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.

Kyle20252017closeup

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}

 

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!

 

1 Weekend … 4 Lambs

I had to work this past Saturday and Sunday so Dave figured that all the lambs would be born while I was gone.  Well, only 4 were born, but right after I went to work Saturday morning Annie had her twins!  I left around 7:30am and Dave called me at 8:30am to tell me there was a lamb in the big stall when he went in to feed.  He got the lambing jug (pen) ready and moved Annie lamb to the smaller space to bond and continued feeding.  He checked back and Annie had 2 lambs in the jug with her.  Dave said she was so quiet that he didn’t even hear her pushing!

Dave’s 1st solo lambing couldn’t have gone more smoothly.  The 13 lb ram lamb was born first, followed by the 10 lb ewe lamb (no wonder she groaned every time she was laying down!).

Annie twins

When I got home from work Sunday afternoon Abigail was the only ewe laying down in the stall, but she got up when Dave brought their hay and grain in.  During our dinner, I noticed on the barn monitor that Abigail was the only one not really eating.  She was standing to the side of the stall by herself and only half-heartedly munching on hay.  Her ears were droopy and she had a look of concentration on her face.

I went out a couple of times to monitor her labor after dinner and was concerned that even though she was pushing I hadn’t seen a water sac or feet.  Warning …. graphic birth description …. may not be for the squeamish.

I “gloved-up” and found the sac was about to emerge.  After a few more minutes and as many pushes I saw a foot.  A single, rear foot.  Okay, I’ve done this before.  This is a breach birth, but at least the lamb wasn’t in the full breach (or butt first) position.  I felt to see if only one leg was presenting and found the other leg next to the 1st, but with the foot bent backwards.  That was easy enough to correct.  Once both feet were out Abigail started pushing again, but with no progress.  I examined again and found that the legs were bent, so I gently straightened them out and she pushed again, but  then got up to find another position.

I was getting nervous here because once the umbilical cord is pinched in the birth canal the lamb will instinctively breathe.  If the lamb is in the breach position when the cord is pinched it could try to breathe while its head is still in the mother and inhale birth fluids.  This is a concern because any aspirated (inhaled) birth fluids can cause pneumonia in the lamb.  Abigail laid down again and with each of her pushes I pulled the lamb’s legs side-to-side and downwards.  I only pulled with her pushes to lessen any tearing or damage to Abigail.  The ewe lamb came out easily and I quickly wiped any fluids from her nose and mouth so that she could breathe.

We waited for a while before moving her to the lambing jug to determine if she was going to have another lamb, but she ended up having just 1 ewe lamb that weighed 10.25 lbs.

abigail lamb

This morning (Monday) was the 1st day of Noah’s Spring Break so I got to sleep in till 7:30!  I heard lots of baa-ing over the barn, but figured it was just because Annie and Abigail were across from the rest of the ewes and they were “talking” to each other.  I got outside around 8 or so and discovered that Erin (one of our 2 first-time moms) was licking a nearly-dry lamb!  She was almost under the video camera and out of view on the screen, which explains why I didn’t see a lamb on the monitor.  I brought Annie and her twins out of the jug and carried Erin’s lamb (with her following) into it.  The ewe lamb weighs 10 lbs and Erin is very interested in her and standing still for her to nurse.

Erin lamb

We now have 3 ewes successfully lamb, with 4 more to go.  Our lambing percentage is 1.33 so far (divide the total lambs by the total mothers).  I hope we have some more multiples to boost the percentage a little.  By comparison, last year’s lambing percentage was 1.8.

Happy lambing!

Oops… or, Another Lesson Learned

We have bred our sheep and had successful lambing seasons for 6 years. This fall breeding season, however, turned out to be a learning experience for us.

Usually at 3 months our lambs are separated from their dams for weaning. After 2-3 weeks we move the ewe lambs back to the pasture with the adult ewes. The ram lambs go in the pasture with our adult rams and wethers. For some reason (I can’t remember why right now), we let ALL the lambs go back to the pasture with their dams for the summer.

On October 13th, we took all the ram lambs away from the ewes because we saw some *frisky* behavior going on.  We had decided to put our rams in with the ewes in early November so that we wouldn’t have lambs until April.  We separated our rams so that Ezra and Camille we together in one field (Camille is our only ewe that Ezra is not related to), and Raulie was with Annie, Abigail, Bertha, Beatrice, Erin and Esme.  We put all the lambs in a 3rd field with our wether BFL and goat.

{Some background info on sheep breeding… We put breeding harnesses that hold crayons on our rams each breeding season.  When the ram mounts the ewe the crayon on the harness rubs on her rump.  We then have  visual evidence of breeding and can mark our calendar accordingly so we can calculate when any lambs will be born.  Sheep cycle ever 14-18 days, therefore, you should change the color crayon in your ram’s breeding harness every 14-15 days.  If a ewe is marked with the second color, this means she did not conceive during the 1st cycle.  Any ewe that did conceive in the 1st cycle will not cycle again and the ram will not have any interest in mounting her.}

After 2 weeks of rams and ewes together, not one of the ewes was marked with color on their rump.  We usually breed in October, I started to wonder if we missed our window of opportunity, but I didn’t really think that was the case because we have had rams breed ewes though December.  Since none of the girls were marked, I didn’t bother changing crayon colors for their next cycle.  Two more weeks with nothing, and during that time I started thinking that we left the ram lambs in with their dams too long because the adult rams were not mounting the ewes at all.  You’ll remember that we did see some frisky behavior earlier in the fall, but we didn’t witness any actual breeding.

Now that we’re in the New Year, we are anticipating a surprising lambing season because we think our ewes are pregnant, but we don’t have any idea when they are due.  We guess that any lambs will be born BEFORE mid-March since we took the ram lambs away from the ewes in mid-October.  Unfortunately this lamb crop will not be able to be registered, but we will look forward to the lambs anyway!!

Nothing Dramatic

Hannah woke up at 6 this morning… the 1st time since we changed the clocks that she hasn’t slept in.  I got up with her but I really wanted to go out to the barn.  I heard lambs baa-ing over the baby monitor and wanted to see what was happening out there.  I didn’t want to bring Hannah out in pj’s so I waited till Grandma woke up.  Abigail and her lamb were fine, Rosy and her twins were fine.I put Annie in her lambing stall yesterday because I thought she looked ready to go and, sure enough, she  had twin lambs cuddled up to her.  They were mostly dry so I gave all 3 moms some hay and went in the house for breakfast.  I weighed and checked them out afterwards.  The ewe lamb was 9.75 lbs and the ram lamb was 11 lbs.  We already have more ewe lambs than we did last year!

Annie and Twin Lambs

Whew!

Last night Dave couldn’t sleep because of his cold so he went in the living room and watched some tv.  Well, at 12:45am he woke me up because one of the ewes went into labor and he could hear her pushing over the baby monitor we keep in the barn.

We got out to the barn pretty quick with my lambing box and discovered it was Abigail who was in labor.  We moved her into a smaller lambing stall (or jug) and persuaded Rosy and Annie to return to their “ladies in waiting” stall.  We got some things together and sat by the straw bales to wait.  Midnight and Tiger were very happy that we finally decided to come join them in sleeping in the barn.  🙂  Not much happened so we decided to go back to sleep for 30-45 minutes and do another check.

At 2:15am, I mean 3:15 daylight savings time, we went out again because we still heard pushing.  I checked and only saw 1 hoof….not good.  I felt around and found the other foot quickly.  It was bent at the “ankle” and corrected easily, but the emerging legs didn’t look like front legs.  I felt around again and found a tail….not good.

The next time Abigail laid down to push, Dave knelt down and held her for me.  I attached my lambing cord to the lamb’s legs and, with each contraction, pulled.  Poor Abigail was a trooper through the delivery.  Dave said she chewed on his jacket when she was pushing.  We had to get that baby out quickly so that it didn’t start to breathe while still in the birth canal.  Pneumonia can develop when fluid gets in the lungs.

We got the lamb out – a ram – and cleared its nose…after a little chest rub he started breathing and shaking his head.  What a big boy!  After mama cleaned him off and he stood up I weighed him… 12lbs!  No wonder he didn’t have a twin!

I finally got back to bed at 4:15 daylight saving time.  What a night to be out in the lambing barn!  And I had to teach Sunday school this morning, too!  Whew!

Noah & Hannah with Abigail and ram lamb