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Sheep unsure about new steps

sheep friendly path and steps

Some time back, we connected our hill paddocks with the orchard next to our house. We like having the sheep close by. It’s what we call the ‘lambing paddock’, mainly because we built a lambing shed there. Really, it should be the ‘orchard paddock’ as it is home to our apple trees, all protected from sheep nibbling.

sheep friendly steps
sheep friendly steps

One problem with this path is that, at the paddock end, it’s quite a high step up. We did put down some bricks and hard core to make it easier for the sheep, but over time they have dislodged said bricks and scattered the hard core. Nicole recently noticed that some of them were struggling to get up. Short legs and a barrel shaped tummy can do that for you.

So, this week, after fencing off the damp corner (to the right) and planting it with trees, I started on building them a step. Using large, stable concrete blocks, I worked out an arrangement that would allow them to step up easily. I poured concrete into the gaps and topped it off with road scalpings. A rough surface will stop it getting too slippery in the icy winter days.

Of course, just as I was finishing the pouring in of the concrete, the sheep came down to see what I was up to. I had to turn them back before 76 hooves tore the new steps apart. Sheep hurdles were hastily erected to give the concrete time to dry.

Today, I led the sheep down so they could have a look. Selene, the flock matriarch took one look and turned round to head back up the path. She doesn’t like anything new, that one. It was left to Yogi, her granddaughter to make the leap. She took a couple of sniffs, then wandered up happily, wondering what all the fuss was about. Once she was up, the rest followed, each showing different levels of suspicion and hesitation.

Selene has, since, been observed standing at the gate studying the new structure intently. We’re wondering if the sheep might be in the lambing paddock for a while, at least till Selene decides the steps are no longer ‘new’.

Selene sees new steps for the first time
Selene sees new steps for the first time
Selene turns away from new steps
Selene turns away from new steps

 

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A new product for the shop!

Gifts for sheep lovers - Witchy & Yogi lamb original acrylic painting
Matty bottle feeding Lisa

My younger brother Matty often comes to visit us, he loves spending time with the sheep and when we haven’t roped him in to help us build or fix something, (in return for lots of homemade cake and cups of tea of course!) he loves nothing better than to wander around taking in the scenery and enjoying the peacefulness of the surroundings.

Matty leads a busy life, he lives in Buckinghamshire where he works as a yoga teacher. He is also an artist, and when he isn’t doing headstands or handstands he’s generally to be found knee deep in paper and paintbrushes.

I love Matty’s work and a couple of months ago I thought how lovely it would be if we could offer sheep portraits painted by Matty in our shop.  After all, everybody needs a sheep picture in their home!

So I asked Matty if he might be interested and he said he’d be delighted.

So, after some intense weeks of organising things, we’re absolutely bursting with excitement to announce that the “Auchenstroan Coloured Ryeland Sheep Portraits” are now available to purchase from our shop!

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Yssi gets flystrike (note to reader, story ends happily 😊)

This summer has been long, hot and dry (most unusual for Scotland!)  This has been great, mostly, who doesn’t love the sunshine?  It lifts the spirits and the long evenings we have up here can be appreciated at their very best.  On a sunny day, it can stay light and bright until 10pm at night!

But as always, when you live so closely connected to the land and keep livestock, the weather plays an important part.  A long, hot summer, while being great for the spirits and for saving on housework, (no mud = less hoovering) the dry weather can also bring problems; namely, water (lack of), and flies (flystrike).

Our water supply which is a spring up on the hill ran dry in June so we’ve been topping it up from the burn.  It’s not ideal, but we can manage, we pump it up every morning from the river and are careful with our usage.  We know that soon enough, autumn will swish in with an attitude and we’ll be getting our wellies out again, the spring will fill up and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Flies also love warm weather.  The Scottish speciality – the midge, particularly so.  But while midges are annoying, coming out to party in huge swathes at dawn and dusk, getting in your eyes, your ears, your mouth and having you running back indoors to look for your “midgie net”, apart from being irritating, they are pretty harmless.

The other local hoodlum, the “cleg” is similarly irritating and seems impervious to attempts to swat it away.  If a cleg manages to bite you, (which it generally will!) you’ll know about it, but again, clegs are nothing to lose sleep over as long as you have a tube of bite cream handy.

It is the blowfly (aka the greenbottle) which gets the prize for being a level 10 pain in the backside (at least for anyone who keeps sheep!)

The blowfly is attracted to any animal which it deems suitable for laying its eggs on but is particularly partial to sheep.  It seeks out living flesh which has a hint of dampness and dung about it and unfortunately a sheep’s backside is an easy target.  In the spring, before shearing gets underway, sheep are at their woolliest.  Woolly bottoms, combined with the after-effects of grazing on lush spring grass gives the blowfly the perfect place on which to lay her eggs.

Once the eggs hatch, maggots start to emerge and feast on what is at hand, (without going into too much detail, it’s pretty gruesome), they start feeding on their host.  If left unchecked, this causes severe distress to the animal, and eventually, death.

Because of the severity of problems caused by the blowfly, most shepherds and farmers protect their flocks with “pour on” insecticide.  We don’t here on our smallholding because we have a small flock, not that many blowflies (it’s generally too breezy and fresh up here for them to be a problem), and we don’t like using chemicals.

It’s a tricky one though, because you have to weigh up the options, what is worse: reaching for the chemicals, or putting your sheep at risk of being eaten alive by maggots?

We follow the non-chemical way, which is very time consuming, we basically check our flock continually.  During the blowfly season which runs starts in April and tails off towards the end of summer, we go up to the hill three times a day and scan our sheep.  What we are looking for are “The Signs”.

What are these mysterious signs?  Well, if a sheep has been “struck”, it will start to act just ever so slightly differently.  At first the signs are really subtle, but if you know your animals, you’ll get a sense for even the smallest change in behaviour.

This said, we missed Yssi’s flystrike last week!

We’d brought our flock into the barn for their three monthly hoof trims and general MOT’s.

The summer MOT doesn’t usually include a “bottom check” (bikini line and tail trim), because the flock have only just been sheared.

However, Yssi has a particularly fluffy fleece so she gets a bottom check and trim every three months just to be on the safe side.

So, I straddled her and trimmed away her wool.  I noticed a small area of skin under some dungy wool which I’d trimmed which needed some anti-bac spray.  Sometimes damp wool near the bottom area can cause small infections on the skin as the air never gets to circulate and it’s always a bit damp around there.  So I duly sprayed her and we let her out of the pen.

As she trotted out to join the others, Adrian noticed her stamping her hind hoof and looking somewhat perturbed.  We watched her for a moment and came to the conclusion the anti-bac spray was causing her to feel temporarily itchy.

We finished the rest of the MOT’s and before letting them out to the wider pastures we decided to bring Yssi into the pen again just to make sure we hadn’t missed anything.  After another check we couldn’t see anything untoward, so we opened the gate and off they all trotted up the hill.

Three days later, I was mooching about among the flock with George, scratching Vi on her favourite tickle spot on her hoof, and idly looking around at the other sheep when I noticed Yssi stamping her hind leg again.

Now, a sheep stamping its leg is nothing strange, they frequently do this, (especially the hind legs) during the summer when there are lots of flies about.  What caught my attention was the fact that the other sheep weren’t stamping.  The other thing I thought odd was that Yssi was swishing her tail and again, none of the others were.  They were peacefully grazing.  And while Yssi was also grazing, she just didn’t seem to be as peaceful as the others.

I continued to observe her, aware that it’s easy to start adding up two and two and coming up with five.  After a few minutes I noticed her sitting down (again, nothing unusual), but what struck me was that she wasn’t chewing the cud.  She was just sitting there.  As I watched her some more I thought her eyes looked sad.

At this point I decided to bring her in and give her a really thorough inspection.  So I got some sheep nuts out of my pocket, led her into a wee pen nearby and called Adrian who was back at the house.

I wanted Adrian there so he could hold her while I had a really good look at her, all over.  I thought, from her foot stamping that something could be irritating her tummy area.

With Adrian standing at Yssi’s head to prevent her from walking off, I straddled her rear end and worked methodically, parting the wool little by little, making my way down from her tail to her hind legs.  As I got to her hind leg “armpit”, I noticed something small and white wriggling away from me.  Bingo!! I said, followed by some descriptive words.  As I parted more wool, I found three colonies of maggots, Yssi was going to need a thorough clean up.

Leaving Adrian with the patient I went back to the house for my trusty bottle of “Battles Maggot Oil”, scissors, and a big wodge of cotton wool.

Once back, I got to work on Yssi, I first trimmed away her wool so that I could see where the maggots were, then, pressing cotton wool soaked in maggot oil into the affected areas I dabbed away.  Once I’d treated the main areas and the maggots had dropped off.  I snipped away more wool from the surrounding areas and dabbed more maggot oil pretty much all over her backside and down the inside of each of her legs.

As I snipped and dabbed, we both felt Yssi start to relax, almost as if she was enjoying the experience.  As she undoubtedly was, we were removing a huge source of irritation for her!  Adrian was at her head, stopping her from moving forward.  Afterwards, he said he wasn’t even holding her, she was just happy to let me get on with what I was doing.  Probably thinking, “took you long enough humans” 😉.  Afterwards we watched Yssi trot off happily to join her friends and we went back to the house for a nice cup of tea.

 

 

 

 

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Vi and the tickly hoof

For the last three summers, between the months of June and September, one of Vi’s good friends, Vera, has been suffering from an allergic reaction to the sun.

Vera’s “summer itches” usually start just after shearing time.  This is understandable since her woolly coat would protect her from the sun’s rays.  The wool has to come off though otherwise there would be other issues.  With her shorter wool and the warmer weather, Vera’s skin becomes red and inflamed which makes Vera feel itchy and irritable.  All she wants to do is scratch, scratch, scratch and sit in the shade of the field shelter.  Un-woolled parts are particularly affected such as her ears, eye area, “armpits” and the backs of her legs.

As there’s no cure for Vera’s allergy, all we can do is help her feel better until autumn when her symptoms naturally subside.  So we give her a long acting steroid injection, and daily doses of udder cream which is very soothing.  She’s not too keen on the injections – thankfully we only have to give her one or two throughout the summer, but she absolutely loves the cream.

Vera with cream on her ears

Every morning at around 7am as I do “the morning sheep check” (making sure our woolly friends are all present and haven’t got into pickles overnight), Vera trots over for “the cream ceremony”.  She obligingly lifts each leg in turn so I can apply cream into her “armpits”, and then stands there staring into space as I smooth cream onto her ears and legs.  It’s a pleasant addition to my morning routine and knowing Vera enjoys the experience and feels better afterwards makes it all the more enjoyable.

This year, Vera’s pal Vi has shown a keen interest in the cream ritual.  So much so that she has started coming over and standing next to Vera waiting for her turn.  She shows particular interest when I put cream on Vera’s ankles.  This is no doubt due to Vera’s happy reaction when I apply cream to the area just above her hooves on her hind legs – she stretches her neck out as far as she can and starts licking the air as if it were raining sheep nuts (her favourite snack).  Then, she turns her head towards me and starts nibbling my arm for all she is worth.  If you’ve ever been nibbled by a sheep you’ll know this is a funny experience, sort of pleasant but also borderline painful!

Vi enjoying a hoof tickle

So back to Vi, the other day I wondered idly whether all sheep enjoyed hoof / ankle scratches.  I know they like a good back scratch, (so do cows by the way, they even have “cow back scratchers” you can buy and install in your barn!)  But I didn’t know about ankles.  Perhaps this was “a thing” in the world of sheep?  As I pondered this the other morning whilst sandwiched between Vi, Vera and a pot of udder cream, I remembered that over the years I’ve seen some of our flock rubbing their feet on fences and the like.  Hmmm I thought, I wonder …

Now normally (unless you are Vera), sheep stamp their feet and twitch when you touch their hooves and legs because their instinct tells them that you might be a fly.  But I decided to see if Vi would like a wee scratch anyway.

I gently reached over and touched her left hind leg, and to my surprise, she let me do this with no hint of a stamp.  So I went for it and gave her a full on scratch all round her hoof.  She turned her head to look at me with an expression of what I think was mild surprise, and then stretched out her neck and proceeded to do the “happy sheep thing” (stretchy neck followed by hoovering up of imaginary rain shower of sheep nuts).  As an additional after flourish, she nibbled my wellies.

So now I have created a wee rod for my back because as well as putting cream on Vera, I have to give Vi an ankle rub, all the while being watched with interest by the rest of the flock.  Form an orderly queue please!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shearing Day!

Guy shearing away

Yesterday was shearing day, an exciting day in the sheep calendar!

Yogi standing next to field shelter

We look forward to shearing for so many reasons but the number one reason is sheep welfare.  We really feel for our sheep as spring turns to summer.  They get quite down in the dumps in hot weather, ours park themselves in their field shelter and barely move.  They much prefer the fresher weather of early spring and late autumn when there is tasty grass to be nibbled, but it is still cool enough to forage without getting hot and bothered and pestered by flies.

Flies are a constant problem throughout the summer.  They zoom in on faces and bottoms (which isn’t a problem in itself apart from being irritating), unless we’re talking about the dreaded Blow Fly.  The Blow Fly, commonly known as the green bottle, seeks out damp places, (preferably with a hint of dung), on live flesh, on which to lay her eggs.  Once the eggs hatch, the maggots burrow into the flesh which as you can imagine is very unpleasant and can be fatal if not caught in time.

Sparkle

Something else we need to look out for in the spring is sheep getting “cast”.  Sometimes sheep roll over onto their sides to scratch an itch and end up on their backs like beetles with their legs waving in the air.  Usually they can roll out of this position again, however if their wool is particularly heavy, as it is at this time of the year, they can be so weighed down by it that they can no longer right themselves.  If stuck like this for too long the outlook is not good.  This year we found Sparkle stuck on her back on a flattened pile of nettles in a little dip by the lambing shed.  She was pretty shaken up when we found her, but luckily perked up within the hour.  We stayed with her to make sure she was OK after getting her on her feet and during this time we watched her going from panting, to having a wee, to shaking herself, to walking about, to finally foraging and then cudding.  This is why we check up on our flock three times a day and are always counting them.

So, there are many reasons we look forward to shearing, but in a nutshell, once they’re sheared they are fresher, perkier, less attractive to flies, and less prone to doing roly polys and getting stuck on their backs!

fleeces fresh from the sheep

As a result, we are happy and more relaxed, and I haven’t even mentioned wool yet!

After shearing I have huge bags stuffed full of fleeces.  I love nothing better than bags full of freshly sheared fleeces with that rich scent of lanolin wafting around and soft bounciness when you put your hand in.  But most of all I look at those bags as being worlds full of potential and exciting things, new woolly projects I can get stuck into, my mind goes into a mini whirlwind just thinking about it!

sheep waiting in the wings

 

This year shearing went really smoothly.  We have a “small flock” shearer, Guy, who specialises in, you’ve guessed it, small flocks 😉

post shearing cud and cuddle

He comes along with his partner Dee who runs around getting fresh blades and oil and rolling up the wool.  Meanwhile myself and Adrian make sure the sheep are where they should be.  We pen them up in a mini coral made up of hurdles and once the shearer has finished one sheep we need to have the next one ready and waiting.  Minimal time, minimal stress is our motto on shearing day.  Easier said than done however, our sheep are normally easy to handle, but the atmosphere of shearing makes them quite frisky.  Getting each sheep ready to post through to Guy was a little fraught at times, a couple of times we fell over and were baptised in dung, but this is all part of it.  Despite feeling a little worse for wear by the end of the afternoon, it was a brilliant day and the sheep are happy little souls once more.

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New Sheep Paddock Proves a Hit

new paddock with sheep

One of the things we have puzzled over since moving here was what to do with a large expanse of grass that sat between our house and two neighbouring cottages. It need constant mowing to keep on top of it but was never really used for anything except the odd game of ball with the dogs. This spring, we decided to transform it into an additional sheep paddock. As well as offering some extra spring grass, it’s close to the winter feeding stations so will provide more space for the sheep to spread out between meals of hay. It has to be said, the sheep tend to hang around the ay feeders most winter days rather than heading off into the fields, so it can get a bit muddy.

new paddockIt needed quite a bit of fencing as we also planned a hedge along the border with one of the cottages and that beeded two fences, one for the border and one to keep the hedge safe from the sheep, who are more than partial to a bit of twig and leaf. It’s also quite a large area and, all in all, took about 100m of fencing to complete. This time, we employed a contractor to help thump the posts in as the ground here is pretty stony and unforgiving. He brought a digger with a post thumping attachment so that helped a lot.

new paddock gateWe also installed a wooden gate so that it looks more rustic. This needs to be hen proofed to keep our hens off next door’s veggie patch, but that’s another story.

Anyway, it took me a few days to get all the fence netting installed and Nicole a few days to transplant the daffodils (they’re poisonous to sheep), remove foxgloves (also poisonous) and clear the few brambles that were also eyeing the area up.

That all done, it was ready for the sheep. Serendipitously, they were waiting the other side of the gate so all we had to to was open it. As soon as they saw the gap leading to virgin grass, they were straight through and enjoyed a few hours of happy grazing. We all enjoyed some time, the sheep exploring and staring at new sites (next door’s barn) and us sitting with them, enjoying their company. Later, we ushered them back out, unable to leave the gate open till we have made it hen-proof.

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Sheep approve of new variety of hay

We ordered some different bales of hay recently and our first thought was, would the sheep eat it?  Sheep are creatures of habit and can be quite fussy with their hay.  They prefer the softer variety rather than the stalky hay, and they like it fresh and sweet smelling, (well that is understandable, who wouldn’t)?  By the way, if you ever need to test if hay is fresh and tasty, have a good sniff of it, if it smells sweet and a bit like weetabix then it’s likely to go down well with the little darlings.  Well, the new hay we’d had delivered was certainly fresh (tick), and it smelled sweet and weetabixy, (another tick), but it was definitely on the stalkier end of the hay spectrum, uh oh!! Their old hay was soft as can be and they loved it.   So when we filled the feeders up last week we resigned ourselves to the wee woollies turning their noses well and truly up.

sheep head up hill after breakie

Well, it just goes to show you shouldn’t count your hay before its scoffed, you’ll be happy to hear, they loved the new hay!  Stalks and all!  In fact, they told us in no uncertain terms that this new batch was much tastier than the stuff they’d been munching all winter!! We reminded them that there is still a bit of winter left in the farming calendar, the grass doesn’t come through till the end of April, so they can have their new type of hay for another few weeks yet.  They were happy with this news but told us they still preferred grass when push came to shove and they couldn’t wait for winter to come to end, we nodded our heads in agreement, we can’t wait for spring too!

 

 

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A special delivery for the sheep

Winter on the smallholding is all about keeping our woolly friends fed, watered and mucked out.

The beginning of November marks the start of the “big hay ceremony”.  This means that every morning and evening we fill the feeders up with fresh hay while the sheep mill around “helping” – which roughly translates to them helping themselves to hay while we attempt to get it in the feeders!

eagerly awaiting new bucket licks

The hay sees them through until spring but if the winter is mild they’ll spend less time at the feeders and trundle up the hill to the higher pastures foraging for grass and small plants bravely making an appearance.  Winter grass isn’t very nutritious though and our Ryelands are lowland sheep and not as tough as their hill bred cousins.  The wouldn’t survive a Scottish winter without their daily hay.

new buckets arriving!

This year the winter has been particularly cold, we’ve had snow on the ground for more than two weeks and since Christmas the sheep had had enough of foraging in the hills and set up camp in the paddock by the house.  The paddock is their sanctuary, a lot of our sheep were born in the paddock so it’s also a nursery.  It’s a safe place for them to come to to get out of the elements.  There’s a big shed where they can shelter from the rain, there are also apple trees which they enjoy sitting under whilst chewing the cud.  But best of all, the paddock is home to their hay feeders and their favourite big orange buckets.  These orange buckets are a special winter treat which sheep adore, they’re lick buckets which contain nutrients, vitamins and minerals and lots of yummy ingredients.  They just can’t get enough of them!

yummy yum!

Yesterday the sheep had licked their buckets clean and were eagerly awaiting new ones.  As I heaved the buckets out of the wheelbarrow and dragged them into the barn I had barely got the lids off when I was set upon by nineteen teddy bears in a Winney the Pooh rugby scrum.  Fortunately I managed to get out more or less unscathed and sat on a straw bale to recover whilst watching their happy faces listening to them licking away for all they were worth, happy days! 😊

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The story of Vera, a sore ear, and a tube of toothpaste

If you are squeamish or having dinner, this story may not be for you😳

As some of you may already know from following our stories, one of our woolly girls, Vera, has been plagued by “the itchies” all summer.

She has developed photosensitisation due to (most likely) eating a plant containing an alkaloid which then causes, in some cases, an allergic reaction to the sun.

Her condition slowly develops with the advance of summer, and then dwindles with the onset of autumn.  During the height of summer, Vera can often be found on her own seeking shelter in the pig ark or the lambing shed, somewhere away from the sun’s rays.  Exposure to the sun causes her un-woolled parts to become red and itchy and gets worse after shearing.

A complication arising from this is haematomas of the ear caused by shaking of the head as a result of the itching and general irritation.   Blood vessels then burst which in turn causes swelling and more discomfort.

It’s a vicious cycle and poor Vera has been in and out of the inspection pen almost daily while we applied udder cream to her sore skin, (we used to use sudocreme but have since discovered udder cream to be much better).  We’ve also been giving her steroid injections on and off through the summer to help with the swelling,  and we’ve also been checking her daily for the shepherd’s nemesis; blowfly activity, aka maggots, (the blowfly have been quite a problem this summer).  Lately we’ve added another job to our Vera care, we’ve been cleaning her ear with cotton wool dipped in hibiscrub as her left ear has been leaking puss recently, probably due to the haemotoma becoming infected.

If you’re eating whilst reading this, you may want to finish first 😉

Two weeks ago, Vera’s ear started to look quite bad, it was already swollen from the haematoma, but the addition of the puss and blood made it look even worse.  The appearance of puss and blood sounds worse than it actually is.  If “stuff” was coming out of the ear that meant that it was draining and the infection would eventually clear by itself, it’s the body’s way of getting rid of things.  But we needed to watch her carefully and make sure infection didn’t take hold.  Sheep are very stoical and will be brave for a long time before giving up over-night.  So we upped our checks and also phoned the vet to check if we should be doing anything other than the daily hibiscrub clean up.  We were advised to give her a long acting antibiotic and to keep keeping an eye on her.

We duly did this, we gave her her first jab of Betamox yesterday and wiped her ear clean whilst being thankful there are hardly any flies around now what with it being September.

Today we had hoped to see some small improvement, but poor Vera seemed to be shaking her head more, and her ear was still enormous, almost fit to burst.

We had a cup of tea and decided to call the vet out to have a look, just to be sure.  We didn’t think the infection was draining fast enough, it looked as though things were backing up, and although the antibiotic would be a safety net for Vera, it wouldn’t stop the immediate discomfort caused by the pulsating swelling.

The vet came out this very afternoon, it was Linda.  Linda, like the rest of the team at the local vet surgery is gentle, caring and very knowledgeable.  She knows Vera well, and Vera also knows Linda though tends to give her a wide berth!

So before Linda arrived we penned Vera up.

Once Linda arrived we got to work, we knew what Linda would be doing would be quite invasive and we had to keep Vera as still as possible.

We backed Vera into a corner and Adrian made sure she didn’t swing her rump round and try a three point turn.  I supported her head, while Linda held her ear and got to work.

First she inspected it closely and confirmed our suspicions, there was an infection going along the whole length of the ear.  There were two main “pockets” of infection, one at the tip end, and one at the other bottom end.

There was already a small escape route at the bottom end where blood had been seeping out for the last week or so.  However Linda wasn’t sure if the two pockets were connected and wasn’t keen on lancing both sites as there are lots of blood vessels in the ear.

She decided to work at the top end where the blood vessels are more spaced out and there would be less risk of nicking one.

She inserted a needle into the first pocket and squeezed.

Turn away now if you’re squeamish.

Quite a lot of puss came out, but not enough.

So Linda asked us to get some warm water and hibiscrub, she wanted to squirt water through to completely wash it out.

Now here’s the interesting part, it turned out both infection sites were connected, so when Linda injected warm water through at the top, out it came at the bottom!  This was excellent news, it meant that we could wash her ear out in one go, without having to repeat the operation.

As Linda sloshed warm water through using her syringe, all I could think about as I watched what was coming out the other end, was toothpaste.  It was truly fascinating, and weirdly exciting.  Vera for her part was relaxing into the process, chewing cud and giving the occasional sigh.  At times she looked up, stretching her neck with her eyes half closed, it must have been like having a very itchy spot scratched, deep below the surface, a spot which has been itchy for a long time, what a relief!

When there was no more toothpaste coming out and only clear water, we all came up for air.  We were a bit spattered but very happy.  Vera’s ear looked much better, it was still a bit swollen from the internal damage caused by the haematoma, but it had lost that red, angry look.  We gave Vera a wee treat of her favourite sheep nuts and led her out to join the others.

We thanked Linda and said goodbye, put the kettle on and had some tea and plum crumble, I almost declined the cream but decided I was too hungry to say no 😋

 

 

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Hooves and Bottoms

dirty sheep bottom

Sheep need a lot of looking after and one of the primary tasks is checking hooves and bottoms. Much like human fingernails and toenails, sheep’s hooves can grow and become uncomfortable. If not trimmed, infection can get in.

Dirty bottoms are a magnet for flies and the last thing you want is the blowfly laying eggs there. These eggs hatch into maggots which will eat the sheep alive. It’s called flystrike and it’s one of the reasons shearing is so important.

While we check our sheep 2 or 3 times a day, it also helps to take preventive measures and this means keeping the wool around the sheep’s bottom short and clean. It’s a process called dagging.

bringing the sheep inFirst step was to get the sheep together and penned up. We bring them down to the lambing shed. It means they have shelter from sun or rain or both, as often happens here. While I get busy setting up sheep hurdles, Nicole goes and fetches them. These days, they follow happily.

Once in the shed, we construct a small treatment pen. You can’t see it from the photo, but it has a sliding entrance. In practice, that’s a hurdle we can shift sideways to make an entrance.

It’s all pretty calm and most of the sheep just wander in to the treatment pen when called. A couple need bribing with some sheep nuts and one, Bluemli, takes a bit more persuading – she is very wary of pens. We leave Bluemli till last.

It all went very smoothly. I helped keep the sheep calm while Nicole lifted each leg and checked the hooves. Sheep don’t mind their front legs being lifted, but can get a bit twitchy about their back legs losing contact with the ground. I find that if I distract them with neck scratches and soft words, they usually stay pretty calm through the whole process. Each sheep has its own particular sweet spot for a scratch. Find that and it all goes smoothly.
Then it’s a quick bottom check. If the bottom is dirty, it gets a clean and trim. After that, out that sheep goes, the sliding hurdle moves across and the next sheep wanders in.

sheep in penThe ones already treated often hang around outside the pen seeking more tickles. That’s actually quite helpful as their proximity also has a calming effect on the sheep whose hooves are being inspected.

Bluemli, well she went from being a little wild eyed to settling, chewing the cud and then back to wild eyed when it was her turn. I grabbed a handful of sheep nuts, waved them in front of her nose and, to our astonishment, she trotted into the pen with me. Once in the pen, she was quite happy and let Nicole trim her hooves and check her bottom with no trouble at all.

A couple of hours well spent.