Clodagh Hughes runs a sheep enterprise on the Monaghan/Louth border near Inniskeen; she is That’s Farming’s newest contributor and will provide an insight into her farm on a weekly basis.
Tempting as it may be to just ‘throw your eye over the stock’, this is invariably when costly mistakes can be made and often times doing a proper check on your animals can result in simple issues being detected sooner rather than later and a costly vet’s bill or even a life can be saved.
Unfortunately, I’ve learnt one or two of these lessons the hard way.
It was on my final check last Tuesday night, when I noticed a ewe lamb very bloated on both sides – you’d think she swallowed a football she was so perfectly round!
I know I keep saying it, but as a new kid on the block, I’m still learning what is ‘normal’ with sheep and thank goodness, I’m a fast learner because the quicker you pick up any problem, the better your chances of a successful outcome, not to mention more pennies in your pocket!
Back to my ballooned lamb, I was reasonably sure that she’d just overindulged on sheepmeal, but I also knew that if not dealt with soon this could potentially be fatal for the lamb. This condition is called acidosis or grain overload.
Now, pay attention boys and girls, here’s the science bit: Sheep, cattle and goats, belong to a group of animals called ruminants.
Ruminants have an extremely sophisticated digestive system and any upset to the natural microbial action can result in a very sick sheepy.
The rumen is one of the sheep’s 4 stomachs and its job is to break down indigestible foodstuffs that the sheep can then utilise.
Rumen acidosis occurs when excess lactic acid is produced in the stomach, in this case, by the lamb binging on meal. The excess lactic acid kills off the ‘good’ bacteria causing bloating and a lot of gas…
Enough of all that serious stuff, I took the wee lamb up to the house and gave her a small dose of baking soda diluted in 10ml of water to help counteract the acidity in her stomach and spent the night observing her and cleaning up THE runniest sheep poop I ever did see! And boy did she evacuate with much gusto!!!
I was quietly optimistic for a positive outcome as I felt I’d caught this lamb in good time. Furthermore, after losing a ewe and lamb the week before I couldn’t face another defeat so I’m very pleased to report that by morning, I had a perfectly deflated lamb, fighting fit and ready to be reunited with mam and twin sister.
In other news, my ewe lamb with the small hernia has completely recovered and as it was such a minor issue, I’m going to keep her as a breeding ewe.
Also, my new hens are starting to feel at home and finding their place in the pecking order.
I hope you’ve not all gone completely Covid crazy… just yet! Honestly? My animals are keeping me sane. Stay safe until next week folks.