Tuesday, February 27, 2007

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.


Marit Kostøl said...

Lovely pictures! I never relized you could dock the tails of sheep, I don't think anyone is doing it around here. Our sheep has short, stubby tails, but that flyandmaggotproblem might still occur. Nasty it is.
I so much enjoy your blog:-)
Best wishes, Marit in Norway

Heather said...

What a beautiful picture of the hay eating festival. Yes, flies are so nasty! I didn't know that lambs came with tails of varying lengths, but I can clearly see the need to trim, now that you mention it. The procedure reminds me a little of what we go through with our newborns and their umbilical cords. Thank you for the interesting entry.


bernie said...

Thanks for the pics. I have heard about the fly and maggot problem is sheep and that it can be very devastating both to the flock and to the owners. So many of our "nursery rhymes" have hidden meaning behind them. Have a great evening!

Diana said...

I so love the lamby pictures. It brightens my day. Wish I was close enough to come visit. d

Marcy said...

I love it when the little lambies try to eat hay like mom does, but don't quite know what it is they're supposed to do with it once it's in their little mouths. :D

Chookyblue said...

I also live on a farm in the land of Oz and we have sheep. Love your blurb on tail docking. So many restrictions are being put on our lives by do gooders.

knittingiris said...

Love these 'real life' tales (Oops. I actually did type tails at first...no pun intended...REALLY!)
So interesting for a girl who grew up in the suburbs.
Just this morning the boys and I just spent about 20 minutes or so down the road from us watching a newborn calf being licked clean by it's mama and stand up and take it's first few steps. I just wished we'd been a little sooner to see it be born. They weren't far off the roadway.