Earn a reputation for being a crazy sheep lady and life gets even more interesting. Recently I was contacted by a complete stranger, asking me to take a look at her sick sheep. She thought it might be urinary calculi and, seeing the animal, that was clearly it. Urinary calculi – aka kidney stones – are a common problem in young, castrated male sheep and goats. If the stone actually causes the urinary bladder or urethra to rupture, this problem is called “water belly” because of the accumulation of urine in the abdomen. Stones can also form in the female but very rarely cause a problem because of the large size of the urethra. Males that are castrated at a very young age have a much smaller penis and urethra, leading to easier blockage of the urethra by small stones. Caught early they can be treated but this poor lamb had been suffering a long, long time – his bladder had already ruptured and formed the classic “water belly”.
The only humane thing was to put him out of his misery, which we did immediately. The owner just wanted him gone so, rather than have his life go to waste, we brought him home to process.
Between our concern and the coming storm, we forgot to get pictures of him. However I found an image on the web that is very similar to what we saw:
While skinning, bloody urine leaked, tainting much of the carcass. The hind legs, which were suspended above the abdomen when hung, were fine, however much of the rest of the meat became dog food.
We can only hope the owner learned from this experience to seek help early, to avoid needless suffering. Meanwhile, I am thankful none of our sheep or goats have had this problem.
And if you enjoyed this post, you won’t want to miss next week when I describe, in detail, the symptoms, progression, and common complications of malignant rectonasal inversitis.
A bird – even a turkey – is manageable for one person to raise and process in one place. Sheep are another matter. They weigh over 100lb each and are strong, fast, and very agile. We don’t have the equipment to end their life humanely, or to process the meat into useable portions. So, although we have raised them since they were lambs – and attempted to provide them an environment where they are safe, happy and well-fed – we had no choice but to send them to the slaughter house for the last hours of their lives.
If you have read the story of their arrival to our small farm, you will remember that we have no truck or livestock trailer, with which to transport them. Fortunately we came up with a plan that worked even better than the PT Cruiser. A local sheep rancher had a couple of ewe lambs for sale, so we talked her into delivering them, picking up our now year-old wethers (castrated males), and dropping them off at the processor on her way home.
She arrived with two bawling lambs who had only been taken off their mothers a few hours before. Meanwhile, we had to manage our still half-wild sheep into a make-shift pen, in order to load them into her trailer. The plan was simple; we would herd all of the sheep into the trailer, sort the wethers from the back to the front of the partitioned off trailer, then release the remaining sheep back into their pen. That’s mostly how it worked.
The big surprise came while sorting. We were sold 2 ewes and 4 wethers back in May. One of the wethers was eaten by coyotes in June. We added a ram in July and decided to keep the 2 ewes in order to have a self-sustaining source of meat. That left us with 3 wethers to send to the processor. We sorted the first 2 quite easily into the front of the trailer, leaving the ram and remaining 3 lambs who could pass as identical triplets. Not knowing which was the third wether, we had to examine the nether regions of all and discovered they were even more identical than we knew – they were all ewes! Apparently the guy who sold them to us had miscounted, and we had never been able to get close enough before this to find out for ourselves that we had an extra ewe!
The ram leaps back out from trailer.
Good news indeed! Only 2 wethers to go to the processor, less freezer space required, and — we hope — more lambs in the spring!
In the meantime, we have two new – and still very little – lambs to raise: