When Abortion in Sheep Can be Prevented

This is Duffy’s story:

Duffy

Duffy was born to Rosy in 2010, our only triplet birth on the farm so far (you can read about it here).  She was due to lamb for the 1st time in early March, 2012.  About ten days before she was due she went into labor – on February 25th – and I was the only one home because I was sick.  I went to feed hay in the late afternoon/early evening and found Duffy in the back of the pasture by herself.

I got her into the barn but her labor did not progress so I tried to assist.  She was hardly dilated and I couldn’t get to the lambs.  Plus there was an odor… a bad odor.  I called our vet, Dale (who is now retired and missed dearly), and he and his wife got to our place about 45 minutes later.  He pulled twin lambs with a lot of difficulty and gave Duffy antibiotics and other medications.  He estimated that the lambs had died a day or so prior to her aborting them.

He told me to call him if any other ewes aborted because if the cause of Duffy’s abortion was infectious, it could go through the flock.  Over the next days and weeks I watched the other pregnant ewes closely and researched causes for abortion in sheep.  I learned that a large percentage of sheep abortion is caused by non-infections diseases – read: injury, rough handling, poisonous plants and inadequate feeding.

Causes of Abortion in Sheep in N Ireland

During this time I began to consider that Duffy had been injured prior to aborting her lambs and tried to remember any incidence of injury.

Two days before Duffy aborted her lambs we vaccinated the pregnant ewes.  I remembered that Duffy had gotten pushed into the stall doorway on her way out of the barn when we led the sheep back to their pasture.  The doorways had O-rings on them from when the barn housed horses and I believe that is what caused her abortion.  I immediately took the O-rings off the doorways of any stall that the sheep would enter.

stall doorways - before and after

Our other 5 ewes lambed normally in March and produced a total of 9 lambs (4 sets of twins and a singleton).

Please look all around your sheep handling areas to be sure there are no potential hazards.  We used this stall without any trouble for 6 years, BUT it only takes 1 second for a freak accident to happen.  This time it cost us 2 lambs.

A New Season … More Stink Bugs

More and more people are meeting one of our most recent invasive pests, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).  It had spread to at least 29 states since it was introduced in a shipment to eastern PA sometime during the 1990s.  They were first collected in Allentown, PA, in 1998.

BMSBs are a major agricultural pest in Asia, feeding on fruit crops and their population in the US has reached numbers to make it a real problem to American orchardists, too.  They don’t eat entire fruits or even make them inedible.  They disfigure hundreds of individual fruits – like apples – so that they cannot be marketed for fresh fruit sale.  Instead these apples and other fruits can only be used for cider or juice. 

Adult BMSB
Now that spring has arrived (in most of the country, anyway) we will be seeing more adult stink bugs waking up from hibernation in our homes.  Our family flushes all that we find so they don’t stink up our vacuum cleaner!  I have been wondering, lately, if they could be used for anything else…say a food source for something.  I happened upon a forum today with some interesting ideas for “disposing” of BMSBs.  Here’s the link: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/pagard/msg101628188305.html; the discussion thread is called “Fun Organic way to Deal with Pesky Brown Stink Bugs.”  I particularly like that one person’s pet turtle loves them!  I’m considering catching some in a jar, freezing them and feeding them to our chickens.  I’ll let you know if they eat them!

In addition to waking up from hibernation, BMSBs will also be reproducing soon.  Here’s a photo from the Penn State Cooperative Extension, York County of stink bug eggs and the hatched larvae:

BMSB eggs and larvae
The Penn State department of Entomology describes the eggs as, “elliptical (1.6 x 1.3 mm), light yellow to yellow-red with minute spines forming fine lines. They are attached, side-by-side, to the underside of leaves in masses of 20 to 30 eggs.” The adults reproduce from May to August and produce one generation per year in Pennsylvania , depending on the temperatures. Here is an image of BMSB nymphs

BMSB Nymphs

If we educate ourselves to the different stage of the BMSB, we can work at reducing their numbers – from egg stage to adult!

Our Trip to the Dairy Farm

Last Thursday I took Noah and Hannah to meet our friend, Becky, and her 2 daughters at Becky’s family’s dairy farm.  It was a beautiful, although very windy, day and everyone had a great time.  All the kids are around the same age and had so much fun.  We arrived close to lunchtime so we ate a wonderful meal before heading out to see the cows and calves and explore.

  

The 1st thing we did was watch the cows walk down the lane to their pasture for the afternoon.     

Sarah, Hannah, Noah and Rachel with cows in background

 

  

Cows going down the lane

Afterwards we visited the calves, the youngest of which was only 5 days old and very cute!  Noah fed one of the calves and another wanted to get a closer look at him.

 

Do you have any milk for me?

We went on a hunt for eggs in the dairy barn…the chickens like to lay in there.  I was amazed at how much poop needs to be cleaned out of the barn each day.  All I can say is, “Wow!!”
 
All the kids loved the ride we took in the Gator, especially when we rode across the stream.

Going for a ride

We  had some cookies and fresh milk before we left…yummy!  We were all dirty and smelly after our adventure on the dairy farm but it was worth it – we all had a lot of fun.   

 

You know it’s spring when…

…you hear spring peepers at night.

…dandelions start blooming.

…you see the 1st eastern phoebe of the season.

…you have to weave around the toads in the driveway when you come home on a rainy night.

…the maple trees have beautiful red flowers.

…the pastures look green.

…lambs are bouncing around the field.

…groundhogs are emerging from hibernation.