It’s a long time since our flock were sheared, 7 months to be precise! Plenty of time for a sheep of a woolly persuasion to get a touch of the ‘woolly eyes’!!
This basically means it’s time for a wee face trim.
There’s more to this than just aesthetics, if the wool growth is such that the sheep can no longer see properly this is quite stressful for the animal. Sheep rely on good eyesight to keep watch for predators, especially to the sides and back whilst they’re grazing. If wool growth stops this they can become jumpy and nervous.
I really enjoy trimming sheep’s faces, it’s a satisfying job and over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to keep them calm and relaxed while I do it. I have to keep them still while I do the haircuts which is easier said than done and has taken many years of practise. The method which works for me is to pen each sheep up individually and then tie the animal to a hurdle using a halter and lead rope. Our flock is used to the halter and lead rope, I give them ‘halter training’ lessons from a young age and it’s really paid off when it comes to handling them.
So, with the sheep haltered and in position, I gently support their chin with one hand, (this stops them from moving forwards), and with the other hand I carefully snip away the wool from around their eyes. Then, while I have them penned up I also check their bottoms and hooves. It takes me about 20 minutes per sheep, I never rush this job because it’s a good time to bond with the sheep and it gives me the opportunity to spot anything which needs attention.
Today while I was working on Yzzy I noticed she was passing dung through both passages, front and back so to speak. This wasn’t too much of a surprise as when Yzzy was a lamb she was born with a condition fairly common in newborn lambs, no anus. The vet had had to come out and make an incision and within minutes she was fine. The incision was basically a new back passage and would mean Yzzy could grow up and lead a normal life, she just wouldn’t be allowed to have lambs.
But today it seemed she had created a new passage, one which shouldn’t be there. I mulled it over and pondered what to do. She didn’t seem to be in pain, we would have noticed if she was because sheep tend to go off on their own and hang their heads and look obviously depressed. She had displayed none of these behaviours. As with most things concerning animal health, its always a good idea to think things over carefully before intervening. When to intervene and whether to intervene are questions which continually run through our heads when faced with situations like this. My instinct told me not to intervene but to keep an eye on her. I spoke to Adrian over lunch and we thought we’d ring the vet just to double check. The vet agreed with us, to leave well alone, it was likely that more complications could occur through intervention so unless she was in pain, then the advice was to do nothing. So we’ll keep Yzzy on our radar and hope she stays happy and healthy. As they say, there is never a dull moment when keeping sheep although I would probably replace ‘dull moment’ with ‘ a moment without a worry’!