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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.

Locked Knuckles

We have an old Polypay ewe that has had hoof problems all her life. In the last three months we had her again walking on her knees.

We brought her into the barn and started cleaning and treating her feet. We made the mistake of not forcing her to get up and use her feet. Hence the problem now. Her front legs now seem to have the knuckles permanently bent/locked. She tried to use them but of course they won’t straighten.

Vets in this area have a limited knowledge of sheep. Is there anything that can be done for her? The ewe is now 12 years old and otherwise is in very good shape. If there is a chance we would like to try saving her but will put her down if it’s hopeless. Thank you for any help you can give us.

John & Brigitte Guffey

Hodgenville, Kentucky

I am not optimistic about your 12- year-old ewe. Once their tendon contracts, only surgery and casts would maybe help. Her age is against her chances of recovery. We see a similar condition in newborn lambs with “club feet” or contracted tendons of the front legs. I have had good luck doing surgery on these newborn lambs. It entails bisecting one or both flexor tendons and then a cast and bandages for two weeks. With your ewe, if you did surgery she would need to spend time in a sack sling. This would be painful. I’m very sorry I can’t be more helpful.

Too Many Teats

I have several ewes with extra teats. This didn’t seem to cause a problem last year because we only bred one of them with this and she had a single so her udder didn’t fill as much to bring them down.

This year two of the ewes that had twins had the extra teats and these were in a better position for the newborns to find them so it caused confusion (one ewe actually had a small amount of milk coming through the extra ones) and a lot of work to get them on the correct teats.

What can I do about these extra teats? I have read articles that recommend cutting them off with sharp scissors after the udder is dried up.

I have also been told to duct tape them.

I plan on breeding these ewes and two others that have them next year and I would like to eliminate this problem.

Elisa Johnson

Lebanon, Ohio

I am very familiar with supernumerary teats on ewes. It is routine in dairy heifers to remove the extra teats. There we suture the skin and it is done at an early age.

Removing those extra teats on an adult ewe’s udder is not without danger. Even when the ewe’s udder is dry, you run the chance of causing infection and possible mastitis.

As you said, the duct tape works fine and after two to three days the lamb or lambs get smart and the problem is over.

Sore Joints & Screwworms

I have an older Romney ewe that has a problem in her right front leg, more so in the shoulder, I believe. She moves okay in warm weather but when it gets colder she is slower to move.

She has had this problem for the last three years. I believe that she may have gotten hit hard by one of the other sheep. Nothing seems swollen or infected, and the hoof and glands look okay. The end result is she has a hard time lifting her shoulder when walking.

Is there anything that you can give to a sheep for their joints? Or is there another underlying cause?

My next subject would be our rams. One is pure Romney, and the other is a Romney X Scottish Blackface, with horns.

The last two years in mid July, the horned ram seems to get a bad case of blowfly/screwworm in the horn area. The pure Romney will also get them, but not as bad. The horned ram does not lose his horn, and they do not feel weak or loose. My questions are (1) do these go up in the base of the horn and become dormant? And if so, what can be done to correct it? And (2) are there any better methods than spraying and digging to cure this?

Rich Deitke

Brook Park, Ohio

I would agree with you that shoulder injury was probably to blame for your ewe’s lameness. Since the lameness has lasted three years, I suspect that arthritis has taken over.

Many times these shoulder injuries are due to crashing into a chute. I am doubtful that any medicine or treatment would help after this long.

Your second question refers to fly strike on rams’ heads. Trauma to the skin at the top of the head results in a good environment for flies to lay eggs and start the problem.

The old preventive treatment consisted of pine tar smeared on the top of the head. This was bad because the tar would sometimes get into eyes.

I would suggest using the spray bombs.

It helps to keep the hair on the top clipped.

In general it pays to introduce new rams in small pens with the older rams. This prevents backing up and hitting heads hard. After 12 to 24 hours they start smelling alike and usually will stop the head butting.

Of course, there are always individual rams that will head-butt and never quit.

As far as flies wintering in the rams’ horns, that doesn’t happen.

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