NZ Lifestyle Block - - Down On The Farm -

THE BIG­GEST prob­lem with not shear­ing sheep of­ten enough or at the right time oc­curs mainly in warm and hu­mid places like the Auck­land and North­land re­gions. Hav­ing too much wool makes them prone to fly­strike. Flies like smelly damp things and sheep with wool, par­tic­u­larly af­ter a bit of sum­mer rain, are ex­tremely at­trac­tive to flies as a place for them to lay eggs.

When the eggs hatch, the mag­gots crawl down to the base of the wool onto the warm skin of the sheep and be­gin to eat dead skin cells and oils on the sur­face. This tick­les the sheep, caus­ing them to try to scratch the an­noy­ance away which is im­pos­si­ble if the wool is long. You'll see the flies fol­low­ing and land­ing on an an­i­mal which is fly-struck. A sheep will of­ten try and run away from flies, will shake her skin to try and keep them off, and flick her head to­ward her back to try and chase them away, but the flies will al­ways win.

The mag­gots will soon start eat­ing live skin, which is in­creas­ingly painful for the sheep. It will even­tu­ally be­come so dis­tressed it gives up try­ing to es­cape and will usu­ally head for a shady place. If you don't find it, it will slowly die, in great pain.

This is an ill­ness caused by tox­ins which are pro­duced by the spores of a fun­gus that lives on dead grass mat­ter near the soil, be­neath the grow­ing green parts of some grass plants. The fun­gus oc­curs in sum­mer and au­tumn and is worst af­ter rain when the ground con­di­tions are warm and hu­mid.

The tox­ins cause liver dam­age and a sheep will be­come very sen­si­tive to light. In se­vere cases the skin around the head of a sheep will die and peel off, but ear­lier signs will in­clude an­i­mals seek­ing shade and be­ing un­usu­ally twitchy.

It’s very im­por­tant to talk to your vet about spe­cial prod­ucts that can pre­vent fa­cial eczema which need to be ad­min­is­tered in Jan­uary, Fe­bru­ary and March.

Th­ese are only a few of the is­sues you need to keep in mind if you have sheep and no pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of look­ing af­ter them, but there are many more. Some vet clin­ics run education sem­i­nars for peo­ple new to keep­ing farm an­i­mals – ask your lo­cal vet to see if they can run one for you – and talk to your neigh­bours so you can learn more from them.

rest of the mob pushed her over the edge and she went but her leg couldn’t. Snap. Bloody shame. Nice lit­tle sheep.

“I don’t think I will be al­lowed to dog tucker her. Bug­ger to have to dig a big hole. But what’s the op­tion?

The re­sult was Alice was stand­ing in a cor­ner of the pad­dock, all her weight on three legs, the other just hang­ing limply. The Vet knew he wasn’t be­ing in­vited to visit; the eco­nom­ics of it just didn’t add up.

Big Jim re­ported the sheep had been shorn (care­fully) and trans­ported back to her pad­dock like the queen mother in the back of the sta­tion wagon. This all had hap­pened while Lit­tle Jim was still at school.

“Well, sheep aren’t like horses,” the Vet said. “They can man­age to get around on three legs. It might not look pretty. But short of some fi­nan­cially crip­pling x-rays, or­thopaedic surgery and plat­ing… well… you could just splint it and see what hap­pens.” “Se­ri­ously?” “Yes,” the Vet replied. “A bit of plumber’s kitchen drain pipe would do. Slice it open length­wise, ease it over the leg, pack it up with cot­ton wool and se­cure it in place with some ban­dage. Have a look un­der the pack­ing ev­ery few days to make sure the leg stays dry and it isn’t rub­bing.

“As long as you aren’t truck­ing her any­where, as long as she is able to move around and graze and is not in any dis­tress. Keep her with her mates, so she has com­pany. Don’t put her back in the main flock where she might get shoved about. But just watch and see.”

So Lit­tle Jim was tasked with giv­ing her an ex­tra hand­ful of sheep nuts a day, and re­port­ing on her progress.

A few months passed and the Vet had for­got­ten all about the ad­ven­tures of Alice. But then he was called out to Mor­riseys to pal­pate the breed­ing rams, flip­ping each of the big boys over on their bums and do­ing a scro­tum check for epi­didymi­tis or any swellings or ab­nor­mal­i­ties that might stop them per­form­ing their stud du­ties. Heavy work that left him smelling like a ram in mat­ing mode.

As he drove past the house pad­dock he spied the pet sheep on the way out. Lit­tle Jim was just back from school, and Alice was am­bling over to meet the boy, or at least to check out his pock­ets for left­over school lunch. The splint was gone and she was mov­ing along just fine, full weight on all four feet.

“That’s a real race­horse you got there now, Lit­tle Jim, now we just got to hope the rest of her ad­ven­tures aren’t as dan­ger­ous.”

“Yep. She’s the first to the nuts in the morn­ing. Pretty good doc­tor eh??”

“Doc­tor who?” asked the Vet. “Me or you?”

“Well, I am sure you have looked af­ter her just great. And I didn’t do any­thing. No, I just meant Doc­tor Time. Time is a great healer.

“And magic. And my Dad. And a bit of old pipe.” ■

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