While we were separating the sheep into their respective pens Friday, I realized that two of the lambs had poopy butts. I was puzzled. In six years, none of my lambs has ever had diarrhea. "Usually, diarrhea in goat kids means coccidia," I explained to Mike, "but I can't imagine where the lambs would have gotten it." Then it clicked.
I am not that old, and I have absolutely no symptoms of menopause, except for this one little thing. Now if only I could remember what it was. Hmm . . . oh, yeah! My memory has been terrible the last few months! What was I talking about? Oh, right, lambs with diarrhea. I checked my records and realized I had made an incredibly huge, stupid, possibly life-threatening mistake. The sheep had just spent three days in an area where bucklings had been pastured only three weeks earlier -- bucklings who were moved to the barn to be treated for coccidia!
I thought they had been off that grass for at least a month or six weeks. I guess time flies around here. We practice rotational grazing to keep internal parasite loads down, but my stupid mistake did just the opposite. Three weeks is the absolute worst time to move animals into an area, because that's how long it takes internal parasites to hatch, so there was a brand new batch of parasites just hanging out on the grass waiting for a ruminant to come along and eat them. (They're microscopic, which is why we can't see them, and they don't get chewed up.)
In addition, coccidia is a single-cell organism that causes diarrhea and then death by dehydration, if not treated. No one has even really given me a good number on how long it takes coccidia to be eradicated from pasture, so I really should not have put any sheep or goats on that grass again until next year. How could something so simple and obvious escape me?
Mike and I picked up the two lambs, which were not hard to catch as they were laying in the shelter. Mike took the little ewe because she was older and heavier. I took the little ram, who is two months old. He didn't feel too heavy as we headed towards the barn. About 100 yards later, I leaned against a dog house to catch my breath. At least every minute the little ram seemed to feel some obligation to kick as if he were trying to escape. My panting and gasping sounded like a marathon runner at the finish line as we finally reached the barn five minutes later. I can't believe I used to carry around a wiggly, 15-pound baby all day, but the last time I did that was 16 years ago, so I guess I'm out of practice.
The good news is that we have not noticed any other sheep with poopy butts, and these two seem to be on the mend. After the first day of medication, they were pooping little logs, and yesterday they were pooping pebbles again. Today will be their last day of medication, and they can rejoin the flock.
And I just realized that little ewe needs a name. Her mother is Ophelia, so I was thinking something else from Shakespeare. Any suggestions? Life doesn't seem to be very good for her so far. In addition to getting coccidiosis, she also ripped out her ear tag, so it looks like she has a double ear.