Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sick lambs

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.


Jen and Rich Johnson said...

From the research I've done, coccidia can build up in an environment over time and they are difficult to get rid of. Extremes in temperature will kill off some of them (according to other people; I haven't proven that). Adults seem to build up an immunity to them, but it takes lambs a while. The standard treatment is Albon for 5 days, followed by nothing for 10, and then Albon for another 10 to capture the new hatchings. They say that one round of treatment isn't adequate. Again, I have no evidence to support or contradict that, except to say that it works. I've done fecal tests to prove that it works. I have not done fecal testing on only one round of treatments.

So, the long and the short of it is that those pastures wouldn't have been clean of parasites even if you had waited another four weeks. You need the elements to work with you on that.


Deborah said...

Yeah, no one is going on that grass again until next spring.

I was explaining the three-week thing because even if the previous occupants hadn't had coccidia, I should not have put anyone on there because of internal parasites (worms).

MaskedMan said...

Coccidia is a pain in the butt for a lot of people (pun intended). Dogs can come down with it, too - It's seriously hard to deal with in dogs, because most people don't have the blessing of having multiple areas for dogs to go do their business. Instead, it's 'clean up after every poo, and then get all 'scorched earth' on that spot.'

Anyway, you made a mistake, it's not fatal, nor even terribly costly, and you've recovered. Life moves on...

Beth said...

Hi Deb!

I was just reading through this and feel for you. My kitten had coccidia when I brought her home and I had to keep her seperate from my older cat, plus she needed 2 rounds of meds, not just one. And, she was only 2 pounds with all of this happening, so it was kinda scary!

You asked for names from shakespeare.... I love Shakespeare so here are some suggestions if you'd like.

Cordelia (daughter who was loyal to her father in King Lear... There is also Regan and Goneril, but they aren't as cute... lol)

Juliet (obvious, but tragic mishaps similar to your animal's)

Cleopatra (A classic royal name)


Hope things are going well with you! Feel free to email or facebook any time!!!!


Deborah said...

LOL, Masked Man, pain in the butt, indeed.

Aw, Beth, I can't imagine a 2-pound kitten with coccidia. :( Glad she got over it. Thanks for the Shakespeare suggestions.

A Homeschool Story said...

I'm no good on sheep, but I could help with names; Kate, Taming of the Shrew,
Viola, the fair twin who dressed as a man to survive a shipwreck, Twelfth Night, Olivia, in love with Viola dressed up as a boy, who ends up marrying the twin Sebastian accidentally, (thank goodness for Viola, who was secretly in love with the Duke.)
Miranda, the King's daughter, the Tempest,
Titania, queen of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Helena and Hermia, the lost maidens caught up in Puck and Titania's antics in the forest.

I hope your little lamb is better, enjoy her!

loving your blog,



Never a dull moment on a farm. I see you're always ready to jump in and do what's necessary to keep your critters healthy. Good job!

Recently, I have become terrible with names, so I'm no good to you there, sorry.

Nadine said...

I know that it's not a name name but what about Tempest? Or failing that, a name from the Tempest?

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