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The shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep online

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benefited by a teaspoonfui of castor oil, given in new rnilk, if the
first evacuations do not pass away freely. These are apt to be
very glutinous and sticky, and by adhering to the wool to close
the bowel completely unless removed. Warm water should be
used to soften and remove these accumulations. The anus and
surrounding wool should then be smeared with pure castor oil.
If the lamb is not sufficiently strong to reach the teats and suck, it
should be assisted once or twice. Any locks of wool upon the
ewe's udder, that may be in the way, should be clipped. If the
lamb is scoured, a
teaspoonfui of a
mixture of one
pint of peppermint
water and one
ounce of prepared
chalk should be
given every three
hours, until it is
relieved. When
the ewe refuses to
own the lamb, she
may be confined
between two small
hurdles, as shown
in fig. 13. Two
light stakes are
driven in the
ground close to-
gether to confine
the ewe's head and keep her from butting the lamb. If she is
disposed to lie down, as some obstinate ones will do, a light pole
is passed through the hurdles resting upon the lower bar beneath
her belly. Thus confined during the day, she is helpless, and if
the lamb is lively, it will manage to get its supply of food. The
ewe should be released at night. One day's confinement is often
sufficient to bring an obstinate ewe to reason.

A twin lamb, or one deprived of its dam, that may need to be
reared by hand, may easily be fed upon cows' milk. A fresh
cow's milk is the best fitted for this purpose. Ewe's milk is richer
in solid matter than that of the cow, and the addition of a tea-
spoonful of white refined sugar to the pint of cow's milk will
make it more palatable to the lamb. At first not more than a




quarter of a pint of milk should be given at once. The milk should
be freshly drawn from the cow, and warmed up to 100 degrees
before it is fed. A convenient method of feeding milk to a lamb
is to use a small tin can with a long spout, such as is used for oil.
An air-hole is punched in the cover or cork and a piece of sponge
covered with a cloth is tied upon the end of the spout. The flow
is thus made easy and equal, and the lamb sucks in a natural man-
ner. The accompanying illustration, (fig. 14), shows the method.
A very short time is sufficient to familiarize the lamb with this
kind of foster mother. To encourage the flow of milk in the ewe


and the corresponding growth of the lambs, the food of the ewes
should be of the best character. Clover hay, bran, and crushed
oats, with some pea-meal, are the most preferable foods, produc-
ing a rich milk in abundance. The ewes must not be allowed to
fall off in condition, or the lambs will fail. During mild weather,
sugar beets may be given in moderate quantity with advantage,
but mangels or Swede turnips, (ruta-bagas), should be avoided as
too watery and deficient in nutriment, and productive of scours in
the lamb. In cold weather roots are apt to reduce the tempera-
ture of the animal too suddenly if given in any but small quanti-
ties, and consequently decrease the flow of milk. Pea straw is a
favorite and nutritious food for sheep, but it will be found profit-


able to give only the very best at hand to nursing ewes. The
after growth and condition of the lambs will greatly depend upon
the maintenance of a thrifty and continuous growth during the
first three months of their existence.

At the age of a week the operations of docking and castrating
the male lambs, may be safely performed. At this age the young
animal suffers but little, there is no loss of blood, and the wounds
heal by the first intention. The rough and ready method of clip-
ping off the tail an inch from the rump, first drawing the skin
upwards, and of clipping off the scrotum and testicles altogether
with a pair of sharp sheep-shears, will be found perfectly safe if
done before the lamb is two weeks old. The nerves being very
slightly sensitive at this time, the painful, and when later per-
formed, dangerous operation of emasculation is only slightly felt,
and within an hour a lamb bereft of tail and generative organs
will frequently be seen skipping playfully in the sunshine. To
dock an older lamb is a more troublesome operation. To do this
with facility, a block of wood about a foot high, a sharp, broad
chisel, and a wooden mallet, are required. The operator stoops
with bended knees, the block being in front of him, takes the lamb
with its head between his knees and its tail in his left hand, hold-
ing the chisel in his right hand. Backing the lamb's rump up
close to the block, he lays the tail upon it, and drawing back
the skin of the tail up to the rump, holds the chisel lightly
upon the tail close to and below the fingers of the left hand.
When all is ready he directs an assistant to strike the chisel
smartly with the mallet, by which the tail is instantly severed
about two inches from the root. A pinch of powdered bluestone
(sulphate of copper), is placed on the wound, and the lamb is re-
leased. To castrate an old lamb with safety, the scrotum should
be opened by a long free incision with a sharp knife at the lower
point, the animal being at the tune turned upon its back and
secured in that position. The scrotum should be held in the
hand tightly enough to keep the skin tense. The cut should be
made only through the skin and coats of the testicle, and not into
the gland, by which a great deal of pain is spared to the animal.
The gland will escape from the scrotum at once if the opening is
made large enough. It may be taken in the left hand and the cord
and vessels scraped apart, not cut, by which bleeding is prevented
and healing made m ore certain and rapid". The opening being made
at the bottom of the scrotum, allows the blood and any pus that
forms hi the wound;to escape freely. It might probably be bene-
ficial to insert a small plug of tow in the wound, projecting out of


it a short distance to prevent the edges from healing until the in-
flammation has subsided. This method of operation is a safe one,
and if it is neatly done, the losses need not be one per cent, while
frequently three lambs out of five may be lost by any other

While the lambs are still with the ewes, and although the ewes
may be well fed with a special view to the thrif tiness of the lambs,
yet a supply of additional food for the latter will be of great ad-
vantage to them. To furnish a young animal with all the food
that it can digest, and that of the choicest character, is to create a
sturdy, thrifty, strong constitutioned animal that will be prolific
in reproduction and long lived. To advance the maturity of
an animal is also to lengthen its life, for it matters not at which
part of its productive career we add a year, it certainly, so far as
profit is concerned, lives a year longer for us. If a yearling ewe
can be made to produce a healthful, strong lamb, or a lamb can be
brought by care to maturity for the market at eighteen months in-
stead of thirty months, this result is simply equal to a profit of 40
per cent. And feed is the agent by which this profit is secured, of
course made available by proper care in selecting the breeding
stock. To provide the means whereby the lambs may procure the
extra feed needed for their rapid development, many contrivances
have been brought into use. Generally these are modifications of
the plan of providing a pen or yard adjoining that in which the
ewes are kept, with " creep holes " in the fence through which the
lambs can gain access to it. In this yard some feed, consisting of
oats, rye, and wheat bran ground together very finely, is placed in
troughs or boxes, and lightly salted. They will soon find this, and
will resort to it several times a day. A very simple and conve-
nient " lamb creep " is figured at fig. 15, and has been illustrated
and described in an English journal, the Agricultural Gazette. It
is very frequently used by English farmers, and is worthy of being
adopted by us. It consists of a small double gate or two half gates
set at such a distance apart that the lamb can easily force itself
through between them. An upright roller on each side of the
opening assists the lamb hi getting through the space, and prevents
it from rubbing or tearing its wool. The gates are pivoted at top
and bottom, so that they will open a little either way ; a wooden
spring being fixed so as to keep them closed after the lamb has
passed in or out. The lambs pass in or out at will. Creeps of
this kind can be made so as to occupy a panel of fence or a gate-
way, and of a portable character, so that they can be easily fixed
to the fence-post on each side by a wire or withe, and removed



when no longer needed. But, by whatever means it maybe done,
the lambs should be supplied with some additional concentrated
and nutritious feed. As a gentle laxative in case of constipation,
a few ounces of linseed oil-cake-meal will be found sufficient, and
far better than physic. Linseed oil, (raw), or castor oil, a tea-
spoonful of either at a dose, will be found safe and effective for
either constipation or diarrhea, unless of a serious character.
As lambs progress towards the period for weaning, the extra


food should be gradually increased, unless they can be removed
to a good pasture of short, tender grass. In this case even a small
allowance at night on their return to the fold will be beneficial.
The weaning should be very gradually done. The sudden remov-
al of the lambs from their dams is injurious to both. It too ab-
ruptly deprives the -lambs of their most easily digested and most
agreeable food. It forces them to load the stomach with food for
which it is hardly yet prepared, and suddenly arrests their growth


both by a stinting of food and by the nervous irritation conse-
quent upon their sudden deprivation. The dams in full flow of
milk, thus at once deprived of the means of relief, are subjected
to the engorgement of the udder, with the consequent congestion
of all the organs connected therewith. This shock is very injuri-
ous, and frequently produces inflammatory disorders of the blood
or garget. To avoid these ill effects of the sudden change, it is
well to remove the lambs to a distant pasture, along with some
dry ewes or wethers for company. The novel experience of a
fresh pasture will cause them to forget then- dams, and they will
utter no complaints nor manifest any uneasiness. At night they
should be turned into the fold with the ewes, whose full udders
they will speedily relieve. By withdrawing any extra feed hith-
erto given to the ewes, somewhat gradually, (in no case is it wise
to make a sudden change in the management of sheep), their sup-
ply of milk will gradually decrease, and in two weeks the whole of
the lambs may be weaned with perfect safety to themselves and
the ewes.

After having been weaned, the lambs should have the first
choice of pasture and the best and tenderest cuttings of the fodder
crops. Many farmers have found it advantageous in every way
to turn newly weaned lambs into a field of corn in the month of
August. The corn is too far grown to be injured, the suckers
only will be nibbled by the lambs, and the weeds which grow up
after the corn is laid by, will be eaten closely. The lambs also
have the benefit of a cool shade, and where such a field can be
conveniently applied to this purpose, there are several reasons
why it might well be done.

The condition of the ewes must not be neglected at this time.
The chief danger is in regard to those that are heavy milkers.
Such sheep should be closely watched, and the milk drawn by
hand from those whose udders are not emptied by the lambs.
The first approach to hardness or heat in the udder should be
remedied by an immediate dose of an ounce of epsom salts dis-
solved in water, and mixed with a teaspoonful of ground ginger.
The next two days 20 grams of saltpeter should be given each
morning and evening, to increase the action of the kidneys. These
remedies will generally relieve the udder, and will tend to greatly
reduce the secretion of milk. If hay is given in place of grass,
and the ewe confined in a cool darkened pen, the drying up of the
milk will be hastened.

As the improvement of the flock can be better made from within
than by giving the sole attention to bringing new blood from


without, it will be very important to select the best lambs, both of
rams and ewes, for breeders. The selection should be made
chiefly in reference to the purposes for which the flock is kept,
and strength of constitution, rapidity of growth, size, tendency to
fat ; fineness, length or quality of wool, and prolificness and cer-
tainty of breeding, in the parents as well as, so far as can be
judged of, in the lambs themselves, should be made the tests by
which the selection is determined. If the production of early
lambs for market is the object, the produce of those ewes which
bring single lambs of large size and quick growth will be chosen
to increase the flock ; if the production of mutton sheep, then those
lambs from ewes which drop twins, and are good nurses, ought to
be kept ; and if wool of any particular kind is desired, then the
selection should be made chiefly in reference to that. On no ac-
count should weakly lambs, or those ewes which are poor nurses,
or fail to breed, or which exhibit tenderness of constitution, or are
wanderers, or of uneasy, restless dispositions, be retained ; but
such unprofitable animals should be closely weeded out and fat-
tened for sale or for slaughter. The choice of ram lambs is of
chief importance, for the influence of the ram runs through the
flock, while that of the ewe is confined to her produce alone. To
select a lamb for a stock ram is a matter requiring a knowledge of
the principles of breeding, and some tact and experience. The lat-
ter qualifications cannot be acquired from books, but must be
gained by practice ; nevertheless, much as to the selection of lambs
may be learned from a careful consideration of what will be found
in the succeeding chapter, which is specially devoted in part to
this important branch of the shepherd's knowledge.

The proper age for breeding differs with the class of sheep bred.
The Merino is not mature enough for breeding until fully two or
three years old. Other breeds which mature more quickly are
ripe for breeding as yearlings, but there is nothing gained by suf-
fering any sheep less than a year old to reproduce. A young ram
in its second year may be allowed to serve a few ewes, if he is
vigorous and well grown. A ram at two years may serve 30 ewes
in a season, and after that from 50 to 60 or 70, according to the
manner hi which he is kept, and if he is restricted to no more than
one or two services of each ewe. The strength and vigor of the
lamb certainly depends on that of the ram by which it is sired, as
well as on the condition and character of the ewe. Ewe lambs of
less than a year old. should be kept in a separate flock by them-
selves where they may not be disturbed by the rams. The second
year they are capable of breeding, and if they have been well


cared for, will produce as large lambs and as many twins as older
sheep. The young ewes having their first lambs are apt to be ner-
vous, and need careful attention at yeaning time ; it is then that
the great convenience resulting from having a docile and friendly
flock, well acquainted with, and confiding in, their shepherd, is
manifest. The young ewes should not be put to the ram until the
older ones are served, so that they will not drop their lambs until
the spring is well advanced, and the pressure upon the shepherd
becomes lighter. As a rule they are poor nurses, and if the season
is cold, will lose many lambs. If they are not allowed to have
lambs until April or May, so much the better ; it will then be neces-
sary to keep them from the ram until November and December.
Difficulty in parturition is sometimes experienced with young ewes,
and assistance is often needed. This should be given with the
utmost gentleness and tenderness. When the presentation is all
right and natural, and the fore feet appear, but difficulty occurs in
ejecting the head, a very slight and slow drawing upon the feet
may help the ewe in expelling the lamb. Sometimes in her ner-
vous struggles the head may be turned backwards, and does not
appear when the fore legs have protruded. In this case the lamb
should be gently forced backwards, and the hand or fingers, well
oiled with linseed oil, and the finger nails being closely pared, are
inserted, and the head gently brought into position, when it will
be expelled without further trouble. For more difficult and ab-
normal presentations, the services of an experienced shepherd will
be needed, but such cases are very rare, and will very seldom oc-
cur if the flock has been carefully attended to, and has not been
overdriven, or worried by dogs, or knocked about by horned cattle.
When a ewe loses her lamb it is best to make her adopt one of
another ewe's twins. This may be done by rubbing the skin of
the live lamb with the dead one, removing the dead one and shut-
ting up the ewe and live lamb together in a dark pen. When a
lamb loses her dam, it may be given to a ewe that has lost her
lamb, or from which her lamb has been taken, or with care it may
be brought up by hand without difficulty. In every considerable
flock it will pay to have a fresh cow on hand at the lambing sea-
son, to fill the place of foster mother to disowned or abandoned
lambs, or to assist those whose dams for any reason are short of

The question as to when a lamb becomes a sheep, although of
no practical utility, has sometimes been of sufficient importance
to require a decisive reply. A legal decision was given in an
English court not long since, which is probably as reasonable as


we may expect, and may be accepted as being authoritative. The
question arose out of the killing of some sheep on a railroad by a
passing train, and it was denied that the complaint was properly
made, the animals being lambs, and not sheep. The judge decided
that lambs ceased to be lambs, and became sheep as soon as they
had acquired their first pair of permanent teeth. This change of
teeth generally occurs when the lamb is a year old. At this period
the middle pair of the first teeth drop out, and a pair of the per-
manent incisors appear. At one year and nine months, two more
of the first teeth are dropped and two more permanent incisors,
one on each side of the former pair, appear. Nine months later,
two more permanent incisors appear in a similar manner, and nine
months later still, another pair are produced, so that at three years
and a quarter the sheep has eight permanent incisors or nippers,
and is then called a full-mouthed or perfect sheep. These periods
of dentition are irregular, and in some of the early maturing
breeds, the first pair of permanent teeth will appear before the
end of the first year, and at 16 months, four permanent incisors
may be found. The earlier maturity of the high bred and high
fed races of sheep, such as the Leicester, Cotswold and Shrop-
shire, sometimes amounts to a gain over the common breeds of
nearly a year in time, and full-mouthed sheep of no more than two
years and a half old are not uncommonly met with.

The diseases to which lambs are subject are but few, and those
are mainly the result of carelessness in their management. The
lamb, which appears so delicate and tender an animal, is really
hardy, and resists much ill treatment, else with so little consider-
ation as they usually receive, the race would soon become almost
extinct. Damp and cold are especially to be guarded against in
the spring, and filthy yards at all seasons. With clean pens and
dry, clean bedding, they will resist the severe dry colds of a north-
ern January, and thrive and grow while snow storms rage, if
only well sheltered. Sunshine has a remarkable effect upon
lambs, and the warmth of the sun will often revive and strengthen
a weak lamb that appears past relief. Extremes of damp and im-
pure air in close pens, and bad drinking water, will produce diar-
rhea and paralysis, and these are the chiefly fatal disorders to
which they are subject. Constipation is produced by want of
proper laxative food, and permitting them to feed on dry, withered
herbage that has lost its nutritive qualities beneath the storms of a
winter. If the directions as to their treatment heretofore given,
are followed, there will rarely be any need of remedial measures,
and prevention will be found better than any amount of cure. If,


notwithstanding all possible care, some weakly lambs are found
to require treatment, the simple purgatives already mentioned in
this chapter, viz : a teaspoonful of castor or raw linseed oil will be
found effective, after two or three doses, in removing the trouble-
some matter from their intestines, and restoring the bowels to
healthful action. If in any case, a stimulant seems to be needed,
as when great weakness and prostration are present, the safest is a
teaspoonful of gin, given in a little warm water with sugar. A
still more gentle stimulant and anodyne, but one very effective in
prolonged diarrhea, is prepared by adding to a pint of peppermint
water, one ounce of prepared chalk, a teaspoonful each of tinc-
ture of opium and of tincture of rhubarb ; it is worthy of the
name given to it by shepherds, viz : " lambs cordial," and at the
lambing season no shepherd should be without a supply of it.
The dose is a teaspoonful for a lamb of a few days old, up to a
tablespoonful for one of a month. Exposure to cold rains should
be specially guarded against, and if by inadvertence a lamb is found
chilled and rigid from such exposure, it may generally be restored
by means of a bath of warm water and a teaspoonful of warm sweet-
ened gin and water. After the bath the lamb should be gently
dried, wrapped in a warm flannel, and placed near a fire or in a
wooden box in a gently heated oven of a common stove. Where
the flock is large, and the kitchen is not within reach, the shepherd
should have the conveniences of a shed and an old cooking-stove
in which he can keep a fire sufficient to heat a water bath, and pro-
vide a warm bed in the oven for any lamb that may need such
attention ; if the flock numbers several hundred head in all,
there will seldom be a day in our changeable spring seasons when
there will not be one or more patients to be treated. The specific
diseases to which lambs are subject will be found treated of at
large in Chapter VII.

As the season progresses, and shearing time for the ewes has
passed, the lambs will be found covered with ticks, unless care has
been exercised to free the flock from this tormenting pest. These
ticks are wingless, broad, plump, dark red insects, about a quarter
of an inch in length, and covered with a very tough and leathery
integument. They are known scientifically as Melophagus ovinus,
and produce a puparium which is nearly round in shape, red in
color, and as large as a radish seed or duck shot. The legs of the
tick are short and stout, and it adheres with great tenacity to the
wool. By means of a proboscis as long as its head, it pierces the
skin and sucks the blood of its victim to such an excess that when
numerous, they have been known to almost entirely empty the


veins and deprive a lamb of life. The draft upon the vitality of
lambs inf ested with ticks is very great, and sufficient to arrest their
growth altogether. To rid the flock of these pests is therefore a
necessary labor in the spring or early summer, and if need be,
again in the autumn. The easiest remedy is to dip both sheep and
lambs, as soon as the sheep are shorn, and again in August or
September, in a decoction of tobacco mixed with sulphur. Coarse
plug tobacco, or tobacco stems, which are cheaper than the leaves,
and equally effective, are steeped in water at a boiling heat, but
not boiling, at the rate of four pounds to twenty gallons of water.


One pound of flowers of sulphur is then stirred in the liquid, which
is brought to a temperature of 120 degrees, and kept so during the
dipping by the addition of fresh hot liquor. During the dipping,

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Online LibraryHenry StewartThe shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep → online text (page 4 of 23)