April 30, 2009

Sorting out a retained placenta ...

Margot still hadn't delivered the placenta or afterbirth at 6 pm on Tuesday ... which was more than 12 hours after having lambed .... so I swung by to see my vet.
He said that this is not terribly unusual, but that we should take a few precautions.
First the biggest risk with a retained placenta is that of infection. So Margot was started on a four-day series of antibiotic jabs to ward off infection.
Additionally she is following a homoeopathic treatment which helps evacuate the placenta, called Wombyl.

Wombyl : 5 ml morning and night for 6 days

Although homeopathic treatments are somewhat controversial in human medicine, they have been proven to be quite effective in veterinary medicine. (On a more “political” note, one has to wonder to what extent the “interests” of large pharmaceutical companies have played a role in trying to discount and discredit homeopathy as a viable alternative to allopathic medicine! But that’s another subject altogether!)
Margot is following her treatment and seems to be doing just fine. The placenta still hasn't been totally delivered, but things are progressing.

April 28, 2009

Margot had her lamb ...

This morning when I went to let the sheep out,
I found that Margot had a little ram lamb!
He was totally dry and beautifully cleaned up!
But the poor little thing was crying and going from sheep to sheep, sucking on wool, knees, etc...
Not a good sign!
So I let everyone else out except Margot and her lamb.
I checked Margot's udder, and sure enough,
the nipples were still blocked by the wax plug!
Poor little mite hadn't had a drop of milk to drink!
So I manually unblocked the udder to let the new lamb
have his much sought-after breakfast!
After a little milk, he was quiet and settled right down to a little nap.
Introducing Frankie :

Frankie : né 28 avril 2009, wt. 1 k 300 grams

This photo doesn't begin to show just how small this little guy is!
And, he's very nicely put together too.
I've got my eye on him ... it will be interesting to see how he grows.

A little later in the afternoon . . .

Frankie is doing fine ... but I am a bit concerned about Margot as she has not passed the afterbirth yet : she has a part of the afterbirth hanging out her backside .... looks like I might need to swing by and see the vet later today if things haven't progressed!

April 27, 2009

... ready, set, go . . .

TitBijou and RhumRaisin are first in line for shearing.
But first, I thought you might like to see my shearing set-up.

I shear on the patio in front of the house.
I put down a clean drop-cloth, in this case an old sheet.
I have my little stool, the shears, oil for the shears, Oxytétrin spray (that electric blue antibiotic spray you can buy at the vets, just in case you have any “accidents”), foot trimming tools, and of course the ever so important ‘toise’ to be used after the fleece has been removed!

April 25, 2009

How to shear an eel!

I have a real love/hate relationship with shearing!

On the one hand shearing is the long awaited wool harvest : it’s so gratifying and exciting to shear one of your own sheep, knowing that the wool will be transformed into a garment.

On the other hand, shearing fills me with dread! Spinners who have never sheared a sheep don’t understand how difficult it can be. First the electric shears weigh over 2 ½ pounds ... and they vibrate quite a bit when in use. But that’s not the worst of it. The standard sheep combs/blades are sharp and “deadly” : it’s so very easy to cut your sheep. Then there’s the fact that ouessant sheep are more difficult to immobilize than a larger sheep ... well it’s a recipe for disaster!

You see, one of the tricks to shearing is holding the sheep in such a way that it “relaxes” and doesn’t move : if you hold the sheep in certain positions, they will calmly sit there and let you get on with it ...otherwise they will struggle and thrash around, making it even easier to cut them with the shears. Unfortunately, due to their small size, it’s much more difficult to immobilize ouessant sheep : imagine trying to shear an eel!! In fact a number of shearers in France charge almost 3 times more to shear a small ouessant than a standard sized sheep!

So what’s a shepherd to do???

First, I’ve had to modify how I hold my sheep. In order to get them into a better position, I sit on a small stool : this puts me closer to the ground, protects my back, and makes holding the sheep much easier (both for me and the sheep!). This has been a great help ... but it doesn’t solve the problems with the electric sheep shears!

This took a bit of research, but it’s all about the combs!

Let me explain. The head of electric sheep shears are make up of a comb and cutting blade. The comb does not move : it has teeth which direct the wool towards the cutting blade. The blade fits on top of the comb and moves back and forth, cutting the wool. The standard wool comb has 13 teeth. Most people (even sales people at farm stores!) will tell you that there’s just one comb used for shearing sheep. This is just not the case : if you check out the Heiniger catalogue, for example, you will find that they offer over 30 different combs for shearing sheep. Granted, the vast majority of these are 13-tooth combs. But there are some with only 9 teeth and a few with more than 13 teeth.

The thing is, for a professional shearer, speed is important. Generally speaking the shearer can work faster with a 13-tooth comb : remember that shearers like working fast as they are paid by the animal. The only problem is that the added speed of the 13-tooth comb has one pretty nasty downside : not only can the wool be quickly sheared, but the sheep’s skin can be quickly cut too. Of course most experienced shearers don’t make too many nicks. But of course, most professional shearers have never had to shear an eel ... urr I mean ouessant sheep!
But here’s the good news for all of us not so professional shearers who don’t want to nick and shred are dear little sheep : if you switch to a comb with more teeth you will greatly reduce the possibility of nicking and cutting your sheep when you shear them!

The two combs that have been recommended to me are the “mohair” comb, a 17-tooth comb designed especially for mohair goats ; and the Heiniger “shattle”, a 25-tooth comb that can be used on a number of different animals and is often used as a “show comb” for sheep. The closer together the teeth are the less chance you have of cutting your sheep. But there is a down-side : as you go from 13 to 17 to 25 teeth ... it takes longer to shear your sheep. Of course this isn’t an option for a professional shearer : they want to get the sheep done in 5 minutes ... NOT in 25 or 30. Note that all of these combs use the same standard cutting blade. It’s just the comb (or cutting plate, if you will) that changes.
I went ahead and purchased the Heiniger “Shattle” and “Mohair” combs at Schlumberger’s in France. They have great prices and great service.
In the weeks that come I’ll report back and let you know how it goes and which combs work best for shearing an eel!

April 23, 2009

Praline had her lamb!!!!

I honestly thought she was going to explode!
Her belly was so big.
Udder to bursting point.
And teats that looked like small missiles!

On top of that, she is a rather small ewe ... and of course this was one time when I was actually hoping for a ram lamb.
Well, to say the very least, I was a bit anxious.

But Praline is a real star!
She went into labor late Wednesday afternoon.
And a few hours later delivered a beautiful little brown ram lamb!

Proudly introducing Mac (that's short for Macaron!) :

Macaron : né 22 avril à 20 h
Here he is! Still wet but he's got his eye on his first meal!

And after a bit of refreshment . . .

Still damp, but now he's up with a full tummy!

The next morning, 12 hours later, Mac is out with Praline . . .

Mac, who knows where the milk bar is found!

Both Praline and Mac are doing fine. And I'm one happy camper too!

April 19, 2009

Spring time in Normandy

Normandy is really beautiful, particularly in the spring!
April is one of my favorite months,
bringing wave after wave of beautiful blossoms!
From the delicate cherry blossoms
to the white pear blossoms and the pink apple blossoms!

It's a feast for the eyes when the trees are in full flower
and buzzing with the sounds of honey bees!

Here's a little sample of what's in my backyard!

Apple Blossoms!

Pear Blossoms

Cherry Tree in bloom

Pear Treee in bloom

April 15, 2009

My first brown (noisette) lamb!!!

Nougatine had a beautiful little ewe lamb this morning!
Introducing Cassonade! Here she is ... just a few hours old.

Cassonade, brown ewe : born April 15 at 8 am!

Isn't it interesting to see how dark -- almost black -- brown lambs are at birth.

Lovely lamb ...
but why is her mother being such a clown, sticking out her tongue??

Cassonade, standing tall and proud!

I'll be carefully watching to see how Cassonade's color changes in the coming weeks and months.
In the mean time both mum and lamb are doing fine.

April 12, 2009

An Easter Lamb!

Introducing . . . . Rhum Raisin's Easter lamb, Clafoutis :

Clafoutis, white ram lamb : born April 12th at noon!

Mum & Lamb just hours after birth!

Clafoutis : Taking an Easter afternoon rest!

April 3, 2009

Any day now!!! LOL!!

Well actually, more like any week now .... but who knows!

Both Praline and Nougatine went in with Josse, a little brown ram on November 6th. According to my handy little lambing chart, which is based on a 148 day gestation period, the earliest they could lamb would be today. Of course they most likely didn't catch the first day. But ....

I just checked both of them. I'm guessing that Nougatine will have before Praline, as she has more udder development. That said, both of them look as though they could pop! Praline in particular seems to be rather "tired" of waiting for her lamb. She's waddling about the paddock, looking rather uncomfortable. Poor dear! I have my fingers crossed for an easy delivery with a healthy lamb & mum.

I also checked the other girls. RhumRaisin is as big as a barn! Honestly, if I didn't know better, I would say she's going to have twins! But as that is so rare with ouessant sheep, I have to discount that idea! Absolutely no udder development either. The other girls are most certainly pregnant ... but they most likely won't lamb until the very end of April at the earliest .... and possibly not until May.

In the mean time little Onyx is growing and anxiously waiting for a few playmates to join her in the paddock.

Thank you for visiting the Spinning Shepherd!