Little Lamb's Tails
We are at a lambing lull - we haven’t had a lamb born in two weeks. I miss seeing the newborns but it is fun to watch the older lambs experience life with the joie de vivre of a five year old. They are eating the haylage The Farmer “put up” last summer along with their mothers. They are also getting a bit of grain which they particularly love. It is sweet and is what I like to call “lamb candy.” It is quite a scene as all the lambs rush to the creep feeder to get some fresh eats every morning. They are eating about 50 pounds of grain a day collectively. There are over 120 lambs so far.
Some breeds of sheep have "fat tails" and some have short stubby ones. When our sheep are born they have long thin tails. We “dock” the tails from the lambs we plan to keep by using a “ring expander” and a special elastic band. It is a quick process and it doesn’t hurt the lamb too much after the initial pinch. The elastic band cuts off the circulation to the tail and it falls off within a week or two. The other way some shepherds remove tails is to cut them off but this can be quite bloody.
Removing the tail of the lambs keeps a sheep healthy throughout its life. In our humid summers, flies are attracted to dirty behinds. Without a long tail, our sheep are less apt to develop a nasty situation called fly strike. We have had this happen a couple times and it is not a pretty picture. The flies lay their eggs on the sheep and maggots develop. A sheep can be dead in a day. Docking the tails is a good thing to do for sheep in this climate.
I guess the children’s rhyme Little Bo Peep can be adapted on our farm to:
Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep
and she doesn't know where to find them.
Leave them alone,
and they'll come home
wagging their "stubby little" tails behind them.