Friday Farm Photo #7 – A Tough Summer

Finnsheep: ram lamb Esko (white), ewe lambs Katariina (black) and Leila (brown)

The Farm Photos today are not happy photos.  The above photo shows two lambs with bottle jaw.  You can see a swelling below the jaw of Esko and Katariina. From what I have learned, bottle jaw is the result of a high worm load, especially of the barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortis.)  This nasty worm attaches to the lining of the host’s intestine and sucks blood from its victim, resulting in anemia.  The protein loss leads to third-spacing of fluid and bottle jaw.  Once the sheep gets to this point it is a crisis – life threatening.

I discovered Esko after I found his twin Erno dead.  Erno had no signs of problems except for some scouring (diarrhea) two weeks earlier.  I treated him with wormer and he seemed to recover.  And due to the high temperatures, humidity and our rainy summer, I also treated the flock and llamas with a coccidiostat.  The treatment goes into their water for five days.

I was very upset when I found Erno.  We have not had lambs die on our farm and he was the second this year.  I know it happens and is part of being a shepherd but, still, I felt like I was doing something wrong.  I inspected the flock and discovered the mucous membranes around Esko’s eyes were WHITE and his jaw was swollen.  Katariina’s eyes were also white and she had a small swelling under her chin.   I could not believe that I had not noticed sooner!  Feeling very incompetent – (how could I miss those puffy chins?) – I separated them from the flock, along with Leila, whose eyes were a very pale pink.  I wormed them with a different wormer and have fed a high-quality grass/alfalfa hay.

In the past, we have been able to worm the sheep several times a year and support flock health.  This year has been different.  The weather have made it tough to keep up as the worms thrive in hot, humid, moist weather.  Unfortunately, the old barn on our property was built on the lowest area so it tends to hold the moisture.  And moisture encourages grass growth, which is good for the parasites.  Upon reflection, we probably need to make some changes so the flock is able to stay out on pasture during the summer.  As it is now, they may return to the barnyard at will.

It’s been a tough summer and we have been on a steep learning curve as new shepherds.  We lost Katariina a few days ago.  So we have lost three lambs – all Finnsheep.  This is a new breed for us, but I don’t think it is the breed.  I think we are having problems because we are novice shepherds facing a new challenge.  I have to believe it is our management that is at fault.  I am reviewing the worming schedule, pasture rotation and general housing/management.  I will keep you posted.

Finn lamb Katariina with swelling under her chin.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about you losing a lamb. I have had goats get worms really badly and if they are severely anemic I give injectable Iron. Also if they are off feed you can feed yogurt to them.

    Just because they have a bottle jaw does not mean they will die. I had one goat who got a bottle jaw and got better about three times-I did cull him after that.

    I have also lost a goat kid to worms. Some times there is just nothing you can do to save them.

    I would suggest doing a fecal test after you deworm to find out what parasite were not killed (not all wormers kill all parasites) and also to find out if your wormer worked.

    Hope they get better for you!

    Laura

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  2. Posted by Patti on 08/07/2010 at 9:16 AM

    I’m so sorry for you…. what a hard thing to have to deal with… but you’re right… when I was on the rescue squad, there was a plaque on the wall that said “Rule #1 is …People Die. Rule #2 is…You Can’t Change Rule #1. Applies to all living things…. Namaste.

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  3. Posted by Tammy on 08/07/2010 at 11:51 AM

    I’m very sorry to hear that you had these losses. I know they can be so devastating. I’ve had several that have had bottle jaw and pulled through. Something that I was told to do though if they have a high worm load and you are using a drench wormer then to worm them for three days. (Depending on your wormer though, you should check and make sure this is safe–I use Ivomec sheep drench). The reasoning for this is that the drench wormer passes through their stomach system so quickly it might not get all the worms if there is a heavy infestation. This is the only way I have been able to bring a few of them around. Re-worming in a week to ten days in the same fashion OR with another wormer type is a good followup. I tell all my buyers to keep an eye on the lambs, because just putting them on the ‘adult’ wormer schedule can be a disaster. Some lambs just can’t deal with even a ‘normal’ worm load until they are older. So extra care has to be taken especially if they get to the bottle jaw stage. Usually at about 8 to 9 months or so though they will start to build up a natural resistence to normal worm loads. Also Vit B injections will help them along in building up their systems and encouraging them to eat well, as they recover. If they are really white like that I would also give nutri drench once or twice per day for about a week. I used to let my sheep hang out in the barns during the day too, but now I’m an old meany and kick them out to pasture every morning. They have good shade, but no buildings to hang out in. At night I do bring them back to the sheds. Again I’m so very sorry for this happening. I’ve had trouble with worms some years that I thought I would never get beat back. Hope some of this rambling gives you help as you try to get through this. Take care,
    Tammy

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  4. I’m so sorry to hear that Katarina has died. How awful, I know how much you love those Finns.

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  5. What heartbreak to lose all three of your Finnsheep lambs! I have little experience, but have heard that some breeds are definitely not as parasite resistant as others, and then of course there’s individual differences within a breed as well. I’m so sorry….

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  6. I’m sorry, Mom. 😦

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    • Oh that is heartbreaking! I am worried about our sheep too….so many things can go wrong. Best of luck in getting back on track.

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  7. Posted by Lorraine on 08/12/2010 at 3:15 PM

    I am so sorry Terri. I know how hard you and George work to keep your flock safe and healthy.

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  8. Oh Terri,
    I just heard about this from Jerry, haven’t been reading blogs. I just discovered bottle jaw on the two finn ram lambs left here, both in with the shetland lambs, who showed no such signs. So it might be that the finns are not as resistant. We spotted our problem guys on Friday night, wormed Sat. morning, and will take the advice of some of your commenters here and continue to follow up. So sorry for your losses.
    Gail

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    • Thank you Gail and Everyone for your suggestions and support. I was very sad to lose Katariina as she was a sweetie and did have gray growing out. At least you know that your ewe is throwing gray. 🙂

      We also lost Esko a few days after this post, but I am happy to report that Leila and Finn ewe lamb Saara are doing okay. They are still on drylot and have gotten iron, Vit. B, Nutri Drench. Leila just got a second round of fenbendazole (Safeguard paste) and I will worm the whole flock with Cydectin soon. All the other lambs are gaining weight and looking good so far.

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