Yesterday, I did our own springwork on the flock. 32 sheep were gathered up, ewes in one pen, rams in another.
Unbred ewe lambs were gathered up first, given their CD&T shots, dewormed with Valbazan (double dosed per our vet's instructions), had their hooves trimmed. While I performed this maintenance, I checked their general condition, their eyelid color, and their bite.
Next came bred ewes. I did not want to tip them for hoof trimming, so I vaccinated them and checked their eyelids and body score. I will trim their feet and deworm them in the jugs after they lamb. Fleece samples were collected carefully off the last rib from select individuals more micron testing.
Finally, I gathered my rams and gave them their CD&T shots, dewormed them with Valbazan, and trimmed their feet. I flipped the yearling rams. The larger rams I crammed in a corner, leaned on them, and trimmed their hooves like ponies. I was concerned about being "popped" by another ram while I concentrated on working with each ram, so I glanced up often and kept a close eye on the rest of the rams the best I could while I worked. No one offered to charge me, or so much as nod his head at me. I did have my shepherd's crook with me, they really respect that crook! They are such good boys! I love love love my rams.
I didn't try to collect fleece samples off my rams at this time, although I will soon. Scissors, rams, my head eye level, soft abdomens, my soft eyeballs...sounds like a bad combination.
Damascus is my biggest, heaviest ram. What a beast! He must weigh 150 lbs. Pullo is a big boy, too. Yes, I still have Pullo. The person who bought him last summer backed out last month, and I can't decide if I should ship him to market or put him back up for sale. His build is narrower than I like, much like his sire. He's a little "tall" for my tastes, but I don't think that makes him a cull. I like everything else about him, and he is soft for a black. I won't rush to make a decision on him. I'll micron test him again, too.
I'd love to have a fellow Shetland shepherd come down and help me evaluate my flock, if you are every down this way.... :)I am happy to say that everyone is in good condition, with dark pink to rich red eyelids, and a good layer of flesh over their ribs. Even the bred ewes, who have not been dewormed since last fall. Everyone is alert, active, and healthy.
I think that perhaps Nightwatch was simply an individual sheep who didn't handle a modest worm load very well. His white eye membranes were my only clue to this. It happens. It happens in Shetlands, it happens in many other breeds. Some individuals will always be stronger than others. I did get a lot of enjoyment out of having him here, and his mules will be on the ground in a few short weeks. I can't wait to see what they look like!
Last year, I culled very heavily sheep that I felt were not able to handle internal parasites. I also culled their lambs. Our flock is about 2/3 as large as it was this time last year. So I've got a pretty good group of strong animals now, and I'm confident we'll have a better year. We will also be proactive with coccidiosis this year and will knock that down as well.
I'm getting to bursting with excitement for lambs! I've started checking Arabesque and Queen Anne frequently. I don't know if Octavian settled Queen Anne early, but it looks like he didn't get Baby Bee. Ah well.
I'm also walking the pastures looking for the first signs of horse nettle. I'm going to spray this stuff very aggressively while it is still small and see if I can't wipe this invasive weed out on my property. I did a pretty good job in the last few years on the bull thistles, now on to the horse nettles.
I'm feeling optimistic and very at peace with my little flock. It's gonna be a GREAT year!