Yes, f%*&ing barber pole worms.
Even though the Black Welsh were unaffected by the worms last summer, little Jethro had turned up weak and anemic recently. I had just treated him for barber pole worms a few days before he went down.
For those who might not be familiar with them, the barber pole worm attaches itself, with its teeth, into the lining of the gut and drains the animal's blood, causing severe anemia and eventual death in susceptible animals. Young animals, with immature rumens, are more susceptible than mature ones and I struggled most of last summer and fall trying to save my Bluefaced Leicester lambs from this parasite. I eventually lost Cricket from complications of the worm - pneumonia in his case.
One of the challenges with barber pole worms is drug resistance. They've developed immunity to most of the available dewormers, making them very hard to control. It is possible that the strain we have is a resistant strain. I don't know where it came from, but since I had not had to do much worming before, it probably came in from outside. One of the other animals I suppose. In any case, our struggle only abated last fall when I took the lambs off grass altogether, preventing them from ingesting any more larvae. Around the same time, the weather got cold enough to break the parasites' life cycle.
But temps warmed up recently, with several days in late March rising well into the 50s. Glorious in every way, except for its effect on the barber pole worms.
They can overwinter.
Jethro seemed off and for some reason I checked his eyelids, though I thought I was dealing with coccidia. I was surprised to find pale lids -- a sign of anemia, and immediately dewormed him (too late though, I guess.)
Ironically, because I had just treated Jethro with the heavy-duty, off label dewormer used by the vet last year, she couldn't confirm the barber poles in his case. But this doctor was the same who had pulled Bumblebee, the first BFL to go down, back from the brink last summer and was very enamored with her. I've seen the vet several times since then and she always asks about Bumblebee.
So she asked, "How's Bumblebee? Is she pale too?"
Well, honestly, Bumblebee and her friends are in separate housing, off grass and we're barely out of winter (I mean, jeez, it went down to 14 degrees just a week ago), so I hadn't thought to check her eyes.
I thought we were safe.
I went straight home and checked.
Pale lids all around.
I spent the week collecting fecals, conferring with the vet, and ultimately launching some heavy duty worming protocols.
And they're not even out on grass yet. We don't HAVE grass yet.
Our best guess is that some of the worms from last summer went into a dormant state in the lambs' guts and the recent warm days caused a bloom. Except for poor Jethro, we caught it early, but I am bracing myself for the summer. I have to hope that the fact that the BFLs are now a year old and their rumens are presumably mature, they will be able to handle the worms better this summer.
As for the new lambs? Well, they are all Black Welsh or Black Welsh crosses and I continue to believe, Jethro notwithstanding, that these mountain sheep are tough little cookies, as befits their primitive status, and they should be ok.
And on that note, I introduce baby #11 and Hattie's first. A Black Welsh Mountain/Lincoln cross ewe lamb. Only minutes old here. She's big. I can't wait to see how her fleece grows out.