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  Don Bailey, D.V.M. Vet Check  

    If you’re puzzled about a sheep health problem, write immediately to Dr. Bailey at the above address. He thoughtfully responds by mail to your sheep questions, and some of his answers get published in sheep! to help readers with similar problems.

    Please do not ask Dr. Bailey to practice medicine over the telephone. If you have an immediate problem, call your local veterinarian.

    Always remember to check with Dr. Bailey for a second opinion. Questions sent via E-mail to sheepmagazine@citynet.net will be forwarded to Dr. Bailey.

“Fixing” Mean Rams

I am a shepherdess of a flock of nine sheep plus two goats (Jacobs, a Corriedale, and a Romney mutt mix ram). Last fall I bred my ram to my Jacob ewes and now have four beautiful black and white spotted lambs. I have a neighborhood petting zoo on my farm that my ram, when he was a lamb, was the star of. Now that he’s of breeding age, he’s too aggressive for the zoo, and even for me! I don’t plan on breeding my sheep again any time soon and my ram has just gone into his rut again and the idea of castrating him is sounding really good. I am a copious reader of sheep info but I can’t seem to find any really good info on how to castrate a full grown ram-everything is about castrating lambs. One of my lambs is a ram. I have been waiting for his testicles to descend before I band him. He’s about three months now and his testicles have just about cleared his belly, where the band would go-the top of the scrotum-as I understand it. This summer will be my first time castrating anything so your guidance would be really appreciated.
So here are my questions:

  1. Is three months too old to band a ram lamb for castration? If so, how should I do it instead?
  2. I have tetanus antitoxin to administer when I castrate them (1,500 units-equine origin). Is that the proper dosage?
  3. How do I castrate my two-year-old ram?
  4. I’ve read about Burdizzos-how do those work physiologically? Do they crush the vas defrens? Do they crush the blood vessels? Do the testicles atrophy afterwards? What’s the risk of the testicles going septic?
  5. Because this ram and his lamb are very dear to me, is there anything I can give them to lessen the pain?
  6. My two-year-old ram has a very bad habit of ramming me-I have discouraged this behavior very strongly with large sticks across the nose, etc. . . .even a shock collar. Do you think this behavior will continue after castration-if so, what can I do to curb or correct it?

Thank you for your time. I love your articles in sheep! The advice you give is always very helpful and comforting.

J. R. D. Palo Alto, California

Your letter is very enjoyable. After 50 years of working with all types of sheep producers, it is refreshing to hear from a true hobby sheep shepherd. We just sold a ram lamb my daughter had made into a pet and when it passed 100 pounds it was no longer cute, but just plain dangerous.

In answer to your questions:

Three months is too late for banding, although I have had producers band yearling rams and then cut everything below the band off at the same time. Bands as a rule are too weak to cut off all of the circulation and you end up with a big, half dead and half live scrotum and testicles. I would advise you to have your veterinarian in Palo Alto castrate both rams. Have him phone me for instructions. I imagine most veterinarians in Palo Alto attend mostly to dogs and cats.

I would split the 1,500 tetanus between the two rams.

The Burdizzos are successful when used early and the testicles do atrophy and shrink up. When done properly, there is no break in the skin and no infection. I would not trust the “big man” in your zoo, even after castration. Those habits the ram developed are hard to discourage. This is the first time I have heard of shocking collars on rams. It sounds cruel and I would not recommend it. No wonder the ram is upset with you!

Natural Suckling Instinct

I’ve been searching and searching for anyone who will tell me how to get a lamb to suck, if it is not born with a natural suckling instinct. I haven’t been able to find anything. Everything states “lambs are born with the natural instinct to suck,” but what happens in the rare case that they really aren’t born with that instinct to suck? Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

I have a ewe that gave birth to triplets-the two are doing wonderfully, but the one I have tried and tried to get to suck on Mama and tried the bottle, three different type nipples, and nothing: All she wants to do is chew. She will drink water out of a bucket, so we are to the point of putting milk replacer in a bucket and letting her drink from there.

Thank you so much for your articles in sheep! I absolutely look forward to reading them each time I receive a new magazine. Hope you can share with me any advice you might have on this one.

Sharyle Martin – Ewe Kids Ranch – Kennewick, Washington

Please know that I sympathize with your dilemma and have spent much time trying to get lambs to nurse a bottle.

Usually the tongue sticks out the side of the mouth and the milk follows.

It is my opinion that all lambs are born with the ability but due to brain damage they have to learn the technique over. That damage can be due to hypothermia, trauma, or hypoglycemia.

If the lamb drinks water, I would suggest feeding him with a bucket. This is the way sheep producers do in New Zealand. All orphan lambs are taught to drink out of a bucket.

I tend to use the feeding tube for two to three days and usually the lamb will kick in and start nursing. I guess they get tired of the stomach tube three to four times daily.

Then there is the lamb that won’t nurse a bottle but will go right ahead when he gets a little help with the ewe. You might lock out the two going triplets and give the problem lamb a full rein for a short time.

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