Chris and I were not raised on or near farms. We had pets and gardens growing up but that was the extent of our experience with livestock or agriculture. And then we grew up, spent all our parents’ money on respectable educations and decided that all we really wanted to do was become farmers. Guess what? That great liberal arts education we got did very little to prepare us for life on the farm. Thankfully our animals have been very easy so far (knock on wood) and since we don’t depend on our garden to prevent us from going hungry we have room to experiment and learn from our mistakes. But when it comes to the health of our animals we need to do everything right the first time. Which means that its time for me to learn some new skills.
Hoof Maintenance. The hooves of sheep and goats occasionally need to be trimmed to prevent them from becoming overgrown and painful or even dangerous. Overgrown hooves can prevent the animal from walking correctly and can cause the hooves to trap gross stuff that can lead to hoof rot or other diseases. So they have to be trimmed. This seems to involve flipping the animal upside down and going at its hooves with pruning shears. I’m still working on my sheep flipping technique. I’ve got a ways to go.
De-Worming. I have a large, fresh pasture with just a few animals on it so worms shouldn’t be a big problem for me but they are always going to be an issue if you have animals that graze. Worms live on the grass and get eaten. Then they set up house inside the animal and if enough of them settle in then the animal can get sick and die. A sign that the worm load is getting too high is if the eye lids and gums get pale. This seems like it should be easy to determine but the problem is that I have no idea what normal sheep/goat eyelids and gums are supposed to look like. I check them frequently but since I don’t really know what I’m looking for I’m not sure I’ll recognize it when I see it. Oh and Francine has black skin, including her eyelids and gums. Not helpful. Ivy has been getting de-worming medicine once a month all summer since my neighbor gave me a bottle when I bought her. The sheep haven’t been de-wormed since right before I bought them in May. We are about to start breeding so I figure its a good time to give the sheep another dose. Then I won’t dose them again till early spring right before lambing. Ivy’s worm meds have been surprisingly easy to administer. I just fill up a syringe and stick it in the back of her mouth while tempting her with treats. It must not taste too bad because she barely resists and quickly forgets about it as soon as I give her a handful of grain. I’ve yet to try this technique on the sheep. There seem to be “drenching guns” available to assist in getting the medication down the sheep’s throats but I am not sure if this is necessary.
I hope that the deworming medication doesn’t go bad quickly. The smallest bottle I can buy of Valbazen is 500mL for $38. The dose is 3mL per 100lb, and my sheep weigh less than 100lb each so I only need under 9mL to dose all three. If I de-worm the sheep three times a year (fall, lambing, weaning) then I only need 27mL per year. Clearly I need a larger flock in order to make better use of my medication purchases!
I’m ordering the de-wormer today so we’ll give it a try soon. Cross your fingers that the sheep are as low-key about it as the goat!
P.S. Did you know that there is a tool called an “emasculatome“? Anyone want to guess what its use for?