Sunday, August 24, 2014

Now what?

Bumblebee's beautiful lamb locks fall off in my fingers
First, Bumblebee continues to gain strength. So that's good.

But I realized yesterday that she is losing her fleece. This must be what people mean when they say that stress or illness causes breaks in the fiber. Her curls come out with the slightest pressure.

So, do I shear her? Roo her? (Odd sounding for a BFL, but possible in her state I think.)

I'm afraid to leave it on her. It will certainly mat when the new fiber starts to grow in.

On the other hand, to take it off will leave her bare. I figure she's got about two months before we get any truly cold weather, but even next month, the nights should be in the forties. I guess she could wear one of the goat coats if it comes to that.

What do I do?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Icelandic fences

It's not all gloom and doom around here.
Before the lambs got sick or Josie broke her foot,
 I was working on a post about Emily and Devon,
the Icelandic sisters.

These two march to their own beat. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Day by day

First, the lambs are doing well. Bumblebee and Cricket are still separated from the main group until they are strong enough to avoid getting trampled (um, yeah, that requires a whole lot more strength than I thought, sorry Bumblebee.) Otherwise, they're good.

Anyway, phew on the lamb problems. For now at least.

Hard to say about Josie. Sarah at CSL rightly asked how do you keep a 1000 lb pony off a broken foot.

The short answer?


Josie is still restricted to her stall so that she can't go walk about even if she wanted to, which she doesn't at the moment.

She's also on a long-term sedative to keep her calm. Since she's the easily frustrated type (who, for instance, kicks her stall walls when pissed off), this is drug strategy number 1.

The second drug strategy, though a little counterintuitive is equally, if not more important. Josie is to get just enough bute to benefit from its anti-inflammatory properties, but not enough to dull the pain. It's the pain that will keep her from using the foot before its ready. Yesterday I think I gave her a little too much. The paste form does not come out of the tube easily. This makes the dose harder to control than it should be. Arghh. I saw her pick up the unbroken foot at one point in the afternoon. Not good. On the other hand, for the first 48 hours she went nearly bute-free, because she refused the powder I was giving her. She kept her foot pretty clear off the ground then. Today I am shooting for the middle ground.

The final strategy is ice. For both feet. These are wraps that you keep in the freezer when not in use. This is in lieu of cold hosing.  Cold hosing requires her to walk out to the hose outside. She's not allowed to walk anywhere. And, um, yeah, I can't hose her in her stall. So, ice.

It's the front foot that is broken. 

Good thoughts for Josie everybody, please?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

And then Josie broke her foot

No joke.

Josie, the appaloosa, who'd been on stall rest for a relatively minor, and NEARLY HEALED,  suspensory injury in her right hind leg, got frustrated yesterday and kicked her stall wall with said leg.

I heard the impact inside the house. The house is not particularly close to the barn.

As always when I hear loud, unexplained noises coming from the direction of the barn, I went out to investigate and there she was, back on three legs. Somehow I knew this time was different. She was in much more obvious pain and distress than before.

The vet came out and said, Yep, broken foot. I don't even need to take a picture. I can feel it. 

The coffin bone for anybody who might wonder.

We're looking at weeks and weeks of rehabilitation time. Stall rest, daily hoof wraps, meds, etc.. The biggest worry is the foot she's still standing on - the left hind. (For those who might not follow horse stuff, they're not designed to stand on less than four legs for any length of time. To do so can cause serious problems in the weight-bearing feet).  But the vet says absolutely no standing or moving around on the broken right foot while the break is fresh for fear the bone will splinter further. This means 2-3 weeks before we can do anything for the weight-bearing left foot, like put any kind of supportive boot or shoe on it, or even pick it up.

I am a little sick to my stomach about the whole thing.


On the up side, the lambs seem to have truly turned a corner. And I am now an expert on sheep parasites and treatments. Not. But, I know a lot more than I did a month ago.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Firefly and Ladybug waiting their turns for tests yesterday. Too tired and weak to go anywhere. The good news is that though their numbers were low, they were nowhere near as low as Bumblebee's were. They spent the afternoon in Cricket's stall (who never stopped eating) and then all three came home with me. Cricket, though worse off than these two, was also not as sick as Bumblebee.

Bumblebee says Um, I feel pretty good thanks.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Here we go again

This is Cricket, the littlest BFL wether.  

 He spent the night at the vet hospital, getting a blood transfusion. He's in slightly better shape than Bumblebee was. 

When I found Cricket down I put him and Johnny Blue in the car before I even spoke to the vet. It was a regular business day though, so they were able to get blood from the sheep barn. (The ag school has a sheep barn -- I should have guessed.) Johnny got to return home untouched. We'll save him for an after hours emergency.

Today I'm taking Firefly (behind Cricket in the first picture) and Ladybug in for tests, before they go down. If the entire flock eventually goes down...well, I can't really even go there. In the meantime, I have to find alternative pasture for these guys. Somehow. The vet says they shouldn't go in with the existing flock for several months. 

It's interesting to me, that Jethro and Ellie Mae, the littlest Black Welsh lambs who are even younger than these guys, are absolutely thriving. They are with their mothers. I will think long and hard before I ever consider taking a lamb freshly removed from its mom again. I am newly astonished that bottle babies ever survive. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A little better every day

Bumblebee continues to improve. She still can't stand up without help, but her tottering, once up, looks a little less like Tim Conway and a little more like a real lamb.

Bumblebee being joined by her lamb friends. Ladybug, Beetle, Cricket, Caterpillar, and Firefly.
Someone asked how Bumblebee got her name. The 13-year-old gave it to her. The rest of them also got insect names. That's a tricky theme - could go very wrong. The ewe lambs are Bumblebee, Butterfly, Caterpillar, and Ladybug. The wethers are Beetle, Cricket, Mantis (Manny), and Grasshopper (Hopper.) The ram is Firefly. Though they are all purebred Bluefaced Leicesters, Firefly is the only registered one. Since producing registered BFLs is not my goal, that's fine. Sadly, of the males, Cricket is the one with the nicest fleece. Sigh. The breeder did not consider him breeding stock quality.

Manny and Hopper are about a month older than the rest and actually came home a month earlier. When the second crew finally arrived, I backed the car up to the barn and opened the hatch, but nobody wanted to get out. Then Manny saw them and called out. He is such a cheerleader. One by one the littler ones hopped out to find their brother.

Mantis and Hopper are much bigger than everyone else. They are twins. Caterpillar and Beetle are also twins. (As are Cal and Woody, two of the little goats. Cal's the designated hitter, Woody is a wether.) Bumblebee continues to be the smallest ewe, though Ladybug is pretty small too. Cricket is the littlest lamb wether.

Everyone is still cooped up in their pens in the pony barn. A space in the sheep barn is ready for them, but I'm waiting for Bumblebee to be strong enough to go with them, before we make the move. In the meantime, I let them run up and down in the aisle while I clean their pens.

Today I let the little goats join them.


You just can't trust goats to stay out of trouble. Eamon (or Turtle, though our new names didn't stick for the goats) got his tail pulled, but good, by Shadowfax.

You can't trust some ponies either.

Bumblebee and the Three Little Goats

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Freedom day

Amidst all the drama with Bumblebee, the workers finally finished lamb-proofing the fence in the big pasture. They stapled the last bit of wire late on Tuesday.

All the inhabitants of the back barn -- sheep, goats and alpaca alike -- were happy to see the workers go, but none more than the little Black Welsh guys. They've been restricted to a small 1/2 acre field for a month now, and the grass, like the BFLs, was largely gone. Since Bumblebee went down, I've been particularly paranoid about letting them out on the short grass, so they've spent most of the past several days confined to their pen.

After one final field chore on Wednesday morning, I finally got to let the Black Welsh out into the big pasture. They were thrilled to go. No hesitation there.  Bo Black lead the way (two yellow tags) and little Jethro brought up the rear.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bumblebee comes home

After four nights at the animal hospital, Bumblebee was allowed to come home today. She is still as weak as a kitten -- she can just barely hobble around if you help her stand up first. But, she's eating non-stop and pooping and peeing aplenty. Plus the vet said all her numbers were going in the right direction. Her eyelids are a brilliant, shining pink, which does my heart good.

On top of the barberpole worms, the doctor found a heavy load of coccidia and some very nasty, mature tapeworms. This explains why she was as skinny as she was and not gaining weight.

At night check, she toddled out into the barn aisle and her brothers and sisters caught sight of her. They called her. She mewed back very faintly. I would have liked to leave her with them, but they are too many to risk it. She needs to be able to reach her food and water without getting up or getting stepped on. So, instead I squeezed open a peephole between her and the baby goats, in the hopes that they might keep her company until she feels well enough to join her flock.

Hopefully, that will be soon.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Two lambs, TWO sheep, and a reindeer, Part 2

I never did get any mowing done this morning. Josie, the appaloosa, turned up 3-legged-lame at breakfast and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day.

But who is Bumblebee?

She is the owner of this:

The most beautiful Bluefaced Leicester lamb's fleece ever to exist on the face of the planet in the entire history of the world. Ever. The picture does not do it justice.

I'm pleased to report that as of this writing, Bumblebee is still wearing and growing her fleece.

Bumblebee is obviously one of the BFL lambs. Four ewes, four wethers, and a ram. Bumblebee was one of the youngest, if not the youngest, to come home.  Just barely 8 weeks when taken from her mother and home flock. I'm really starting to dislike this whole convention of weaning and separating at 8 weeks.

The entire lamb flock was given a clean bill of health when I picked them up 10 days ago. They'd just had FAMACHA scoring of their eyelid membranes to check for barberpole worm loads. Only one lamb was wormed as a result and it wasn't Bumblebee.

Yet, when I went to let the lambs out Saturday morning (it's never a regular business day, right?) I noticed that she had not moved since the night before. When the other lambs raced outside, she remained where she was.

My reaction time for calling the vet is getting shorter. It took weeks of agonizing over Clem's moaning last spring, and days of wondering about Riversong's weak hind end last fall (can't find the post about that though). This time it only took me a few hours to call the nearby vet school. I know that a lot of expert shepherds are good at treating things at home -- I'm just not.

But, I knew to check the eyelids.

They were white as snow.

And, I knew this was bad.

I gave her Ivermectin.  I fretted.  I put her out in a patch of clover outside the paddock.  I fretted some more.

She just got worse.

So I called the vet.

The front desk connected me to the on-call resident who happened to be the same doctor who treated Clementine last spring. I fumbled around for a minute or two trying to describe what was wrong.

The instant I said Her eyelids are white,

she said Bring her in. And, if you've got one, bring another big healthy sheep with her.

Huh? I said.

She's going to need a transfusion and we don't keep sheeps' blood on hand. We've got goats' blood, but no sheeps' blood. Bring a big healthy sheep. One with pink eyelids. 

Um, ok, I said.

I raced out to the pony barn and threw Bumblebee in the back of the car. Then I raced over to the sheep barn and grabbed Clementine. Nice and pink, but wait, let's check this one I thought. Bo Sheep. She's bigger.

Who's Bo Sheep?

Oh, boy, see, I'm behind in my postings. Bo Sheep joined us a while ago. Her previous owner worked at a local riding stable and she'd gotten a sheep as a pet. But the barn owner hated the sheep. She said it was loud and annoying. It had to go. So we took it. (And yes, she is loud, but no, she's not annoying.)

The previous owner swore she was a Shetland. That was the lure that got me to go see her. But um, I don't know. Here she is standing next to Johnny. He's a Lincoln Longwool. He's big. Does this look like a Shetland to any of you. ;)

Ha, I took her anyway. She couldn't stay there all by herself with a landlord who hated her.

But, to return to my story, yesterday Bo Sheep had bright pink eyelids. So I threw her in the car instead of Clementine and off we raced to the emergency clinic.

Bumblebee. Not her happiest moment.
By the time we got to the clinic, half an hour away, the vet and her team were waiting for us and poor Bumblebee was at death's door. They met us at the car and carried her in.

By the time I'd gotten Bo Sheep inside, Bumblebee was on oxygen and had a catheter in place. The vet said she didn't even need to see the test results, she could tell by looking at Bumblebee's blood with her naked eyes that it was serious anemia, almost certainly from barberpole worms.

Bo Sheep was an absolute trooper. She donated nearly half a liter of blood without so much as a whimper.

Bo Sheep being a trooper

Bumblebee perked up a bit as the transfusion began.

The vet said if I hadn't brought her in, she'd have never made it through the night.

While we waited for the transfusion to work, I got the chance to really review management issues with the vet. I figure if I'm going to spend all this money on one sheep by taking her to a vet school clinic, I'd better at least take advantage of having the doctor's undivided attention.

She didn't really commit to whether she thought the worms came with Bumblebee or she got them at our place. The speed at which they can overwhelm a sensitive animal makes either way a possibility.

Here's what she recommended, some of which I knew, some of which not.

1) If the grass is less than 3 inches, a dry lot is better.
2) If possible have them go out in the heat of the afternoon, rather than the cool of morning or evening. The worm larvae are more accessible in the cool.
3) And crucially, Ivermectin is useless. It won't work against barberpole around here.
4) She also said never give wethers clover. Ever. This wasn't about worms, but it was news to me all the same.

I pushed very hard on the question of what exactly I am suppose to use for barberpole, since THAT is where I always get hung up. I've never been able to get a straight answer from anyone, including my farm vet. She finally said Levamisole if I can get it (also called Prohibit) but she thought that required a script. I ordered some online today with no problem. She also gave me the name of a common dewormer used for horses and dogs that is still very effective and not widely known by sheep people. She used it on Bumblebee. She would not however give me details about dosage, etc.. and she explicitly asked me not to go straight home and deworm all my animals with it. I went straight home and googled the dosage for sheep. I had to dig through some heavy duty academic tomes to find it, but I think I got close. I did in fact, find one other lamb with white eyelids this morning and she (Butterfly) got a dose of the horse dewormer, which I conveniently had on hand. The others lambs I am cautiously watching.

I also moved the lambs to a clean pen and took them entirely off of the stubble grass. They are on hay and grain alone for now. The fence guys came today, but still haven't finished. They're saying Tuesday now. We'll see.


Bumblebee was better this morning, but not as strong as they'd like, so they asked me to bring in another sheep this evening.

I took Clementine this time.

Everyone fawned over her pretty curls.

I especially enjoyed letting the vet see how well she has recovered from her ordeal last spring and what a beautiful sheep she has grown into.

I don't know who I'll take tomorrow if they ask for a third round.

Knock on wood.

I can't imagine either Icelandic would make good patients. The Black Welsh are all too small to be much use. Maybe Johnny Blue.

And finally, because I promised. Here's a picture of the patient across the aisle from Bumblebee. He has a broken leg.

I really do love this vet school.

A tale of two lambs, a sheep, and a reindeer, Part 1

It started with Ellie Mae. Actually it started at a fiber festival back in May, but I'll start with Ellie Mae.

The day after I brought the Black Welsh home, Ellie Mae, the littlest ewe, escaped. She put her tiny head down to nibble the grass along the fence and the next thing she knew she was on the wrong side. I was working inside and happened to look up just as she popped through the hole. Years of chasing an expert escapist dog taught me a few things -- like always take the 30 seconds required to put on shoes -- but didn't cover everything you need to catch a runaway lamb -- like what to do if your fugitive doesn't wear a collar. A panicked Ellie Mae raced down the fence line of the 4 acre field, bleating the whole way, trying to find her way back in. As far as I could tell, Eloise, her mother never answered a single call.

But I did. That's how I followed her, calling and bleating, around the pasture, through the woods next door, across the neighbor's creek, through a hay field and finally into the cellar stairwell of a distant neighbor, where I cornered and caught her. The neighbor thankfully was not home. I had to carry the hot heavy mess of a lamb home in my arms. It must have been  99 degrees and 99% humidity. Well, maybe not that hot, but you know what I mean.

Was Ellie Mae thankful when I finally staggered back into the field and placed her next to her mother? No. Was Ellie Mae's mother, the neglectful Eloise, thankful? Not that I could tell. Does Ellie Mae treat me with any kind of special consideration at all for saving her from the doom of a little lost lambhood? No.

So, what does this have to do with anything else?

Well, it forced me to change my to do list for one. Instead of new fence for new pasture, I needed an upgrade to the old fence on the existing pasture ASAP. An upgrade that would allow me to sleep at night, to go to work during the day, you know, generally to be able to turn my back on the sheep without worrying that one would go through the fence.

I bought a big load of wire fencing and managed to staple about 500 ft to the inside of the wooden fence around the pasture. Then the lady next door yelled at me and I started making phone calls instead of nailing staples. I found some guys on craigslist who agreed to complete the fence. They said they'd have it done last weekend. They're still working on it.

Meanwhile as the Black Welsh sheep have been settling in, a nearby breeder of Bluefaced Leicesters was holding a group of lambs until they were old enough to be separated from their mothers and sent to a new home - mine. This idea was born at a fiber festival back in May, even before the Black Welsh were found. The plan was that the new lambs would join Clementine and the other ewes in the big pasture. But, because the fence in the big pasture was now deemed grossly insecure, I put the lambs, who finally arrived about 10 days ago, in the pony barn. They took the little paddock where the goats were last year, and where the new bucklings have been more recently.

The lambs ran out of grass after a week. I rebuilt the fence to enclose more. They ate that down to stubble as well within a couple of days. Some of them accept the hay I've been offering instead, but they are not all equally enthusiastic about it. As the completion of the fence in the big pasture stretched on, I began worrying about how the lambs would manage.

Then yesterday morning Bumblebee didn't get up.

That story will have to wait. I need to get some mowing done.