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.


  1. Eep, why aren't wethers supposed to have clover? I can't keep my boys away from clover, our hay field was seeded with it years ago (over my loud protests) and now pretty much the entire property is covered in it, but it'd be useful to know what I need to keep an eye out for if there's a problem!

  2. Clover can cause bloat and maybe she's concerned about bladder stones as well? Both are a concern of course but that's it's own lengthy discussion... Parasites are top priority right now as they are quick killers and this has been a bad summer for them as it's been so wet and cool rather than dry and dusty as it normally would be by now. Maybe not in your area. Lambs are especially susceptible and need to be watched like a hawk, especially during and after times of stress, like weaning...

    There are a couple dewormers that cover barber pole (Haemonchus) worms and should not be a "secret". They are easily obtained and you just need to read the labels to see what worms they cover and dosages. Your best bet would be to take some fecal samples in to see what sort of parasite loads they are currently carrying and then to monitor how well the dewormer you choose to use is working. Her concern about running home and doing everyone most likely stems from over use causing resistance issues.

    Bottom line, parasites are a huge concern for all shepherds and something you'll need to research and research and research as they change protocols... Maybe you have a state sheep/goat organization that offers workshops or lectures that can keep you apprised. Work with your vet to develop a good working strategy, be vigilant, keep product on hand, don't hesitate. They are killers :-(.

    Give Bumblebee a big hug for me!

  3. Good griefikins! Good thing you got Bumblebee to the vet's as quickly as you did.

    Our area would be TERRIBLE for sheep this year. So much rain and cool temps. Even when we haven't had rain for a couple of days (that may have happened once or twice . . . since it stopped snowing), the morning dew is so heavy it lasts until afternoon. (Well, this certainly isn't "sheep country" up here anyway.)

    As for your last picture . . . now THAT is a reindeer! Broken leg and all. Poor pumpkin.

  4. Holey Moley. There never seems to be a lull in the action, does there? I am so glad you moved quickly and you have such a great vet resource. Reindeer? You are also right about using an Icelandic for any procedure whatsoever. They are drama queens/kings and not the most cooperative. Thank goodness you have some sweet, healthy sheep who don't mind volunteering. And that fleece! Those fleeces!!