Monday, May 17, 2010


In two and a half hours, we vaccinated and wormed 75 lambs and 50 ewes. It was a record for us. I think the big difference was using a pour on form of ivermectin as the wormer instead of an injectable. Dave used to catch every ewe and either hold her against the wall, or take her down on her side so that I could inject the wormer. Worming and vaccinating the entire flock could take all day. This time, Dave walked up to each ewe, squeezed the wormer bottle to move a measured amount of wormer into the cup, then turned the bottle and cup upside down and let it drain onto the ewe’s back. Then I squirted red Kool Aid onto her back to mark her so we wouldn’t worm anybody more than once.

The lambs were more work. Dave caught and picked up each lamb while I injected the appropriate amount of wormer into a little tent of skin under their hind legs. Then I injected 2 cc.s of a vaccine against overeating disease, a bacterial overgrowth of their gut that can cause fatal diarrhea.

We always vaccinate our sheep. I know of shepherds who don’t, but I’ve also had lambs die from Clostridium perfringens infectons and I don’t want to ever see that runny yellow diarrhea again.

I’ve also had to clean up ewes that developed fly strike because of diarrhea. Sheep pick up worms when they graze. Most pastures that have been used in the last several years have worm larva living in the grass. As the sheep eat the grass, they ingest the worms. The worms multiply in their gut, and if they aren’t kept under control, cause horrendous diarrhea. The diarrhea can, at worst, starve a ewe to death, or cause an imbalance of her electrolytes leading to heart problems. At best, the diarrhea coats the sheep’s tail, bottom and hind legs. Flies lay their eggs in the feces. The eggs hatch into maggots and the maggots eat through the feces and right on into the sheep.

Fly strike can kill a ewe just because she feels too bad to eat or drink. However, there is a solution albeit an unpleasant one. The shepherdess grabs the ewe, lays here on her side and kills the maggots with alcohol. The last time I found a ewe with fly strike, I told Dave how much I dreaded touching the maggots, hoping he would take care of it for me. He very thoughtfully suggested that I wear surgical gloves!

The surgical gloves actually did made it a tolerable job as long as I squinched my eyes shut so that I couldn’t feel or see what I was doing. After I scrabbled all the maggots out of her wool, and washed away all the feces, I sprayed her with fly repellant and wormed her again.

It probably only took thirty minutes to clean up that ewe who had been missed when we wormed. But my life would have been just as meaningful and considerably more pleasant without that experience. And so now we vaccinate and worm our animals and see it as time well spent, no mater how long it takes.

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