Monday, July 25, 2011

Another learning experience......

Chalk it up to education, my mother always says when things don't go as planned.  Seems we are always learning new things around here.  Just when you think you have it all worked out on the farm mother nature throws you another curve ball.  This year I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about internal parasites related to sheep. 
We have always done the traditional parasite treatments and more recently have tried to use the dewormers a bit more sparingly, using more of the FAMACHA system on the adult sheep.  This helps avoid your worms becoming resistant to the dewormers.  I am also aware of the explosion of worms around the time of lambing so try to treat accordingly.  But this year things, for various reasons some which I will explain, seem to have gotten a bit away from us.   First off we had more lambs than in past years, 16 in total.  Secondly,  as you may have noticed if you live in the Pacific NW, we have had an unusually wet spring/summer.  Moisture, combined with warmth, is a perfect environment for the hatching of parasites.  Sheep are generally susceptible to worms.  They were meant to graze vast areas of land, not the same little paddock week after week.  They graze close to the ground where those little wormies like to hang out.   Another happening fact, like other organisms in our life, they are  becoming resistant to our treatments.  Many areas around the country, particularly the south, these parasites have become resistant to the conventional dewormers we typically use on sheep.  From my talks with other shepherds around these parts I believe it is starting to happen here as well.   Anyway, this year we were able to see first hand how destructive these buggers can be on little lambs.  Although we have not lost any lambs, most of ours have developed varying degrees of anemia, and, in spite of our rich feedings, are not putting on the usual weight.  We've also had a few cases of lamb pneumonia and plenty of coughing lambs.   As the weather is drying we now finally getting a handle on it.  We have done some strategic dewormings and are monitoring the anemia closely, although that will take a bit of time for them to recover from.
So from the lessons of this year we will make a few changes for next year.  We will have less lambs  for sure, that has many added benefits including more time with each lamb so in the end they will all be more friendly.  We have less animals in total, lower stocking rate equals less parasites. We will put newly weaned lambs on "clean" pasture, that is a different paddock than the moms were on and hopefully not as contaminated.  We may also have our lambing a bit later in the season so the pastures are dryer, something mother nature will have to help us with too.  And we will monitor very closely.  Certainly I will always have more to learn, but isn't that one of the joys of life!

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