Searching for Answers

Searching for Answers

The day after Kyle was born I began searching for information and answers to my questions about raising Kyle.  You’ve probably read the previous post about him, but here is a photo from right after birth.

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I asked on one my Facebook groups if anyone could tell me the name of this condition.  I remembered what it was from a post in another Facebook group in 2016 but couldn’t remember the name of it right then.  A woman who was also a member of both groups reminded me that the condition is called hypotrichosis.  When I first posted about Kyle on Facebook people were amazed by him.  Lots of people wanted him and others thought I should try to breed more hairless sheep because he was so cute.

Even after a couple days with Kyle I realized I didn’t want him producing more sheep like himself.  Sheep have wool and hair for insulation and to protect their bodies from the sun and from insects.  Kyle needed a fleece sweater to keep from shivering and on day 2 his ear had started to swell – a sign of frostbite.  If I hadn’t adjusted his heatlamp he may have eventually lost that ear.  Even at this point when our plan was to raise him for meat I didn’t want any “Oops” pregnancies so on day 3 Kyle became the first lamb I castrated.

I also emailed our state veterinarian during those first couple days and asked him if he’d ever come across hypotrichosis in sheep.  He replied that over the years he had seen the condition in a few calves and told me that it could occur in other species but is relatively rare.  He also suggested that I contact the Veterinary Departments of  a couple universities, where I might find someone more knowledgeable in ovine (sheep) conditions.

I contacted a veterinarian at Penn State a few days later and asked his opinion on whether or not Kyle had hypotrichosis.  I had done some research online but I only found a couple articles about it occurring in Polled Dorset and Australian White Suffolk sheep.

This same day I had also asked my local vet to come out for an issue with another sheep and she examined Kyle as well.  He appeared healthy in her opinion, but a little warm so we removed his sweater.  From then on we gave him a sweater at night but took it off during the day if the weather was somewhat mild.  We also talked about other day-to-day issues like what sunscreen would be safe for him (our vet said Waterbabies® would be the best).  At this point we planned to raise him for meat and wanted to be sure nothing we used on him would leave any residues in his body.

From my description of Kyle, plus the photos I sent, the vet at Penn State agreed that congenital hypotrichosis was a very likely diagnosis.  He did say that if Kyle’s dam had a high fever during the phase of follicle development (she didn’t though) it could result in a loss of hair in the fetus (see fetal timeline below).  timeline of fetal developement

He suggested several tests, including skin biopsies to determine what the follicles look like and genetic tests of Kyle, his dam and sire (if a lab could be found to run the tests).  He also suggested that we could donate Kyle for these tests to be performed during a necropsy.  I was not opposed to testing, though I wasn’t interested in euthanizing him for research.  The vet tried to find a lab that would be able to do blood tests and also looked for anyone more experienced in genetic diseases in sheep.

Several days later the veterinarian at Penn State sent me an email with contact information for a researcher at Texas A & M University.  I emailed her a description of Kyle, along with photos, just as I had with the other veterinarians.  She got back to me within a couple days and was able to give me lots of information on hypotrichosis – the condition of which everyone seemed to agree he showed symptoms.

In order for hypotrichosis to occur in an animal, the individual must be homozygous recessive at 3 parts of the hr (hairless) gene. (For a more detailed and scientific explanation, you can read the abstract here.)  I looked over the pedigrees of Kyle’s dam and sire to see if there might be any of the same animals that have have introduced the recessive gene into his line.  I found 2 sheep, 5 generations back from Kyle that were from the same farm and had similar registration numbers.  After talking with our registry I learned that the ram and ewe were both born in 1970.  My theory is that they both carried the heterozygous hr gene, which remained heterozygous in each sheep in the pedigree until Kyle.

At this point (last Spring) Kyle was growing well and keeping up with the other lambs.  We kept the mamas and lambs in the barn more than we usually do because Kyle got colder more easily and we didn’t want to keep him and Annie separated from the flock.

{coming soon…. more about Kyle over the summer}

 

Some Egg Oddities

I wanted to put together a post of odd eggs that we have gotten over the years.  To understand why mishaps occur in the egg laying process, though, you should first know how normal eggs are laid.

hen reproductive tract

If you have a rooster in your flock, chances are most or all of your hens will lay fertilized eggs (eggs that will produce chicks if properly incubated).  Each egg takes 24-36 hours to form.  After the yolk is released from the ovary it travels through the oviduct.  It is fertilized in the Infundibulum, the albumen (or the egg white) is added in the Magnum, the shell membrane is added in the Isthmus, the shell is added in the Uterus or Shell Gland, and the bloom is added in the Vagina.  Most of this is self-explanatory, but many people have never heard of the egg’s bloom.  This is a clear coating the egg is covered with to seal the pores so bacteria cannot enter the shell.  Air, however, can still go through the pores.  (This is why you can wipe off eggs to be incubated but you should never wash them.)

No Shell

Here’s an egg with only the inner membrane and no shell (also called a rubber egg).  Hens can lay eggs like these at the beginning or end of their laying cycle or if they get scared (usually at night as a result of predators or stormy weather).  You may see these eggs occasionally in your flock.  If your hen lays eggs like this regularly, it may indicate a lack of calcium, phosphorus or salt in the hen’s diet; or an abnormality in the shell gland.

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These eggs are normal in every other aspect and can be eated, but are usually torn open by the chicken (or the farmer).  If left out too long they will start to dry out.

No Yolk 

Sometimes a hen will lay a tiny egg (here are 3 that I’ve emptied and saved).

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These eggs usually have no yolks are often called wind (or fart) eggs, dwarf eggs or rooster eggs.  Many times an egg without a yolk is one of the hen’s first eggs, laid before her system is working properly.  These eggs also occur when a piece of tissue breaks away from the hen’s reproductive tract and is treated like a yolk as it travels through the oviduct.  When this is the case, a small piece of greyish tissue can usually be seen in the albumen.

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Egg with a “Tail”

This egg was such a surprise.  The shell was hard like a normal shell everywhere, except “tail” and where the “tail” met the egg.  That part of the shell wasn’t hard but it wasn’t quite as soft as the membrane of the shell-less egg above, though.  It is thought to be caused by the egg not being hardened enough before being laid.  The soft part of the shell is then elongated as the egg is being passed.

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Double Yolk Eggs

Double-yolk eggs occur when 2 yolks are released at the same time, or when they are released close enough together that they become encased in the same membrane and shell.  These eggs can occur at the beginning of a hen’s laying cycle, but some hens are genetically predisposed to lay double yolk eggs on a regular basis.  (It’s similar to fraternal twins running in families.)  In hens that lay these eggs only occasionally, the egg laying cycle is usually interrupted.   Hens generally lay an egg every 24-36 hours but if they skip a day, the next egg that they lay can be a double-yolk egg.  These eggs rarely hatch 2 chicks if incubated.  Multiple factors are at play: each yolk may not be fertilised and if they both are, both chicks may not survive pipping without careful assistance.  Below is a double-yolk duck egg:

double yolk duck egg

double yolk duck egg 2

Leaping Lambs!

I am sitting here going through sections of our website, and I come to my blog drafts page.  Imagine my surprise to find this post that I thought I had published in 2014!

Enjoy these lamb pics while we wait patiently until April when this year’s lambs will be born.

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In 2014 we were blessed with 10 healthy lambs!  6 ewe lambs and 4 ram lambs; 3 sets of twins and 4 singles.  Our lambing season began on February 28th and lasted till March 9th (when we had 2 sets of twins born).

Beatrice's Lamb

Coco's Lamb

Esme's Lambs

Fiona's Lamb

Annie's Lamb  Bertha's Lamb  Erin's Lamb

Because of the extreme cold weather that winter and the icy conditions we kept the ewes and lambs in the barn until the ice melted and the youngest lambs were a couple weeks old.

It was great to watch them enjoy their new-found freedom when we finally were able to bring them outside.

They had been outside for a couple weeks and were racing a few times every day.  I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching them!

 

Spotted Lanternfly Invasion … Can We Control It?

Spotted Lanternfly Invasion … Can We Control It?

For anyone in the areas where Spotted Lanternflies have been found, I wanted to share some info about controlling them.  Battling these invasive pests with organic/natural methods or chemical methods are a personal decision that you need to make. You can use one type of control or both, but we need to work together on our properties to try to control these pests.

They first appeared in Pennsylvania in 2014, but the warm winter of 2016-2017 created a perfect environment for these insects to experience a population explosion in the southeastern PA area that has been described as “an epidemic.” (http://www.wfmz.com/news/berks/pa-lawmakers-on-spotted-lanternfly-we-have-an-epidemic/640386357)

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We have only been seeing them at our farm for since this past August, but they are already starting to cover our maple trees.

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You can mechanically kill them by squishing them with a flyswatter or something similar.   There are also sticky bands that can be wrapped around tree trunks to traps SLFs as they walk up or down the tree.  You can also spray them with a solution to kill them.  Rubbing alcohol and insecticidal soap (dish soap mixed with water) have been recommended as non-chemical insecticidal solutions, as well as neem oil (http://www.arbico-organics.com/category/neem-oil-insecticide-fungicide-miticide). These have to be sprayed directly on the SLFs to be effective.  There are also chemical sprays that can be sprayed on them.  Spraying either organic or chemical pesticides directly on SLFs helps prevent also killing beneficial insects. 

I have used an organic pesticide called Pyola (from http://www.gardensalive.com) on my garden when necessary, so I wanted to find out if it would be effective against SLFs.

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I used it at the recommended 4% solution, but it didn’t seem to have much effect on them.  Yesterday I tried a stronger solution – about 8-10%.  When I checked the trees where I sprayed SLFs this morning, there were numerous dead SLFs at the bases of each tree.

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Some were also dead, still on the tree.

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There is a systemic chemical pesticide from Bonide that has been recommended for the control of SLFs. 20171020_100744.jpg

To use this product, you treat the root system of the tree once per year.  The product is absorbed through the roots and travels throughout the tree.  When the SLFs feed on the tree, they ingest the chemical.

Although this product is approved for even fruit trees, the directions instruct the user not to apply the product “pre-bloom or during bloom when bees are foraging.”  I contacted the company because I wanted to get a control on these insects, but didn’t want to harm my bees.  The company representative who I talked to suggested to apply the product right after the trees are finished blooming in the spring.  That way by the time they bloom again next year, there is the least amount of chemical in the tree.  She also explained that in the fall the SLFs are not feeding much on trees.  Instead, they are preparing to lay their egg masses, so spot spraying them with another product would have more effect on them.

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Egg masses look like mud on any hard surface.  To remove them, scrape them off with a hard object like a pocket knife.

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If you treat your trees with a systemic pesticide like the one I mentioned above in the spring, any SLFs that hatch will ingest the chemical when they feed on your trees.

Kyle’s First Time Outside

We usually let the mamas and lambs out of the barn on nice days.  If we are still waiting for mamas to lamb we keep them near the barn instead of sending them out to a pasture.  With Kyle not having any wool we waited till the temperatures were a little more mild, though because we didn’t want to keep Annie and him in the barn while the other mamas and lambs went outside.  March 6th was a warm day and Kyle was 10 days old.  He and the other lambs got to test their speed around my garden while the mamas got a taste of fresh grass.

 

Afterwards, the lambs were tuckered out and Kyle enjoyed some time warming up in his barrel.

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The lambs were able to play outside again on March 8th.

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You can see where the hair starts on Kyle’s legs, and the hair on his face in this photo.

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Trying to win the race

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All 4 feet off the ground!

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More Pictures??

They spent a lot of the time outside racing around the garden!

Kyle

We woke up on Saturday, February 25th, and checked the barncam – there was a newborn lamb in the maternity stall!  Annie labored quietly and had the single lamb already cleaned off and it was standing up.  (Annie’s mother, Star, had delivered her lambs right under the baby monitor without us hearing a peep from her.)

We headed out to the barn and I was first struck by how wrinkled his skin appeared.  Then it hit me … he had no wool.  I had heard about this – in 2016 a woman on the Facebook group Goat Vet Corner posted about one of her goat kids that was born with no hair.  The vets on the page suggested he may have a condition called hypotrichosis, which is defined on wikipedia.com as “a condition of abnormal hair patterns – predominantly loss or reduction.”  Merriam-webster.com defines hypotrichosis as a “congenital deficiency of hair“.

Annie’s ram lamb was a big boy, weighing 11 pounds.  He had normal hair on his legs and tail, but very little hair on his head and no wool or kemp fibers on his torso.  We eventually named him Kyle so we wouldn’t have to call him “the lamb with no wool” or “the bald lamb”.

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As I moved the pair to a jug (a small pen for the mama and lamb/s to stay for a couple days) I noticed that the Kyle’s skin was almost sticky.  I am guessing it was residual amniotic fluid or still damp from 5 months in utero, since his skin felt normal after a couple days.

Once he was mostly dried off, we put a lamb sweater on him to help him stay warm.  We were concerned about him the first day and weren’t sure if he’d make it.  He had a bit of difficultly finding Annie’s teats to nurse and he slept flat out on his side and seemed to have trouble getting up.  We ended up dressing him in a smaller sweater so he wouldn’t step on it, and went to check on him repeatedly to help him nurse.

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By day 2 Kyle was eating and acting like a normal lamb, although he shivered a bit – remember it was February.  We hung a heat lamp on one side of the jug for him, which he slept under.

On day 3, we band our lambs’ tails and apply ear tags.  Now, Annie was almost 10 years old at this point and had had lambs 8 other years.  She’s always been a great mama and cared for her lambs, but as I handled Kyle she became very alert and every time I had my hands off of him she would pull him to her with her nose and nudge him behind her.  I found this surprising because many times when a ewe finds something “off” about her lamb, she will reject it.

After getting banded and tagged, the lambs and their mamas go back into our large maternity stall to join the other ewes.  Annie kept a watchful eye on her lamb as he ran around with the 2 other lambs that were born a couple days before him.

 

Because of the temperatures in PA in February and early March, and because Kyle had no hair to protect his ears from frostbite we bought a metal drum and made a lamb warmer for him.

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The drum has a hole in the top for the heat lamp and the cord to fit through so it is stable and an opening on the side for the lambs to enter.  As you can see, Kyle wasn’t the only lamb to enjoy the warmer!

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Stay tuned for more posts on Kyle!  I will explain more about his condition and describe how he’s been growing the past few months.  Questions?  Please post them below and I will answer them as best I can.  I may also address them in future posts.

Textbook Lambing

As I stood feeding our Jersey calf his bottle last Thursday (2/23), I noticed that Bertha was pacing in a small area and sniffing the ground a lot.  I figured she was in labor – a few days earlier than I had calculated – so after Cookie was finished his bottle I decided to watch Bertha and make my first Facebook live video.  I realize not everyone is on Facebook so I wanted to share the video here, too (our farm page is public and anyone can see it).  I tried to keep it from being too graphic for folks who don’t want to see too much of the birth.

Enjoy!