.
Another shot of BabyBee's ram lamb. See that big crack in the calf hut? Our very last horned ram did that, the very day before he was picked up by his new owners. It's as if he was saying "here's a little thing to remember me by..." Little snot. Every time I look at it, I'm happy I don't have horned rams anymore. Josephine's smirslet ram lamb. I might keep this guy and test breed him, depending on how well he matures. I want to keep a ram or two by Silvio that may be full polled, as I intend on eventually selling all my half poll rams. Josephine is by North Wind James, a mioget. She consistantly throws polled ram lambs, microned at 21, and is lighter colored herself, so may carry mioget. She does carry spots recessively.
This guy is a smirslet, so might be of some value in my spotted line someday.
A clunland ram lamb out of Alice and by Boomerang.
Alice and her other Clunland lamb.
Now that lambing is finished, I can turn my attention to my next projects, our gardens and fruit trees. I am happy to see that all the semi-dwafts survived the winter. Last year, we lost all our cherry trees. We replaced them with plum trees and they are thriving along with our green and red apple trees, peach trees, and our small raspberry plot. The raspberries, in their third year, are finally starting to spread.
The ram paddocks were weedy from being overgrazed. We did a controlled burn, then tilled and re-seeded. We will subdivide them and hopefully have better luck by rotating them.
My garden is tilled and ready for planting. The rhubarb is coming up. We'll wait until after Mother's Day for most of the plants, although I'll put the potatoes in now. Our baby vineyard, planted last year, is in the background. Looks like about half the plants survived the winter but I don't think you're supposed to crowd them anyway.
Tom accidentally tilled up my 2 year old strawberry patch last year, but I'm going to put in another one and it will be huge!