Apr 152013
 

From A to B

 Moving sheep can be a particularly challenging time for smallholders.  If like me you rent fields elsewhere, or have divided up your smallholding into more usable spaces. Then you may have to move your sheep regularly. However, smallholders rarely have a trained sheep dog, or access to expensive sheep handling equipment. Furthermore, smallholders often have rare breeds of sheep or more primitive types that are known to be difficult or less likely to flock together.  All of these factors combined can lead to a stressful time for both you and your sheep.  My experience is that moving sheep is a skilled job and one you need to learn.  

 Here at Fifesmallholder space is limited so anything we set up needs to be flexible, because areas have different uses at different times of year.  Through experience we have learned that you need to plan the movement of your sheep like military manoeuvres.  Especially during sesnsitive times like moving the girls (when pregnant) to get them scanned, vacinated and moved to lambing areas.

We use three things regularly:

Move sheep using food

 

  • We either draw sheep forward with food or divert them with food.  For example if you want to get a sheep to move forward through a gate that you are standing close too(behind is OK but if you are in front of them they will hesitate) then get their head in a bucket or let them eat from your hand (you need to give them some – if you just tease then they will give up).  Your sheep must be used to this and trust you otherwise this will not work (it takes time and patience but a sheep will eat out of your hand).  Winter time is the best time to do this (they are less interested in feed in the summer when there is plenty of grass), but we try to feed our sheep whenever we visit (especially if we are planning on doing something with them).  Lambs and those that have not lambed are another thing all together and are the hardest to try and tame (they do not trust and are very scared)  – we normally put an older ewe in with them that knows the ropes and who trusts you – the rest will follow (if the older sheep thinks its Ok then it must be) because of the herd instinct.  Likewise if we want to enter a field with the pickup and don’t want them crowding the gate and escaping – then feed them away from the area in question and take their mind off the opportunity.

Move sheep using their herding instinct

 

  • Sheep will always walk away from you (the danger) towards others like them (safety in numbers).  You can therefore drive them in a direction – if they are thinking about bolting or running past you might be able to stop them if you wave your arms erratically and make a sudden high pitched noise. You can also move sheep by countering their position, if they move left then you move left and stare at them – they will move right.  A good sheep dog can hold a flock with just a good eye or stare – try to act like a good sheepdog.  However if they decide to run past you – YOU WILL NOT CATCH THEM (short of a rugby tackle that might harm you or the sheep). In some situations you might only get one chance (they will learn and remember what has happened that day) – if you haven’t been working up to this (e.g. feeding them regularly etc) then either go for a cup of tea and start again or try another day.  Sheep are not stupid – they can also count.  One person is OK but two people means that something is going to happen.  Either hide the other person or try and do it yourself – you’d be surprised with the opportunities that present themselves – just be ready in advance so that you can close the gate or trailer.  A long rope on a gate is a good idea – it  enables you to swing something shut without being too close.  Another thing about sheep is that they will follow other sheep, so you either trap one sheep (e.g. in a trailer with a hurdle) or you get everyone else on the otherside of the gate and they will not want to be alone. However this also means that if you put a sheep in a pen (because it is sick for example), always make sure that they can see or have a friend in the pen with them. Otherwise they will get stressed or try to escape, if you want to move a ewe with lambs – just catch the lamb (easier said than done without a crook) and carry the lamb at nose height to the ewe and walk backwards.  The lamb will bleat and the ewe will respond and follow.  Another thing is that if you want to catch a sheep, do not look at it.  I know this sounds strange but you can get much closer to it if it does not think that it is the focus of the event.  Look somewhere else but watch the sheep out of the corner of your eye, or pretend to be doing something else.  We have a lot of metal lamb hurdles and have found them to be flexible and have lots of uses, if a sheep will not enter a gate or enclosure then make a funnel leading to a race and pen.  It also helps if you feed them in the pen regularly so that you can just close the gate.  Put the hurdles up in advance and let them get used to it, otherwise they will get suspicious of anything new.  On that subject, wearing the same jacket and not having strangers about does keep the stress down.  A bottle fed lamb, and ewes that have lambed will trust you more – use that to your advantage.

Move sheep using a dog

 

  • If you want to stop running around a field then get yourself a sheepdog, or a retired trials dog.  we dont have a sheep dog (it’s on the list) but it is not the first time that we have used our dogs to control a situation.  Sheep are not as scared of humans as they are about dogs – extend your coverage (a crook is also a good thing to make you seem bigger – it extends your arm) with a dog on a lead or extend-a-lead.  In a situation where a sheep keeps running away through a gap (they will find the opportunity and use it again and again), I have tied my dog there and the sheep will not pass the dog.  There are dangers involved in this situation – you need to know your dog and you need to make sure it cannot run free.  This could potentially be disasterous – either the dog could chase or attack the sheep and stress them, or the sheep could ram the dog and hurt it.  Unless it is a trained sheep dog – I always make sure they are on a lead and secured in position, I also only use no-aggressive breeds like my labradors or collie).  If all else fails then pay a shepherd to round up your sheep.

I know this all sounds complicated but you will fall into a way of doing things, I have seen a farmer move his sheep by just waving an empty feed bag from the back of a quad – all he needs is one sheep to follow and they all will.  Routine is another thing, if a sheep has done it before it will remember (that is where hefting originates from and the knowledge is passed from ewe to lamb).  Good luck, if you can afford it then invest in mobile systems that makes life easier.  Otherwise then plan your moves and leave nothing to chance.

Other tips:

  • We open the doors on our vehicle in order to prevent a sheep running past (blocking a single track road for example), this is done in the absence of hurdles.  
  • A bucket of feed in the trailer will often tempt someone in to investigate.
  • We prefer lamb hurdles that secure with a ring at the top – they are easier to handle than other hurdles.
  • The breed of sheep is important, it is my experience that the more primitive the breed the less trusting they are.  The one exception to this rule is Ryelands, it is said that the gate to a field can lie open and they won’t think to go through it.  We crossed our wild shetlands with a Ryeland tup for that reason and got a sheep that was easier to handle.  If you have sheep like Hebrideans then good luck!  However because smallholders are more hands on and likely to spent more time with their sheep, they may learn to trust or are not so scared – hopefully.
  • If you move the lamb first then normally a ewe will follow.  Keep it at head height to the ewe and move backwards or place the lamb in the area you want the ewe to go – it will call to its mum and she will move to it.

 

 

 April 15, 2013  dog, livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , ,
Oct 192012
 
PLS-00008663-001

Deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus 8360 lores

To a mouse – Robert Burns

“Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.”

Winter time is likely to be the time when you start to suspect you have rats or mice (also known as rodents or vermin).   It is cold and food supplies are less plentiful outside – this is often the time when rodents move into the house or buildings around the smallholding. As a nature lover I am happy to live and let live – so what is the big issue about mice and rats?

What is the risk from rats and mice?

Rats and mice spread germs that can cause severe illnesses and disease in humans, some of which can be fatal to humans, although this is very rare.  They can carry  Salmonella and Weils Disease through their droppings and urine.   Campylobacter (Campylobacter infections, can cause diarrhoea and fever. This bacteria is spread via rodents to poultry and thus enter the human food chain  and Leptospira.  The pathogens of this potentially fatal febrile disease are transmitted via rodent urine and can enter the human blood stream through small cuts, for instance.  Mice may also carry tapeworms, and organisms that can cause ringworm (a fungal skin disease) in humans.

Rats and mice can also cause fires by gnawing on cables. Research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that half of all agricultural fires in Great Britain can be traced back to rodents.

Signs of rodent infestation:

  • Sounds. Gnawing, climbing noises in walls, squeaks.
  • Droppings. Found along walls, behind objects and near food supplies.
  • Burrows. Rat burrows are indicated by fresh diggings along foundations, through floorboards into wall spaces.
  • Runs. Look for dust-free areas along walls and behind storage material. A tracking patch made of flour, rolled smooth with a cylindrical object, can be placed in pathways overnight to determine if rodents are present.
  • Gnawing may be visible on doors, ledges, in corners, in wall material, on stored materials, or on other surfaces wherever mice are present. Fresh accumulations of wood shavings, insulation, and other gnawed material indicate active infestations. Fresh gnawing marks will be pale in colour.
  • Rodent odours. Persistent musky odours are a positive sign of infestation.
  • Visual sighting. Daylight sighting of mice is common. Rats are seen in daylight only if populations are high. Quietly enter your barn at night, wait in silence for five minutes and listen for the sound of rodent activity. Look around with a powerful torch; rat eyes will reflect the light.
  • Smudge (rub) marks. These may be found on pipes or rafters where dirt and oil from their fur leave a greasy film.
  • Urine, both wet and dry, will fluoresce under ultraviolet light, although so will some other materials. Urine stains may occur along travel-ways or in feeding areas.

“It is a generally accepted rule of thumb that there are approximately 25 mice or rats for every one that is seen.”

Why Control Rodents?

Damage from rodents comes in many forms:

  • Damage to buildings. Mice and rats will damage wood and electrical wiring, which can be a fire hazard.
  • Destruction of insulation. Many livestock and poultry facilities show serious deterioration within five years. Associated with this damage are costs for re-insulation, increased energy costs and poorer feed conversions by animals.
  • Feed consumed. A colony of 100 rats will consume over 1 tonne of feed in 1 year.
  • Feed contaminated. A rat can contaminate 10 times the amount of feed it eats with its droppings, urine and hair. A rat produces 25,000 droppings per year, a mouse 17,000.
  • Biosecurity. Rodents are recognized as carriers of approximately 45 diseases, including salmonellosis, pasteurellosis, leptospirosis, swine dysentery, trichinosis, and toxoplasmosis. Mice and rats can carry disease-causing organisms on their feet, increasing the spread of disease.

Is It A Rat Or Mouse Problem?

Since rats and mice require different control strategies, you should determine which vermin you have. The simplest way to differentiate between the types of infestation is by examining the droppings.

Rodent or Vermin Droppings

Mouse droppings are black and rice-kernel size, whereas rat droppings are black and bean-sized.

Breeding

Mice and rats have tremendous breeding potential. Under ideal situations, a pair of rats and their offspring can produce 20,000,000 young in 3 years. Mice reproduce even faster.

Life expectancy of a rat is around one year, during which female rats will typically breed five times and produce an average of 8 offspring. A mouse life expectancy is around one year, during which a female may breed up to six times and produce about six offspring.

Mice prefer to nest in dark secluded areas with little chance of disturbance. They may burrow into the ground in fields or around structures when other shelter is not readily available. Nests are constructed of shredded fibrous materials such as paper, and generally have the appearance of a “ball” of material loosely woven together. They are usually 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) in diameter.  Foraging territories are no more than 6 metres away. If there is abundant food nearby they can nest within 1.2-1.6 metres of the source.

Litters of 5 or 6 young mice are born 19 to 21 days after mating, although females that conceive while still nursing may have a slightly longer gestation period. Mice are born hairless and with their eyes closed. They grow rapidly, and after 2 weeks they are covered with hair and their eyes and ears are open. They begin to make short excursions from the nest and eat solid food at 3 weeks. Weaning soon follows, and mice are sexually mature at 6 to 10 weeks of age.

Mice may breed year-round, but when living outdoors, they breed mostly in spring and autumn. A female may have 5 to 10 litters per year. Mouse populations can therefore grow rapidly under good conditions, although breeding and survival of young decline markedly when population densities become high.

Senses

Rats and mice have poor eyesight but excellent senses of smell, taste, touch and hearing. They do not like open areas and prefer contact with walls and other objects.

Mice are considered color-blind; therefore, for safety reasons, baits can be dyed distinctive colors without causing avoidance by mice, as long as the dye does not have an objectionable taste or odour.

Habits

Rats and mice move rapidly and are excellent climbers and have no problem climbing vertical brick walls. They are also active burrowers and like to build nests in compost heaps or underneath hedges, sheds and decking. In the house they will nest in wall cavities and beneath floorboards. They are mainly active at night feeding on a range of commodities, particularly cereals and cereal products. They will eat about 10% of their own body weight of food daily. Rats require a regular supply of water, whereas mice do not as there is normally enough to survive on in their food. Rats are also good swimmers and are often found in sewers where there is food, water and shelter.

The front teeth of rats grow continuously and to keep the teeth to a useful length the rat needs to gnaw on hard objects all the time; objects can include lead water pipes, brickwork, electric cables, wood and anything else available. They usually have well worn runs between their living area and their food and water sources.

Mice will easily enter gaps of 5mm wide and they are very good climbers.

If a pencil fits in a gap, then a mouse can get in!

Mice eat many types of food but prefer seeds and grain. They are not hesitant to eat new foods and are considered “nibblers,” sampling many kinds of items that may exist in their environment. Foods high in fat, protein, or sugar may be preferred even when grain and seed are present. Such items include bacon, chocolate sweets, and butter (a little melted chocolate is a favourite in our mouse traps).

They do not range far from the nest. The maximum range for rats is 45 m (148 ft), for mice 9 m (30 ft). Rats are extremely apprehensive about new objects and will avoid them for several days. Leaving a trap out for about 5 days is necessary to ensure acceptance. Mice quickly accept new objects. This becomes very important when designing baiting or trapping programs.

Rodent Damage

Rats and mice will invade buildings in search of food and shelter. In doing so they may be involved in the transmission of disease, soiling and destroying belongings, damaging equipment and can cause serious structural damage by gnawing through cables, waterpipes and woodwork etc. They also eat and destroy food stores.

Did you know?

  • mice are sexually mature at 6 to 10 weeks of age?
  • worldwide, rats transmit roughly 40 diseases?
  • unlike mice, rats avoid anything new? They only take tiny amounts of freshly laid-out bait and often avoid new traps completely.
  • rats do not just eat food leftovers, but also soap and paper, dead mice, birds and fowl
  • a rat produces 25000 droppings per year, a mouse 17000.
  • rats and mice are highly adaptable creatures. Some of them have even developed resistance to rodenticides

Controlling and reducing vermin 

The next step in controlling a rodent problem is to reduce the population with a combination of baits, traps, and cats.  It is best to ensure that you set up a programme of activity that is overseen by you – some of the work can be undertaken by other people such as private pest control companies, or your local authority pest control officer.  However, this will be an ongoing matter that will require you to be vigilant and pro-active.

Prevention – Reducing rodent infestations

Eliminating Hiding Places and Nesting Sites

Rodents do not like to be exposed. Maintain sound housekeeping, eliminate loosely piled building materials, old feed bags or anything else that a rodent can hide in or under.

“Best practice says that when cleaning you should let it air for 30 to 60 minutes, and if you find mice droppings or you find nesting material, you should spray it with a 10% bleach solution or disinfectant, and let it soak in for a while.  Ideally you should never sweep or vacum the droppings because this puts infectious matter into the air, where it can be inhaled.  The best bet is to clean with something disposable whilst wearing rubber gloves.”

Remove Food and Water

Eliminate water sources such as leaky taps, open water troughs, sweating pipes and open drains. Keep all feeds in rodent-proof bins (we use metal dustbins with lids or old wheelie bins), covered cans or metal hoppers. Reduce feed spillage and immediately dispose of dead animals. Without readily available food and water, populations cannot build.

Mice and Rat Predators

vermin control

Some dogs  and cats will catch and kill mice and rats.  Cats may limit low-level mouse or rat populations.  However, if conditions are ideal for rodents, cats cannot eliminate a problem because they are not able to catch mice as quickly as they multiply. Cats may also introduce disease into a facility by bringing in rodents caught in fields.

Around most structures, mice can find many places to hide and rear their young out of the reach of such predators. Cats probably cannot eliminate existing mouse populations, but in some situations they may be able to prevent reinfestations once mice have been controlled. Farm cats, if sufficient in number, may serve this function.

Noise

Mice are somewhat wary animals and can be frightened by unfamiliar sounds or sounds coming from new locations. Most rodents, however, can quickly become accustomed to new sounds heard repeatedly.  There is little evidence to suggest that rodents’ responses to no-specific, high-frequency sound (ultrasonic sound) is any different from their response to sound within the range of human hearing.  Tests of commercial ultrasonic devices have indicated that rodents may be repelled from the immediate area of the ultrasound for a few days, but then will return and resume normal activities.

Repellents

Rodents find some types of tastes and odors objectionable, but chemical repellents are seldom a practical solution to mouse infestations. Substances such as moth balls (naphthalene) or household ammonia, in sufficient concentration, may have at least temporary effects in keeping mice out of certain enclosed areas.

Other solutions to rodent problems, including rodent-proof construction and methods of population reduction, are usually more permanent and cost-effective than the use of repellents.

Toxicants

Anticoagulants (slow-acting, chronic toxicants). Mice are susceptible to all of the various anticoagulant rodenticides , but they are generally less sensitive (often far less sensitive) to the active ingredients than rats.  Anticoagulants have the same effect on nearly all warm-blooded animals, but the sensitivity to these toxicants varies among species. Additionally, residues of anticoagulants which are present in the bodies of dead or dying rodents can cause toxic effects to scavengers and predators.

Anticoagulant Resistance

Within any population of  mice, some individuals are less sensitive to anticoagulants than others. Where anticoagulants have been used over long periods of time at a particular location, there is an increased potential for the existence of a population that is somewhat resistant to the lethal effects of the baits.

Anticoagulant Bait Failure

Resistance is only one (and perhaps the least likely) reason for failure in the control of mice with anticoagulant baits. Control with baits that are highly accepted may fail for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Too short a period of bait exposure. —Insufficient bait and insufficient replenishment of bait (none remains from one baiting to the next).
  • Too few bait stations and/or too far apart. For mice, stations should be within 6 feet (2 m) of one another in areas where mice are active. —Too small a control area, permitting mice to move in from untreated adjacent areas. —Genetic resistance to the anticoagulant. Although this is unlikely, it should be suspected if about the same amount of bait is taken daily for several weeks.

Reasons for failure to achieve control with anticoagulant baits :

  • Poor bait choice, or bait formulated improperly. Other foods are more attractive to the mice.
  • Improperly placed bait stations. Other foods are more convenient to the mice.
  • Abundance of other food choices.
  • Tainted bait: the bait has become mouldy, rancid, insect-infested, or contaminated with other material that reduces acceptance. Discard old bait periodically, and replace it with fresh.
  • Occasionally, mice accept bait well and an initial population reduction is successful. Then bait acceptance appears to stop although some mice remain. In such instances, it is likely that the remaining mice never accepted the bait, either because of its formulation or placement. The best strategy is to switch to a different bait formulation, place baits at different locations, and/ or use other control methods such as traps.

“Never place bait stations where livestock, pets, or other animals can knock them over. Spilled bait may be a potential hazard, particularly to smaller animals.”

 If misused, anticoagulant rodenticides can be lethal to non-target animals such as dogs, pigs, and cats.

Rodent droppings and pigs

The causative organism of Erysipelas in pigs is the ubiquitous bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, formally known as Erysipelas insidiosa. The bacterium can survive in soil or dung for 6 months or more but probably more significantly is carried by a wide range of wild birds as well as rodents, especially mice. Pigs are particularly susceptible to disease with this organism and the classical manifestations are the acute, septicaemic form producing sudden deaths or in milder cases “diamonds”. These forms of the disease can be controlled by a combination of hygiene, medication and vaccination.

Mice have also been found to act as reservoirs or transmitters of diseases of veterinary importance, such as swine dysentery, a serious bacterial disease of swine often called “bloody scours.”

Rodents and poultry

It has been estimated that rodents can increase poultry feed ussage by as much as 2% especially in the cold weather. Rats and mice are likely to find poultry houses a great place to live. Rodents spread diseases to poultry flocks by contaminating feed and bird living area with urine or droppings. Rats and mice are linked to poultry diseases such as salmonellosis, colibacillosis, coryza, pasteurellosis, mycoplasmosis, hemorrhagic enteritis,hymenolepiasis, capilariasis, and ascaridiasis. Because of their ability to harbor pathogens, rodents also can carry over disease organisms from one flock to another even if the facilities are cleaned and disinfected.  Rodents also carry parasites such as lice, fleas, and mites.

All types of rodents eat poultry feed and they waste and contaminate more than they eat. It has been suggested by some authorities that one rat eats approximately 25 pounds of feed per year.   In addition to damage and feed loss rodents can cause high mortality rates and production losses. Rats have been known to kill baby chicks and break and eat eggs, and they may frighten birds by their movements or by noises they create.  Research has shown that by reducing the rodent population in poultry houses the bird mortality rate can also be lowered.

Rodent proofing a building

• Concrete: Concrete should be 2 inches thick if made of precast reinforced concrete plates fastened together, or at least 3¾ inches thick if not reinforced.
• Galvanized Sheet Metal: 24 Gauge or heavier; perforated sheet metal or grills should be 14 gauge.
Brick: Regular size, 3¾ inches thick with joints filled with mortar.
• Hardware Cloth: 19 Gauge ½ by ½ inch mesh to exclude rats, 24 gauge, ¼ by ¼ to exclude both rats and mice.

Any openings that are needed for ventilation should be screened or rodent proofed to prevent rodent access. With elimination of entry points, any potential hiding places outside the house should also be eliminated. Obvious food sources such as spilled feed should also be eliminated, use hanging feeders and remove any uneaten food before nightfall.

In some instances, a strip of heavy gravel placed adjacent to building foundations or other structures will reduce rodent burrowing at these locations. In any event, keep the perimeter of buildings and other structures clean of weeds and debris (including stacked lumber, firewood, and other stored materials) to discourage rodent activity and to allow easier detection of rodent sign.

However, any drastic change to their habitat may cause rodents to abandon their habitat. However they will only move to the next building or into the woods to wait until the coast is clear to return. Therefore the best plan is to elimate the rodents before undertaking a major clear-up.

Livestock food storage – making it vermin proof

Where possible, store bulk foods in rodent-proof containers or rooms. Stack sacked or boxed foods in orderly rows on pallets or tables in a way that allows for thorough inspection for evidence of mice. In such storage areas, keep stored materials away from walls.  Sweep floors frequently to permit ready detection of fresh droppings.

When storing foods or feed on pallets, keep in mind that mice can jump up more than 12 inches (30.5 cm) from a flat surface. They are also good climbers and can walk up surfaces such as wood or concrete (unless the surfaces have a slick finish). Mice can live for considerable periods of time within a pallet of feed without coming down to the floor.

Useful links

Apr 172012
 
scottish lamb

Risks and dangers to lambs on a smallholding

Today I rescued a ewe lamb who had become entangled in baler twine and could have strangled herself.  This reminded me that although we always have to be careful to ensure that the smallholding is safe for ourselves and our livestock, at lambing time we need to be particularly vigilant.  Here is some advice and tips from our experience over the years.

Wind and Rain

spring lamb with rainmac on

Once we are sure that the lamb and mother have bonded well, and that the lamb is suckling and there are no other ailments, we turn them out into our field.  When they first go out we put lamb mac’s on the lambs which are plastic coats that provide protection from rain and wind.   

First time ewes/mothers don’t necessarily know to take their lambs under shelter in heavy rain or wind, or the ewes who have a very thick winter coat and are happier lying outside in all weathers.  We have also found that the Herdwicks with their oily fleece do not feel the damp as badly as our other sheep, however we do not use a Herdwick tup so the lambs do not have as good a coat as their mothers.  

Using the above methods mean that hopefully we have reduced the risk of a lamb getting chilled or suffering hypothermia.  Its not the first time that a vulnerable lamb (e.g. suffering from joint ill) has worn the dog coat belonging to my Jack Russell as extra protection! Please don’t worry, the examples I have given are exceptions.  Normally lambs get plenty of warm milk from their mothers regularly and this helps to keep them warm.  In time the lambs soon outgrow their plastic rain coats or we remove them if the weather is warm and mild.

lamb macs protect lamb from elements

Shelter

ewe and lambs sheltering from the weather

Up here in Fife Scotland, we can get ‘four seasons in one day’ as they say. And it is important to provide shelter for the lambs – somewhere they can go during extreme weather (wind, rain, snow).  Its April just now and this month we have had heavy rain (making the ground damp to lie on),  very cold winds (which chill both sheep and lamb), and snow (cold and damp).  Lambs can get chilled, and suffer from hypothermia, joint ill, or pnuemonia from bad weather.  

sheep seek shelter from very cold winter winds

We have fixed shelters in one of our fields but these can often be full at lambing time or during extreme weather.  The picture above was taken during very cold north winds and the sheep came together in the south facing shelter (perhaps to get heat from each other).  We also use other bits of kit that provide added shelter opportunities for ewes with their lambs.  

Often at the start of a lambs life the mothers like to keep themselves and their lambs separate from other mothers and lambs, so one big shelter is not the best. Later when the lambs know the call of their mum, and everyone is used to each other then  lamb nurseries can develop where the lambs come together to play or sleep whilst the mums go off to graze.  

Where there are no natural opportunities like a hedge or stone wall, lots of little shelters (e.g. with straw bales) should be provided to make sure that they all have somewhere to go when settling their lambs down for the night, or when leaving them to go of and graze.  Sheep often like to lie with their back against something. Farmers can move their livestock onto drier fields in wet weather however smallholders often do not have that option.  We also sacrifice an area of pasture during the winter (e.g. where ground around the feeder or shelter becomes poached and muddy) that is reseeded in the spring.  Despite field drains and the building of a hard standing around the water/feeding/shelter area our ground can still get wet at times of prolonged heavy rain.  We therefore use horse or cow mats (purchased from Ebay and our local Agricultural merchant) on the ground during winter and lambing time and the sheep will choose to lie on these in preference to damp cold ground.  They are easily cleaned and are warm even when wet – unlike straw.  We also use metal hoops (or square straw bales) that can be used as mobile wind breaks or shelters from the rain and will also provide shade in the summer.

protection from wind for sheep

Salt

All animals need salt. Licks provide not only salt, but also trace elements, sometimes minerals and vitamins.  A salt or mineral lick is an important supplement for the ewe especially prior to and during lambing.  However  like other nutrients (protein, energy, vitamins, and water), minerals have to be supplied within certain limits to serve their purpose. Sheep, like all other livestock, have their own specific requirements and toxic levels. Read more.  

Your ground may also be deficient in certain trace elements (such as copper, selenium  or cobalt) that will require treatment or administration to your flock in other ways.  

Some lambs seem to have a fascination for a salt/mineral lick and will lick it constantly making them ill (poisoning) and die.  Make sure that licks are well out of reach, adjusting the height as the lamb grows. I have not been able to establish if this is the case, but where I suspect that a lamb has been licking the salt I have discovered white pasty poop which might be an indicator that something is wrong.

keep mineral licks out of reach of lambs

Water

Water is vital for a ewe, however lambs can drown in bucket of water like the one below.

water container

Instead we use where we can, drinkers that fit onto lamb hurdles and are high enough that the lambs cannot reach.

water and hay for the ewe

Falling objects

We have learnt to our cost to make sure that boards or hurdles are secured to prevent them from being knocked or blown over.  Lambs sleep a lot and like to lie against or shelter under things like these.  All it takes is for an unexpected gust of wind or a ewe to rub or bump against them for an accident to happen.

falling objects are a danger to lambs

Dogs

Dogs should be kept well away from pregnant ewes and lambs.  Like foxes and other predators (crows, magpies, and seagulls) they know that young lambs are vulnerable. Ewes might defend their lamb, but when they have twins this is more difficult.

labradors in kennel

Bloat

We have found that bottle fed lambs are more prone to bloat when they start to eat grass.  I’ve observed that lambs with their mothers will copy them and nibble at grass throughout their time when suckling, however when weaning bottle fed lambs they are obsessive about food and gorge themselves regularly.  This is perhaps to do with the fact that they cannot suckle on demand and feel the need to fill themselves whenever food is available just in case.  We therefore have found that the following measures are in place with bottle fed lambs to minimise this often fatal risk.

  • keep bottle fed lambs within the flock so that they too can copy the behaviour of other sheep 
  • restrict their grazing and gorging (see lamb pen below with dry hay available)
  • act quickly when bloat is evident

restricted grazing to prevent lamb bloat

Dirt/Disease/Parasites

Lambs can get a runny bum otherwise known as scours/diahroea/dysentery from a range of infections, and depending on how good their immunity is (e.g. how much colostrum they had and what age they are) will influence whether they get really sick and how well they recover.  Although without intervention from the smallholder they may not recover at all.  Causes can be parasitic or viral, environmental (water/bedding/udders) and/or nutritional, but all result in rapid dehydration of the animal. Timely treatment, fluids to rehydrate and containment of potentially infectious poop is critical in the effort to provide the animal the best chance for recovery. Determine the cause of the scours. Environmental causes may be unsanitary surroundings or possible contact with unclean water (read more) or infected faeces. Viral or bacterial causes may be E. coli, rotavirus, cryptosporidium, salmonella, giardia or clostridium perfringens type C. 

Its scary I know but I start by trying  to identify what is wrong by the colour of the lambs poop – please note that there are many reasons why a lamb is sick and you must always consult your vet.  Here is my experience on what may be wrong with a lamb on my smallholding :

Yellow Scour

Young lambs overfeeding on rich mothers milk might develop a scour.  I would make sure that the bum is cleaned (warm water or wet wipes) and doesn’t harden and obstruct the lamb from pooping or it might suffer watery mouth and could die from septicemia. If watery mouth develops then I treat accordingly.

White Scour

This is serious and may indicate Colibacillosis/E. coli and requires antibiotics.  As with all lambs with scours make sure that it is not dehydrated, and isolate it from other lambs.  WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY

Black  Scour

Worms read more….. 

Green Scour

This may simply be grass scours when moving on to good rich pastur,e or when a lamb starts to eat grass.  However it could also be Nematodirus which is a disease that affects young lambs at 4 – 10 weeks of age. The symptoms are a watery-green scour which leads to severe dehydration, and death in some cases.  The disease is the result of a large number of over wintered larvae hatching out within a short period following the right climatic conditions. Young grazing lambs pick up the infective larvae which develop into adults in the intestine and after a period eggs are passed out in the faeces. These eggs will then over winter on the pasture and become the source of infection for the follow year’s lambs. This disease can be prevented by keeping this year’s lambs off pasture that was grazed by lambs last year. Where this is not possible, lambs should be dosed with a suitable anthelmintic in early to mid – May followed by a repeat dose in 4/5 weeks.

Other dangers to lambs can be ignorance and lack of observation.  Check out my posts on :

 April 17, 2012  dog, livestock, must do, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Mar 062012
 
scotland flag

Scots country terms, dialect, or words for country matters.

 

 

  • ben – mountain
  • blackie – blackbird
  • blue bunnet – blue tit
  • brae – hill
  • brock – badger
  • cauf – calf
  • clippin – sheep shearing
  • coo – cow
  • corbie – raven
  • craw – crow
  • crock – old ewe sheep that has stopped lambing
  • croft – smallholding
  • donie – hare
  • dou – dove or racing pigeon
  • dug – dog
  • gimmer- a 2 year old ewe sheep
  • gress – grass
  • hen – chicken
  • hurcheon – hedgehog
  • kye/kyne – cows/cattle
  • moose – mouse, click here for a link to my favourite poem about a mouse
  • pous or pousie – cat
  • souk lamm – bottle reared lamb
  • speug – sparrow
  • tod – fox
  • tuip – male sheep ram
  • windlestrae –  A tall, thin, withered stalk of grass.
  • yowe – ewe female sheep

 

source:

Jan 042012
 
hand washing

The risk of cryptosporidium salmonella and E.coli on the smallholding

A smallholder can be very busy and multi-tasking is something you get used to.  It is therefore very easy to forget to wear protection, gloves, or wash your hands properly.  Especially at this time of year when it can be very muddy.

Your hands are permanently dirty from being outside, and can often have cuts or wounds from some mishap or other.  Or you are bottle feeding young lambs or hatched chics, and people (especially children) want to come and see them.  What is the risk in that?

The bacteria Escherichia coliand Salmonella and the protozoa Cryptosporidium are among the organisms that have the potential to cause serious disease that may be found in animal droppings and on contaminated surfaces around smallholdings.

What is cryptosporidium?

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan (single celled) parasite of human and animal importance, which if ingested, can cause an illness called cryptosporidiosis.  It can be transmitted through contact with soil, food, water or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected human or animal faeces. The most common symptom is watery diarrhoea, which can range from mild to severe. Cryptosporidiosis is most common in children aged between one and five years, but it can affect anyone. People with weak immune systems are likely to be most seriously affected.
Over 45 different species of animals including poultry, fish, reptiles, small mammals (rodents, dogs, and cats) and large mammals (including cattle and sheep) can become infected with Crytposporidium parvum.  The reservoir for this organism includes people, cattle, deer and many other species of animal.
Oocysts are shed in the faeces and can survive under very adverse environmental conditions. The oocysts are very resistant to disinfectants. People can re-infect themselves one or more times.  Human infection may be acquired by four main routes: from other people, from animals and their faeces, from untreated drinking water contaminated by either agricultural or human sewage sources, and from swimming in contaminated water. 
Cryptosporidiosis can be prevented by using good personal hygiene. Hands should be washed with soap after using bathroom facilities. Only clean or filtered water should be consumed, and food must be prepared properly.
“Individuals who work with animals should wear protective clothing, and washing hands after handling animals is essential.”

Farm animals at risk 

A number of different Cryptosporidium species infect animals. In humans, illness is mainly caused by Cryptosporidium parvum and Cryptosporidium hominis. In animals, illness is mainly caused by Cryptosporidium parvum.  
Young farm animals can also suffer from Cryptosporidium diarrhoea.”
 The disease in calves/lambs/kids
  •  One to four weeks old
  • Diarrhoea, anorexia, and weight loss
  • Often occurs with other diarrhoea-causing bacteria and/or viruses, or in animals that have a compromised immune system
  • Re-infection can cause relapses, chronic infection and death
  • Infected calves/lambs/kids pass the organism in their faecal material
Humans can become infected with Cryptosporidium parvum through exposure to young ruminants with diarrhoea. Take proper precautions when treating calves/lambs/kids with diarrhoea.
  •  Wear protective gloves
  • Wash hands
  • Clean the environment

What is E. coli?

 Escherichia coli (E. coli) are common bacteria which live in the intestines of warm blooded animals. There are certain forms, or strains, of E.coli which are normally found in the intestine of healthy people and animals without causing any ill effects. A number of E. coli strains cause illness but E. coli O157 is associated with more serious illness. For the majority of people the infection is usually self limited and clears within seven days, but children under five are vulnerable to more severe illness. Symptoms can range from mild through to severe diarrhoea, to a serious condition called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) that affects the blood, kidneys and in severe cases, the central nervous system.

What is salmonella?

Salmonella is found in a range of food products, including meat, produce and eggs. Salmonellosis is an infection of animals and man caused by a group of bacteria called Salmonella. These can live in the digestive tract of a wide range of mammals including people and birds. Over 2,500 strains (serovars) of Salmonella are known most of which rarely cause disease. However certain strains, such as S.enteritidis and S.typhimurium, may cause human disease if, for example, foodstuffs become contaminated with animal faeces.
“Eggs from infected hens and milk from infected dairy herds may also contain salmonella.”
Infection may also follow contact with infected animals. It is usually fairly short-lived and often does not cause any obvious disease. However disease may occur with high temperature, diarrhoea and blood poisoning. In a few cases infected animals or people may carry certain strains of the bacteria for prolonged periods. 

Prevention

 Cryptosporidiosis is highly infectious so proper sanitation and good hygiene practices are important measures in the prevention of cryptosporidiosis.  Such measures include: 
  • washing hands thoroughly with soap (I prefer to use ant-bacterial) and warm water before eating or preparing food, after using the toilet, cleaning up after others with diarrhoea, after contact with domestic or farm animals
  • washing or peeling raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating 
  • avoiding unpasteurised milk and fruit juices

Sanitiser hand gels

Reliance on sanitiser hand gels instead of hand washing is not effective in killing bugs such as E. coli O157 or Cryptosporidium. Visitors should be made aware that using sanitising gels is not a substitute for washing hands with soap and hot water and drying them, as gels may fail to remove contamination in the way that soap and running water can. However it is likely that using sanitising gels following handwashing with soap and water may provide extra benefit.

Handwashing 

 “Hand washing is the single most important prevention step in reducing transmission of gastrointestinal infections after handling animals and it’s crucial that hand washing in young children should be supervised, especially after touching or petting animals or their surroundings on a visit to a smallholding. ” 
There are five basic ways to manage diarrhoea and vomiting and prevent the spread of diseases:
  • Careful hand washing is the most important prevention measure that you can take. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water and dry afterwards. Do not share towels.
  • Use gloves when handling soiled articles from ill people. Wash soiled clothing and bed linen on ‘hot cycle’.
  • If looking after someone with gastroenteritis, carefully disinfect toilet seats, flush handles, wash-hand basin taps and toilet door handles daily and after use. Use a bleach-based household cleaner, diluted according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene and hygienic preparation and serving of food.
If you have gastroenteritis, don’t return to school or work until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours. Look what happened in the Archers.  Don’t visit patients in local hospitals and long-term care facilities. While many people tend to feel better sooner, illness can still be spread if they return to work or school within 48 hours since the last symptom.

Other tips for a safe smallholding visit include:

  • Don’t put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while petting animals or walking round the smallholding.
  • Don’t kiss animals nor allow children to put their faces close to animals.
  • Don’t eat or drink while touching animals or walking round the smallholding, including sweets, crisps or chewing gum.
  • Don’t eat anything that has fallen on the floor.
  • Only eat and drink in picnic or designated areas.
  • Remove and clean boots or shoes that might have become dirty and clean push-chair wheels.

Useful information

  •  A leaflet detailing advice for the public on avoiding infection on farm visits can be found on the HPA’s website 
  •  The Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for those running and visiting petting farms can be found on the HSE’s website 
  • Information sheet 
Nov 062011
 
puppy picture

We have updated our puppy page @ fifesmallholder

Smallholding puppies can be found here:

The pups are now 4 weeks old, and have their own facebook page:

More photos on my flickr page:

 November 6, 2011  dog, employment, income, post archive Tagged with: , , , ,
Oct 102011
 

Smallholders and their dogs

Read about the uses of dogs on a smallholding, & pups for sale.

Dog page

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/dog

 Pups for sale

http://www.fifesmallholder.co.uk/goods/dog/pup

day old labrador pup

Day old pups

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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