flock

Mar 102014
 
table bird chickens at fife smallholder

Backyard/garden poultry keeping

What you need to know if keeping a few chickens in your garden

Keeping a few hens or chickens in your back garden has become popular again, as people want an outdoor pet that also provides fresh free range eggs.  If you have a large back garden with space for your chickens to roam securely then why not?

cockerel

Before you embark on this adventure please do your homework first, and check to make sure that there are not any clauses in your lease, mortgage, or bye-laws that restrict the keeping of poultry.  I would also urge to consider very carefully the keeping of a cockerel – they are noisy and will annoy the neighbours.

Things to do before you buy chickens for your garden or smallholding

‘Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, must not attend to them unless he has access to all relevant statutory welfare codes relating to the animals while he is attending to, and is acquainted with the provisions of those codes.’

  • It is important that you read and understand the welfare guides/codes of recommendation relating to the animals you intend to keep.  Read more here.

The ‘five freedoms’.

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst. By access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vision.
  • Freedom from discomfort. By provision of an appropriate environment including shelter and rest area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease. By preventing or rapid diagnosis and appropriate treatment including humane slaughter.
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour. By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company.
  • Freedom from fear and distress. By ensuring that conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering
mother and baby

Stepping Out

Feeding your animals/chickens

Animal feed plays an important part in the food chain and there are rules governing this area. Most smallholders buy bags of chicken and turkey feed direct from an agricultural supplier in large bags because this is the cheapest way to do it.  However you need to ensure that it is stored properly and protected from vermin. Read more.

Do I need to register my chicken?

 
If you own or keep 50 or more poultry birds then you must register with DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs). This is due to the avian influenza (preventative measures) (Scotland) Regulations 2005.  The poultry register remains open to allow for the continual voluntary registration of premises with less than 50 poultry. Bird species that must registered:
 
  •      Chickens
  •      Turkeys
  •       Ducks
  •       Geese
  •       Quail
  •       Emus
  •       Rheas
  •       Kiwis
  •      Pheasants
  •      Partridge
  •      Guinea fowl
  •      Cassowaries
You can register with DEFRA by calling free on 0800 634 1112.
 

Can I sell my eggs?

Yes you can sell your clean fresh eggs direct but they will not be marked with a stamp like the ones in the supermarket.

free range egg

“Ungraded eggs sold direct to the final consumer at the producer’s farm gate or sold by the producer locally door-to door in the region of production will not have to be marked.”

Egg Box Labelling for small scale poultry keepers such as smallholders

Producers with fewer than 50 birds are not required to mark their eggs – so long as they provide other information such as their name and address and provide consumer advice to keep eggs chilled after purchase along with a best before date (maximum 28 days from lay) for the eggs at the point of sale.  For more information about eggs click here.

white silkie hen

 Where can I buy chickens in Fife Scotland?

 Here at Fife Smallholder we sell fertilised eggs and chicken pullets or point of lay.  Read more
 

How Much Does It Cost To Keep Chickens?

It really depends on how much you want to spend.  I know people who keep a few hens that roost in a coal cellar at night on the back of a chair, and others whose chickens live in a bespoke Eglu.  Read more 

hen and chick

Top Of the World

How do I introduce new chickens to my existing chickens?

It is always advisable to quarantine your new stock (in case of disease) and make sure that they have been treated for worms and mites before introducing them to your flock.  This is best done at night, however there will be some disorder until the hens sort out the pecking order.  To reduce the stress and bullying make sure that there is more than one feeding and drinking station so that new chickens are able to access food.

 March 10, 2014  garden, post archive, poultry Tagged with: , , ,
May 062013
 

Best foot forward

Lambing time is an exhausting roller coaster of highs and lows, you go through the lambing process and come out the other end (sleep deprived) and breath a huge sigh as your last ewe and lamb goes out into the field.  Time to get back to normal……..But do not make the mistake of thinking that this is you finished.  Young lambs are very vulnerable to a range of factors that if not dealt with can impact on the welfare, and weight gain of the lamb.  However, if you keep an eye out you can spot an issue and deal with it quickly, saving you and the animal a lot of pain and expense.

 One problem that can occur is a lame lamb who may limp, lie down a lot, or be seen on its knees.  This lameness can be caused by a range of factors, from the physical (mud ball in the hoof, thorns, injury to the legs) to bacterial (footrot and scald) and viral (orf).  I would always recommend that you discuss with your vet in the first instance before attempting any self-diagnosis and/or treatment.

“Sheep that remain lame despite treatment and a period for recovery do not have a life worth living.  Sheep that are lame for one week or longer lose body condition and, as a result of lameness, they are debilitated and less productive. Lame lambs do not thrive and can lose body condition.”

There is no magic bullet or one vaccine that will prevent all the problems.  Prevention and prompt action are crucial.  Here are a few things that we have experienced over the years:

Orf (scabs and sores on mouth) in lambs

Orf is spread by direct contact.  It  is a zoonotic disease, which means that it is easily transmitted from animals to humans. SO BE CAREFUL. Outbreaks occur more frequently during periods of extreme temperatures such as late summer and winter.  Or infection can be caused by scratches from thistles of both growing and felled plants. Symptoms of Orf include scabs and sores on the lips and muzzle, and less commonly in the mouth of young lambs and on the eyelids, feet, and teats of ewes. The lesions progress to thick crusts which may bleed and cause secondary infections. Orf in the mouths of lambs may prevent suckling and cause weight loss, and can infect the udder of the mother ewe, thus potentially leading to mastitis. Sheep are prone to reinfection. Occasionally the infection can be extensive and persistent if the animal does not produce an immune response.

The virus is epitheliotropic, which means that it has an affinity for the skin. The period of incubation is relatively short. Susceptible animals usually develop the first signs of the disease 4 to 7 days after exposure that persists for 1 to 2 weeks or for longer periods. The disease affects sheep and goats.

“Extensive lesions on the feet can lead to lameness in adults and young animals.”

The infection is spread by direct and indirect contact from infected animals or by contact with infected tissue or saliva containing the virus. Lesions can be treated with a single application of 3 percent iodine solution. In severe cases of secondary bacterial infection, the usage of a systemic antibiotic is recommended.

Young animals are the most susceptible to contracting the disease. Lambs can contract orf after a few weeks of birth.
However, outbreaks in young animals are most frequent during postweaning.  Smallholders can help by applying antibiotic sprays on to large scabs, ensuring infected lambs receive sufficient milk and separating out the infected stock to slow down cross-transmission to healthy animals. It is advisable for those handling infected animals to wear disposable gloves to prevent cross-infection and self-infection. Vets need to be contacted if there is a risk of mis-diagnosis with other, more serious conditions.

Joint ill in lambs

Infectious polyarthritis (joint ill) is acquired during the first few days of life with lameness visible from five to 10 days-old. Typically only one joint is affected in approximately half of lambs with 2 to 4 joints in the remainder. The affected joint(s) are swollen, hot, and painful. Infection causes considerable muscle wastage.  You need to catch the lame lamb and treat it immediately with antibiotics.  Penicillin once daily for at least five consecutive days administered during the early stages of lameness effects a good cure rate in many infections.  Lambs with joint ill that continue to show moderate to severe lameness after two courses of antibiotic therapy do not grow well and represent a major welfare concern and you should consider having them culled.

  To prevent or reduce the incidence of joint ill, ensure that ewes are lambed in a clean, dry environment and that lambs take in adequate amounts of protective colostrum within six hours of birth. Dipping navels and providing clean lambing pens or dry lambing fields also help to protect lambs.

 

Scald or footrot

This was a hard lesson for us to learn.  If you do not identify and treat scald it can lead to foot rot which can then lead to fly strike.  These are issues you do not want to have to deal with and can cause severe health and welfare problems for the lambs.
“Scald is the most common cause of lameness in sheep
and is most prevalent when conditions underfoot are wet.”
 
Scald can be a precursor to some other more severe causes of lameness so needs to be treated promptly. It can affect all age groups but is more prevalent in lambs than ewes. Foot scald (interdigital dematitis) is an infection and is not contagious. Foot scald causes lameness, frequently on the front feet, and lesions are found between the hooves. The tissue between the toes of a sheep with foot scald are generally blanched and white, or red and swollen. Foot scald is much easier to treat than foot rot. Footrot is a very common condition, it is extremely painful and very contagious. Affected feet have a very characteristic foul smell and may be fly-struck.
 
It is recommended that you do not breed or buy replacements from sheep that have had scald or footrot, and that susceptibility to footrot can be inherited. However the plus side of this is that you can breed for improved resistance.  I know this is hard for smallholders when you pet lamb or favourite ewe is the one that you have the most issues with, but try to tough about this for the welfare of the flock.   Some breeds do fare better than others,  we keep a range of breeds and it is my experience that the more primitive or historic breeds are more resistant.

When treating, and YOU MUST DO SOMETHING, use an isolation pen for sheep with scald or footrot.  Move them immediately (for example to a pen) and consider using hydrated builders’ lime (or purchased from an agricultural merchant)  around water troughs and feed areas.

 Footrot is probably what will happen if you ignore the scald.  It is a highly contagious disease, caused by dual infection with the bacteria Dichelobacter nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum (which also causes scald). F.necrophorum is widely found in the environment, especially in dung. D. nodosus survives primarily in infected sheep, although the duration of its survival on the pasture is not clear, probably a number of weeks. These two bacteria are closely connected and thrive on the by-products of each other.
 
Sheep that have been infected with or exposed to footrot do not develop any significant natural immunity or resistance. Short term immunity can be achieved using vaccines.  Spread is primarily from foot to foot via pasture or mud. Goats, cattle and possibly vehicles can act as carriers. However moist pastures, laneways and muddy yards are the main areas where footrot is spread.
 
“Older ewes, ewes rearing twins and male lambs are at higher risk of footrot.”
 
Affected feet have a characteristic foul smell and a grey ‘ooze’ may be seen. It causes extreme discomfort to the sheep and leaves the animal highly vulnerable to blowfly strike in the foot or along the flank where the sheep tucks its foot when it lies down.  The most effective footrot control were using an injectable antibiotic plus an antibiotic foot spray and treating a sheep as soon as lameness became evident. I is also recommended not to trim or footbath feet at this time as there is the strong risk that you will make the damage worse and transfer it to other sheep.  Leave the trimming until the lameness has gone.
 
Footrot bacteria are readily killed by dry heat, sunlight, cold, dry environment and a number of different chemicals. It is said that most domestic disinfectants will destroy D. nodosus but are not registered or recommended for treating sheep as they are easily de-activated by dirt contamination. Zinc Sulphate, “Radicate” and formalin (Formalin, Formol) are the chemicals currently registered for the treatment of footrot in footbaths.
 

Other lameness causes in lambs

Although we have no direct experience of the following – here are some other causes of lameness in lambs.

Erysipelas is caused by a bacterium present in soil. It is an uncommon condition in sheep but can cause outbreaks of lameness in lambs; if left untreated, lambs become severely debilitated and should be euthanised promptly.

Interesting related articles:

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: , , , , ,
Nov 272012
 
tup and ram lamb at fifesmallholder

Its tupping time at Fifesmallholder

We have been a bit later putting our boys in with our girls this year.  There has been two bad winters in a row previously and an April lambing will hopefully mean that the lambs get a better start in life.  We do not bring our sheep in for lambing, but keep them out in the lambing field and bring them in once lambing is  immenent or they have just lambed.  We do not have a large lambing shed and have found that this method means that shelter is given when they need it the most.  However, if the weather is bad then we need to make sure that the pregnant ewes have sufficient shelter and feed.

It is a good idea to make sure that both boys (known as a tup or ram) and girls (known as a ewe) are in peak condition.

Flush The Ewes

 To improve the chances of twins, you can help the ewe produce more eggs at ovulation. To do this you can put the ewes on fresh grazing for a few days/weeks along with a mineral lick, this will give the ewe a boost in condition. Usually resulting in an increase in eggs ovulated… which hopefully means twins or triplets.

How Often Is A Female Sheep Fertile?

A ewe will come in season every 21 days until she has conceived. I advise that you put a marking raddle/harness on your Ram. Every 21 days you should change the colour of the crayon. Doing this will allow you take note of what period the ewe will lamb in and help you organise things (holidays, help etc).

How long is a female sheep or ewe pregnant for?

The ewes gestation period is typically 147 days. Allow 145-149 days and you will be safe.  A common saying is if you put your tup in on 5th November you can expect lambs from the 1st April.

* Tip – make sure this years ewe lambs are well away from all this mullarkey – otherwise you might end up with a teenage mother*

This Is What They Have Been Waiting All Year For

Make sure your ram/tup is in good condition at tupping time”

Your tups need to be firing on all cylinders! Peak fitness is essential, the most common reason for a lazy tup will be poor feet. Keep them trimmed and tidy. We have two proven tups (producing good healthy lambs last year) but it is always good to be prepared for any eventuality by having an heir and a spare.  They keep each other company throughout the summer, and mean that I have a mix of genes in my lambs, a backup in case one of them gets sick, and a guarantee that at least one of them will perform.  

For me lambing is the best time on the smallholding and I look forward to it every year.

 November 27, 2012  autumn, employment, income, livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Aug 072012
 
15sep12 039

Fly Strike is the thing a smallholder fears the most when they have sheep

Some people (usually your vet) will tell you that sheep are born to die, and sometimes I think its true.

Its summer, its August, and the lambs are growing fast.  At 5 months old they are now weaned from their mums, and eating grass like there’s no tomorrow.  The ewes and tups have all been sheared and there is enough fresh grass to go around.  All the hard work has been done now and its time to relax.  Take a holiday, or have BBQ’s in the garden.

Aye right!

Relax at your peril.  Warm damp weather is ideal conditions for flies, blow flies in particular.  They are lovely to look at, shiny and green, but if you see them near your sheep you are in trouble.  If you don’t check the sheep regularly then you are in even bigger trouble.

Once you hear that someone else has had fly strike you immediately go onto full alert and check your own sheep.  Then you worry about it until the first frosts. Or, like I did recently, you discover fly strike in one of your lambs.  Having to deal with a struck sheep is a distressing thing for both animal and human, but it must be dealt with.

What is fly strike?

Someone will say that they have had fly strike when they discover that their animal has a wound that is infected with maggots from the blow fly.  Most of the blowfly lifecycle occurs off the sheep and adult flies may travel large distances to find food.  

“When given favourable conditions of humidity and warmth, the entire life cycle from egg to adult can occur in less than 10 days.”

Eggs hatch within 24 hours and first stage larvae penetrate the skin using their hook like mouthparts and secrete enzymes which liquefy and digest the tissue. Larvae are very active and cause further skin and muscle liquefaction with secondary bacterial infection as they develop. Maggot development can take as little as 5 days before they fall off and burrow into the soil to form pupae.

“Struck areas often attract other blowflies

and further waves of strike.”

Once hatched, larvae feed and grow rapidly, undergoing two moults before they become mature maggots in three to 10 days. They then fall off the sheep and undergo further change on the ground, transforming to adult flies in about three to seven days.

“Female flies can lay 2,000 to 3,000 eggs in batches of hundreds, and live for approximately 30 days.”

Blowflies fall into two categories: primary flies are capable of laying eggs and starting a strike, while secondary flies cannot start a strike, but attack areas damaged by an existing strike, and make the injury worse.

When does flystrike occur?

Flystrike can occur at any time of the year, but in the UK animals are particularly at risk between April and October when the weather is warmer.

Why is fly strike bad for sheep?

“Blowfly strike is a major welfare concern and an important cause of ill thrift and death in affected animals.”

 Flystrike occurs when certain species of fly (Lucilia sericata, Phormia terrae-novae and Calliphora erythrocephala flies) lay their eggs on another animal. These eggs hatch into maggots that then begin to eat the animal’s flesh. Flies are attracted by soiled or wet fur/fleece, often around the animal’s rear end. However, any area of the body can be affected, as can any wound, cut or scratch. Flystrike causes serious pain and suffering and it can be fatal.

 How do I know if my sheep have fly strike?

“if its bad you will know just by looking”

There is a saying  – ‘there are people who look at sheep but never see them’ – don’t let that be you.  The quicker you spot something unusual the better.  Lean on the gate and just watch them, get used to watching their normal behaviour.  I’m told I have an obsession with poo – however I think you can tell a lot from the rear end of a sheep and their poo.  What do you need to look out for?

  •  Fly struck sheep are usually restless and may bite or kick at the struck area. They may often turn back their head, biting nervously, or run in short gallops and lie down. Affected areas are usually sites of faecal contamination or infected wounds and are, therefore, usually over the hindquarters and perineum or elsewhere on the body at wound sites.
  • The fleece overlying struck areas is discoloured, moist and foul-smelling. During the early stages, the maggots, which are approximately 1.5 cm long, are only visible, end-on, when the wool is parted, but as the disease progresses, the wool falls out to reveal the underlying affected tissue.
  •  Typically, they will also seek out shade, and may be lying under a tree or hedge. The affected area of the fleece may also appear damp and will be a darker colour.
  • On closer examination, wool will be moist and may be stuck tightly together. The area may also be accompanied by a foul odour. 
  • In severe cases, the skin may be broken. 
  • If the disease progresses, septicaemia could result from secondary infection of the damaged area. If left untreated for long enough, the animal will die. 

Sheep suffering from fly strike show obvious signs of distress. They spend less time grazing and more time tail wagging and rubbing the affected area and biting the struck areas of the fleece they can reach.  If these signs go unrecognised and secondary strike occurs, the wounds can become very extensive and bacterial infection may lead to serious complications such as death from speticaemia and toxaemia. On examination of the sheep the result is often a foul smell from the wound and visible signs of maggots.

What do I do if I discover fly strike?

“Because the toxins released into the bloodstream by the maggots can cause the animal to go into toxic shock, death can result very quickly if flystrike is not spotted and treated rapidly.”

 The recommended way to treat flystrike:

  • Hand shear struck wool (where the maggots and eggs are) and a 5 cm barrier of clean wool around the strike, close to the skin to remove maggots. Unless wool is shorn off it is likely that maggot trails will be missed and sheep will remain struck. 
  • Flystruck sheep need to be treated immediately.  Struck areas are sensitive to sunburn, so should not be clipped other than to gain access to the wound.  A good soaking with an insecticidal organophosphate or high-cis cypermethrin dressing will then kill the maggots and protect the surrounding skin from secondary strike.  Insect growth regulators (cyromazine and dicyclanil) are ineffective for the treatment of established flystrike.
  • Weak and debilitated sheep with extensive flystrike wounds may require humane euthanasia, discuss this with your vet.  You may have treated the maggots on the outside but what if there are maggots inside?
  • Collect the maggot-infested wool into a maggot-proof (plastic) bag and leave the bag in the sun for a couple of days to kill all maggots. This breaks the life cycle. Don’t rely on registered flystrike dressings to kill maggots – some are incapable of killing large maggots and many maggots escape treatment by dropping from the sheep and burrowing into the soil before the insecticide can be applied. Unless maggot infested wool is collected and bagged, most maggots will survive and pupate and come back as adult flies.
  • Apply a registered flystrike dressing to the shorn area to prevent re-strike.
  • Remove struck sheep from the flock. Leaving struck sheep in the flock attracts blowflies. Move the struck sheep to a ‘hospital’ paddock (with a friend for company) this allows closer monitoring of recovery and reduces the risk to the rest of the flock.
  • Protect your other sheep by checking, dagging, and applying a preventative treatment.

Pour-ons are normally what smallholders will use.
When applied correctly to potential areas of strike over the back and breech, pyrethroid or insect growth regulator pour-ons can provide effective control of blowfly strike. High-cis cypermethrin pour-ons provide protection for about 6 weeks and alphacypermethrin for 8 – 10 weeks, while the insect growth regulator pour-ons, cyromazine and dicyclanil, provide protection for 10 and 16 weeks respectively. Pour-on chemicals dissolve in the wool grease and are removed when animals are shorn. In the case of high-cis cypermethrin, this may lead to wool residue problems. Furthermore, the use of pour-ons in adult animals before shearing may be wasteful as it will simply be cut out – shearers may also insist that you do not apply treatments prior to shearing for their own health reasons.  These chemicals are dangerous and there is the risk that without proper personal protective equipment humans may absorb some of the chemical through their skin when handling sheep.

 How to do I treat my sheep after fly strike?

*within your emergency kit you should have the following – hand shears, stiff brush, maggot oil, spoton, crovect, stockholm tar, purple first aid or other antiseptic spray, tea tree oil, citronella or other fly repellant*

It will be just your luck that you discover fly strike on a Saturday afternoon when all the agricultural supply shops are closed for the weekend.  Be prepared!

  • Shearing can clear up most active strikes, we also found a stiff brush handy for getting rid of the exposed maggots.  Remember to put as much of the fleece and maggots into a plastic bag as possible.  This will stop the cycle.
  • If you nick the skin when clipping apply an antiseptic spray and something such as stockholm tar (I like the sprayable horsey version) to seal the wound to prevent access to flies. Other recommendations are tea tree oil cream.
  • I apply spoton directly onto the maggot infested area to help draw them out of the skin and kill them, others may use what they have to hand such as Crovect or Maggot Oil.
  • Apply an insecticidal dressing (such as maggot oil) which protects the healing wound from re-strike. This will either prevent egg-laying female flies, or kill newly hatched larvae that emerge from eggs laid onto treated lesions.
  • Treat any open wounds to prevent infection.
  • The animal should also be treated with an effective broad-spectrum antibiotic.  This is normally given by injection (if you do not have any antibiotic- contact your vet who will supply you with a syringe of appropriate medication – if you are not comfortable injecting yourself then you will either have to pay the vet or get someone who is skilled to do this task).  Smallholders need to learn how to do these jobs – its tough – but its necessary.  I have never had a problem with talking through a concern with my vet.  The raw area attacked by the maggots is an open wound through which infection can enter and a vulnerable/stressed/ or sick lamb can also easily get pneumonia too.
  • If weak and sickly your sheep may not eat, and this in itself could be fatal.   If you are not sure that the animal is eating and drinking then it may be necessary to make sure that it gets adequate liquid and nutritional supplements.  I do this by utilising a bottle and sturdy straw originally for administering nutrients for twin lamb disease, you may also be able to use a large syringe (without the needle) to give the sheep an oral application of water/salts/sugars/vitamins & minerals to keep it alive.  This needs to be done gently and in little doses.
  • Wash the open wound with an antiseptic solution every day to keep it clean (just syringe in or spray and let it soak in or run off). Keep an eye on the skin as it is vulnerable to sunburn or cracking and re-infection as the new skin grows underneath and the old skin falls off.  Other recommendations include vaseline to keep skin moist, and or tea tree oil cream to sooth and prevent restrike.
  • Check for more or hatching maggots and if necessary give a shot of invermectin to deal with any remaining deep seated maggots.
  • Does your animal need wormed or fluked – was this the cause of the dirty bum and infestation?  Even a change of food can upset a sheeps stomach e.g. from eating grass to being in a pen with hay and sheep feed.

After treatment, wounds can take several weeks to heal. The skin will start to grow under the dead areas within a few days and the peeling skin will fall off.  During this time, your animal will be at increased risk of further bouts of flystrike and infection, so it will require careful nursing and additional preventative measures detailed above. Then when the skin heals and dries it might crack so keep it soft with creams such as udder cream, vaseline, or tea tree cream.

Herbal remedies to treat fly strike:

  • Tea tree oil.  Research in Australia has  found that tea tree oil was highly successful in both preventing lice infestations and killing blowfly maggot larvae. “Tea-tree oil could be effective as a preventative treatment for  any wound likely to be struck. It has also been shown to have antibacterial properties and is suggested to have wound healing effects”  

How do I prevent fly strike in my sheep?

  • keep on top of your worm burden especially lambs on new grass or who have not developed resistance to an acceptable worm burden
  • if you have dirty bums then deal with it – cut away the soiled fleece (called dagging or crutching)
  • keep on top of foot rot in your flock especially during wet weather – if your sheep are limping and there is no obvious problem then deal with it and consider vaccination for the long term (blow flies are attracted to the smell of foot rot)
  • I use garlic licks and citronella sprays to discourage flies and reduce the risk
  • use treatments at vulnerable times, some chemicals give you up to 10 weeks protection – a must if you are going away on holiday

Blowflies prefer a warm, moist and sheltered environment, so the risk of strike can be reduced by moving sheep to more exposed pastures. The smell of wool grease and the presence of foot rot, urine soaked wool, skin diseases, scour, or infected cuts attract blowflies to sheep.

Established strike lesions attract even more blowflies. Recently shorn sheep are seldom struck and effective control of gastrointestinal parasites and footrot, general animal health care, crutching and dagging can further aid in the control of flystrike.

Which animals are most at risk of fly strike?

Flystrike (‘myiasis’) is a major welfare problem that mainly occurs during warm weather. It’s a painful condition that can affect rabbits, guinea pigs, cats and dogs as well as farm animals such as sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas.

“Even clean, well-kept animals can get flystrike.

It only takes one fly and one area of soiled fur/fleece or damaged skin”

Animals (not just sheep) that have a dirty rear end or generally dirty fur/fleece.

Causes can include:

  • Long-haired animals that may not be able to groom themselves thoroughly without human intervention.
  • Obese/overweight and older animals that cannot reach round easily to clean themselves.
  • Animals with dental, spinal or balance problems, which make cleaning difficult or painful.
  • Animals that are ill, as they may not feel well enough to clean themselves thoroughly and, depending on their illness, may also produce abnormally smelly urine or have diarrhoea, which will attract flies.
  • Animals that have an inappropriate diet.
  • Animals that have an internal parasitic infection.
  • Animals with an open wound anywhere on the body.
  • Unshorn sheep of woolly breeds.
Mar 142012
 
scottish lamb

Worms in sheep, ewes, and lambs on your smallholding

Its March and our ewes will soon be lambing.  Amongst other health issues worms can and will play a part in the fitness of my ewes and lambs over the coming months.  This is a complex area and it can often take smallholders a long time to learn about.  Looking back, I wish I had known all about it before I had got my own sheep or let anyone else graze their sheep on my land.  It would have saved a lot of expense and effort for both myself and the woolly lawnmowers.

*checkout the parasite forecast here*

 

Are worms harmful to sheep?

If not treated then the short answer is yes.  Most sheep have some worms in their digestive system – this is normal. Indeed, exposure to worms is essential if sheep are to develop and maintain an immunity to worms.  However failure to manage this issue can cause a smallholder a lot of problems and ongoing expense.
“There are three broad types of internal parasite that can cause significant health issues in sheep – worms, flukes and protozoa.” 
 Worm infestation is probably the most common cause of “ill thrift” in sheep. Worm infection is a significant animal welfare issue and, if not treated, can cause death.  Resistance to chemical treatments is also an emerging problem in managing sheep worms.
“Worms are thought to cost sheep owners more than any other disease.”
How much harm worms do to sheep depends on a range of factors:
•  The type of worm
•  The number of worms in the animal
•  The breed of sheep
•  The level of nutrition available
•  The age of the animal and the level of previous exposure of the animal to the specific worms.
It is important that everyone with sheep has a worm management plan – and this includes smallholders. An effective plan is simple and will save a lot of money, effort and heartache.

Are sheep worms different?

The short answer is yes.  The life cycles of worms or nematodes are similar – the adult lays eggs in the sheep that pass out in faeces and hatch. The larvae infest the pasture and are taken up by grazing sheep, developing into adults in the intestine.
Teladorsagia, Trichostrongylus and Haemonchus have life cycles of just a few weeks, so several can occur in one season. For example, Haemonchus has a short life cycle – as little as 14 days – so numbers can build quickly.
The life cycle of Nematodirus is a full year – eggs shed by lambs during one spring – hatch the following season to infect the subsequent batch of lambs. The  eggs need a period of cold weather followed by warmer temperatures of 10C or more before they hatch. If conditions are right, this can trigger a mass hatch just when young lambs are starting to graze and the result can be devastating.

How do I control worms in my sheep?

Good practice says that a worm management plan is required.  This includes:
  • Worm testing. It is cheap and easy to do. Without regular testing, you won’t know whether you have a problem, whether your worm management plan is working or whether you have an emerging drench resistance problem on your property.
  • Grazing strategy to create safe or low contaminant pastures for lamb weaners and lambing ewes.
  • Maintaining good nutrition during periods of poor pasture growth.
  • Building worm resistance in the flock.
  • Biosecurity measures for new sheep arrivals on the property or any outbreak of worm disease in your flock (a sure sign that your worm management plan has failed).
  • Minimising the risk of drench resistance developing on your property.

What is the sign of worms in sheep?

  • A typical sign of a worm problem is unthrifty sheep. One that is not eating properly, is losing condition, tends to lag behind the others when moved and, in severe cases, is clearly weak.
  • A worm problem often (but not always) results in sheep scouring and requires dagging. In severe cases, affected sheep may scour profusely.
  • Not all worms cause scouring (diarrhoea) and not all scouring is caused by worms (can be bacterial/green feed scours, etc.).
  • Other signs of worm infection you may see are anaemia or swelling under the jaw (commonly called “bottlejaw”).

Which sheep are more vulnerable to worms?

  • Young sheep (under 12 months old) are far more susceptible to worms (especially  Nematodirus) than older sheep. 
  • Sheep under stress (eg during the later stages of pregnancy, during lactation, during winter feed shortages) are also more susceptible to worms.
  • Sheep in intensive conditions, such as an overstocked under rotated smallholder pasture.
Sheep under twelve months of age and ewes in late pregnancy or lactation have a higher requirement for protein. Weaners need it for their own rapid growth and ewes need it for the growth of the foetus, particularly in the last six weeks of pregnancy, and for milk production after the lamb is born.
If pasture quality is poor, such as during a prolonged period of cold, wet conditions, even healthy weaners or pregnant/lactating ewes have difficulty getting enough protein from grazing. If they have a worm infection, the problem is much worse. In short, they will have a major protein deficiency and this will result in rapid loss of condition, which in turn further increases their susceptibility to worms.

What types of Sheep are Less Susceptible to Worms

  • Older sheep (ie sheep that are over 15 months and fully grown) are much less susceptible to worms than weaners and lambs.
  • Wethers and dry ewes are less susceptible to worms than pregnant or lactating ewes.
  • Some breeds of sheep are less susceptible to worms than others. 
If you suspect a worm problem, it is worth doing a worm test to confirm it. However, by the time you have seen the symptoms, the damage to performance has been done, so worms need to be controlled before clinical signs are evident.

Worm Control – General Principles

 “Worms are only a problem if the numbers increase to the point at which growth is affected, sheep become susceptible to other diseases, or die.”
There are five components of an effective worm control program.
Drenching alone will not resolve a worm problem. Too frequent drenching with chemical treatments may reduce the sheep’s immunity to worms and increase the problem of drench resistant worms. Ad hoc or over-frequent drenching is one of the major causes of drench resistance and is, in most cases, a waste of money, time and effort.
The overall purpose of a worm control program should be to minimise production losses caused by internal parasites and to maximise the sheep’s immunity to worms. If these are achieved, the sheep will need fewer drenches.

What Can You Do to Delay the Onset of Drench Resistance on your smallholding?

Make absolutely sure you are administering the correct dose. Underdosing is one of the major causes of drench resistance, as it helps the worms develop a drench resistance. Check the required dose on the label on the drench container.
Always set the dose by the weight of the heaviest sheep in the flock. Many smallholders just take a guess at this, but if it is possible acquire or borrow a weigh machine that gives you an accurate weight.  Administer this dose to all adult sheep. If the flock includes lambs, set the dose for all lambs by the weight of the heaviest lamb. 
Use the correct drenching technique. In particular, ensure that you are drenching over the tongue rather than squirting the drench into the front of the mouth. If you have just two or three sheep, and if you do not have access to a drenching gun, the drench can be administered via a syringe (with the needle removed) in much the same way as if you were using a drenching gun.
However, when using this method, it is important that the drench is administered slowly, as you are not delivering the drench down the sheep’s throat and are relying on the sheep to, in effect, drink it. After use, the syringe should be cleaned by pumping cold water through it, if you intend to re-use it for future drenching.

Tip for maximising the effect of white wormer or drenches on sheep

Fasting. When using white drenches (BZs) or mectins (MLs), the treatment is generally more effective if the sheep are fasted for 24 hours beforehand. Keeping the sheep off feed for six hours after drenching also helps make the treatment more effective.
* ewes in the last six weeks of pregnancy, sheep in poor condition or stressed sheep should not be fasted at all*
Overdosing will not help. However, with white drenches (BZs), two drenches twelve hours apart can be effective. (This applies to sheep but not to goats). Note that any departures from label recommendations will extend the withholding period.
After drenching, put the sheep onto clean pasture wherever possible.

Common smallholder mistake about worming

Because many smallholders only have a few sheep or purchase quantities that create an excessive it is tempting to continue to use your wormer until it is finished.  This could lead to the development of resistance within the worms on your ground.  
“Rotate between the drench classes (BZs, LEVs, MLs) either at each treatment or each year.”
Use a worm test to monitor worm faecal egg counts (FECs). If you know the level of worms in your sheep, you will be best placed to avoid drench overuse, slow the development of drench resistance and save on drench costs.
If you suspect drench resistance among your flock, do a drench resistance test. This will show you if any of the classes of drench are ineffective in your situation, in which case they should be dropped from your worm control program. If you wish to undertake resistance testing, discuss the process with your vet.
It is most important that drenching is not the only strategy for worm control on your property. Drenching should be just part of a program that includes pasture management, nutrition and selective breeding of worm-resistant sheep.

Herbal alternative to using chemicals to control worms

Below are some suggestions around using herbs etc to expell worms, this can be done along side chemical wormers or instead off where the worm burden is not excessive.  Please note however that these solutions are not effective against fluke and their use is being highlighted as a result of interest rather than fact.  It is known that sheep seek out certain plants when they are available, and it is thought that one of the reasons they do this is to expel worms from their system.
It is useful when using worm expellers to keep your sheep on hard standing for up to 48 hours after treatment.  Herbal expellers can be given to sheep in the form of a drench, in their feed, or through licks or drink. The other option is to include herbage such as chickory and plantain in the seed mix within the grazing.
Plants that have been highlighted as useful in tackling worms are:
  • chickory
  • plantain
  • willow bark (tannin levels)
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • garlic
  • cider vinegar

The dangers of introducing new sheep to your smallholder flock

All sheep that are bought in should undergo a quarantine period on arrival. They should be drenched . Following a 24-48 hour quarantine period, all of the susceptible worms should have been passed, the sheep should then be grazed on pasture recently used by the current flock so that they pick up the resident worms on the holding.
Use a “quarantine drench” to treat any sheep coming onto the property. Unless you know the drench resistance status of these new sheep, the most effective “quarantine drench” is a combination drench (ie one containing both white and clear drenches) plus moxidectin, or otherwise just one of the mectins.
Some authorities recommend maintaining a “refugia” of susceptible worms within a flock as a way of delaying any onset of drench resistance. Essentially, this involves leaving some susceptible worms (ie susceptible to your drench providing you know that the class of drench you are using is effective on your property) in the flock. The point is to dilute the number of drench-resistant worms building up in the flock.
“This strategy involves simply leaving 5-10% of the flock undrenched. Of course, the ones you do not drench must be the healthiest looking sheep in the flock.”
There is some controversy about this “refugia” strategy and it may not be appropriate in all circumstances, so please consult your vet before using it.

How to use your ground/field/pasture in managing your worm burden

The life cycle of worms includes a period in which the worm larvae live outside the sheep – that is, in the pasture. This creates both a problem and an opportunity for sheep owners. 

Sheep worm myth

There was once a common belief that worm larvae could only live outside the sheep for a short time and that destocking a pasture for 3 or 4 weeks was effective in breaking the worm cycle. We now know that larvae can survive on pasture for longer than that, especially where conditions are generally cooler and wetter. In general terms, the higher the rainfall and the cooler the conditions, the longer the larvae can survive in the pasture. 
“If a field/pasture/paddock is cropped or cut for hay or silage, worm larvae numbers are dramatically reduced.”

Effect of seasons on worm types

Species of worms change in predominance from the cooler months to the warmer ones. Drenches that may be effective against the cool season species may be less effective against the ones which predominate in the warmer seasons.

Reinfection

After dosing, sheep should be put onto dirty pasture to pick up resident worms to dilute the resistant worms that have survived dosing.

Mineral/vitamin deficiencies on your ground and in your flock and how this impacts on the sheep worm burden

Research has indicated that the supplementary feeding of certain minerals, where they are already deficient on your property, may increase the resistance of sheep to worms. Research has shown that the supplementary feeding of oats during a period of poor pasture growth (typically winter and sometimes early spring), when combined with high quality pasture management, can improve significantly the sheep’s resistance to worms.
Research has also shown that improved energy nutrition can increase a sheep’s “resilience” to worm infection, allowing animals to maintain growth rates and milk production even if they have a worm infection. When a pasture is in a period of poor growth, energy nutrition can be improved by the supplementary feeding of grains such as oats, barley and lupins. Note, however, that a sudden introduction of grain into their diet can kill sheep. Grains need to be introduced gradually.

Liver Fluke in sheep

There are two conditions that have to be met for sheep to be at risk of Liver Fluke Disease (fasciolosis). Firstly, they must graze an area that is constantly damp. Secondly, freshwater snails must be present in that area to act as intermediate hosts for the liver fluke.

What are the signs of liver fluke?

The signs of Liver Fluke Disease are weight loss and anaemia. In chronic cases, scouring often occurs (but not always) and the sheep suffers obvious abdominal pain and is reluctant to move. Infected sheep may also develop “bottle jaw” – a swelling under the bottom jaw. Unfortunately, in some cases, there are no obvious signs before the sudden death of the infected sheep.
“Liver Fluke Disease is more likely to occur in summer and early autumn.”
Drenching can be an effective means of preventing Liver Fluke Disease. Note, however, that most worm drenches do not contain a flukicide (ie a drench specifically for the treatment of liver fluke), so check the label to ensure that the drench you are using is registered as a treatment for liver fluke.
Drenching with a flukicide is typically carried out three times a year (late winter or early spring, summer and late autumn). Drenching more often than needed is expensive and may lead to drench resistance. Normally, drenching is only necessary for sheep that graze paddocks with fluke-prone (ie constantly moist) areas. 

Triclabendazole is highly effective at killing all stages of flukes responsible for acute fasciolosis. Drenched sheep should be moved to clean pasture or re-treated every three weeks for the next three months at least as prescribed by your veterinary surgeon.  Nitroxynil and oxyclosanide are less effective against immature flukes and should be used only in the treatment of subacute and chronic fasciolosis. Once again, treated sheep must be moved to clean pastures.  Improved nutrition is essential.

Draining or fencing off fluke-prone areas will help reduce the risk of liver fluke disease. Chemical control of snails in fluke-prone areas is generally a poor option. Snails reproduce very quickly and will repopulate treated areas. And the use of poisons so close to waterways is likely to be dangerous to the aquatic environment. For a small additional cost, you can check for the presence of liver fluke when you do a Worm Test.
websites used in the making of this post:
  • Drenching http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/webpages/cart-6396qk?open
  • http://www.fwi.co.uk/academy/article/126167/worms-in-sheep.html
  • organic http://www.skylinesfarm.com/parasitecontrol.htm
  • herbs for worming http://reedbird.com/articles/herbsfordeworming.html http://lavenderfleece.com/herbals.html
  • http://www.smallstock.info/tools/disease-nutrition/7424.htm
Oct 232011
 
scotland flag

If you are a smallholder in Scotland who has animals or livestock then read on.

 

Did you know?

“Any person who keeps animals, or who causes or knowingly permits animals to be kept, must not attend to them unless that person has access to all relevant Statutory Welfare Codes relating to the animals while that person is attending to them, and is acquainted with the provisions of those Codes.”

Says who?

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (S.S.I. 2000 No. 442), Regulation 10.
It also states that :
– Any person who employs or engages a person to attend to animals must ensure that the person attending to the animals:
• is acquainted with the provisions of all relevant Statutory Welfare Codes relating to the animals being attended to;
• has access to a copy of those Codes while he is attending to the animals;
and
• has received instruction and guidance on those Codes.

How do I get access to the welfare codes?

In order to secure a high level of welfare in livestock and other animals, various codes of recommendation and practice have been issued on the Authority of the Scottish Parliament pursuant to section 37 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

click here for a general link or:

 The Five Freedoms 

The five freedoms are a set of recommendations for the welfare of animals in all environments.

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst; 

by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

2. Freedom from discomfort; 

by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease; 

by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.

4. Freedom to express natural behaviour; 

by providing space, sufficient facilities and the company of the animal’s own kind.

5. Freedom from fear and distress;

 by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.

“The Five Freedoms are basic ideals of welfare for farm animals, wherever the animals may be, such as at farms, markets, slaughterhouses, or in transit, and should be applied by anyone in charge of the animals or handling them. “

 

 

Sep 272011
 

We love our sheep at Fife Smallholder.  

Please check out our new page that shows the diversity of colours and sheep breeds we have.  Starter flocks are sometimes available for sale.

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

smallholder sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 September 27, 2011  livestock, post archive, sheep Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
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