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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.

Age-Related Incoordination

I have a family-pet sheep who is approximately 11 years old. He has had broken-down pasterns for several years (he’s fairly fat), but just recently he’s having trouble working his back legs.

He picks them up high when he walks and crosses and sort of gets them tangled, and then gets a couple of steps in and crosses them again.

He doesn’t fall down, but is wobbly because of the crossing. He’s been in a paddock with several goats and a horse. They all get along fine. He eats alfalfa hay. What do you think?

Bea Berrettini
Madera, California

I have seen this in older sheep, when they lose control of their hind legs.

It is usually due to old age and arthritis.

The knee and hip joints deteriorate to a point where they can’t support the hind quarters.

There is no treatment. If he is suffering, the kind thing would be to put him down. I am sorry.

Prolapse Ewes & Cripple Lambs

My daughter and I have been raising sheep for around 10 years. We have a small flock of 60 to 80 ewes. It has been a great time for us, taking turns feeding and midnight checks. We are especially attached to our flock as they bring us much joy, help us maintain our ranch and have given us a special bond (the guys do the cattle).

Four years ago we discovered we had a serious case of Ovine Progressive Pneumonia (OPP) which has really affected our flock severely by drying up udders, coughing and leg problems and premature deaths.

We decided—because we have a registered flock that has some very particular bloodlines that could not be found again—that we would raise a new flock by “bummering” all the ewe lambs that we desired to carry on with. We did this with great difficulty for the last three years, holding back 20 ewe lambs each year. This was to be the celebrated year of an all-clean flock. We have been testing via blood draw, sent to our local university about two or three times a year to make sure we are on track.

We started lambing early February this year and it was a bit bumpy with several wanting to prolapse. We realized we were having an unusually large percentage of prolapsers. The lines we held back are not prolapsers.

We lost two to prolapsing. The rest made it okay with various contraptions to hold them in. The ewes always have available to them free-choice sheep mineral and salt. They always have open water. They are inoculated six weeks before lambing with an 8-way Covexin® and are wormed once a year.

I’m completely baffled at this problem. Let me tell you that out of 40 ewes six prolapsed (or almost) and two prolapsed and died after birth: Eight total out of 40!

That’s one of our problems. Then we have another problem that is totally baffling us with the lambs. At about 3-4 weeks of age we will see that they start limping—holding one leg up—upon taking their temperature they will have a high temperature of 105°F or more, yet still eating and drinking. We inspect them for abscesses or any other obvious problem only to find none. Then we give them some penicillin twice a day for a week or LA-200® two days apart.

Sometimes there’s an improvement of the leg condition, sometimes not. The fever always leaves but the leg condition stays for quite some time—a month or two—they come out of it, but it’s a rough go.

At birth we always iodine the navels and keep pens clean with a constant supply of fresh pine shavings. We don’t feed any copper, and again out of 40 lambs, 10 will develop a limp!

We have had this problem for twoconsecutive years; also the prolapsing has continued for two consecutive years.

These conditions have made a lot of extra work for us as you may well understand and we are eager to hear from you. Our area of farming has no sheep veterinarians and we have always been on our own. Thank you most sincerely.

Tracy Koskela
Valley, Washington

Congratulations on your OPP program. That is a big program, but well worth the effort.

Your incidence of prolapses is high. Without more information I can only list the most common causes of prolapse:

  • Too much hay or roughage in twin-bearing ewes
  • Short tail-dock
  • Coughing
  • Hillside drop pasture, where ewes lie with back pointed downhill
  • Fat ewes with twins or triplets (no room inside them)
  • A genetic predisposition

…And so on. These are a few reasons why ewes prolapse. See if your conditions fit into any of these six and then try to correct.

I would consider selling those ewes that prolapsed this year.

My first thought on the lame lambs would be “scald.” But I don’t see a temperature with scald, so you must be dealing with navel infection.

Navel infection is more serious and long-lasting with some lambs never recovering, usually one or two joints in the leg swell and are very tender to the touch.

Be sure the iodine you are using is 7% and I would re-iodine the navels 4 to 8 hours after the first treatment.

Then when checking lambs the first day or two, be sure the navel stump is dry and hard.

Your antibiotic treatment is good, but as you say, not all lambs recover.

It is possible that you are having scald and navel infection. Look for the white infected area between the toes that is scald. Scald, if left untreated will go into foot rot.

I have never seen pine shavings used for bedding and wonder if that could cause irritation. Let’s hope you can find some answers to your problem!

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