In this week’s Farmer’s Diary, Clodagh Hughes, reflects on her five-year sheep farming venture and discusses Coccidia.
Before I get started, I need to dispel a commonly held myth among some non-farming folk and some non-sheep folk.
Although it is a huge relief to the body and mind and, most certainly, a substantial reduction in labour when lambing is completed, this is by no means the end of a sheep farmer’s work.
In fact, as soon as the last lamb is born, it heralds in a new set of challenges and issues among the growing flock.
Let me elaborate slightly; although I have said before how getting the baby lambs through their first 24–48-hour period is vital to their survival; this is not the end of it.
Admittedly, before I kept sheep, I used to wonder why sheep farmers would remark on the wanton abandon of sheep to seek out ways to die!
Back hall like a clinic
Into my fifth year of sheep farming, and I fully understand the frustration and disappointment that comes with the territory.
In the last four weeks alone, the back hall has been like a clinic for sick and injured lambs. My husband will go to bed after seeing one lamb and get up in the morning only to discover they have either multiplied or been replaced by a completely different lamb!
In most cases, I have managed to save them, but I’ve also lost a few. They are fabulous animals to work with and very rewarding in so many aspects, but oh my goodness, guys, there are so many things that can go wrong with them.
This is the case with farming any livestock but sheep, and young lambs, in particular, are prone to more diseases and health issues than cattle, for example.
Overall, I am pleased with my lambs this year, but recently I have noticed several of them not thriving and others.
Besides, I am still supplementing my lactating ewes with concentrate feed, and the lambs also have access to a concentrate ration. Yet, I have noticed a few of the lambs have lost weight on me.
I went over my notes from this time last year and discovered that I should have already treated them for an intestinal worm called Coccidia.
Like most of these intestinal parasites, Coccidia, are a nasty piece of work. The lambs ingest the eggs at pasture or in the shed.
The worm eggs then enter the cells of the gastrointestinal tract, where they hatch out, causing the cells to burst, resulting in several digestive upsets for the lamb.
The most commonly noticed symptoms are very dirty bums from diarrhoea. Still, something new I have experienced this year is a couple of lambs stretching out their back legs and showing signs of major abdominal discomfort similar to ourselves if we had stomach ache and off their food.
Needless to say, treatment is imminent, and recovery will follow. After I write this to get their advice on which product to administer, I shall be visiting my vets.
Now, to leave you all on a controversial note…I need rain…bye!