Pinkeye

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
I noticed a problem with the lambs' eyes.

Submitted: May 21, 2019

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Submitted: May 21, 2019

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Sheep have a reputation of being a bit unintelligent, because it’s perceived that they follow the leader without thinking. So people who go-with-the-flow or follow along without paying attention or without much thought, are like sheep. But actually if you want to cross some hills, or rough terrain, the best route to take is to follow a sheep track, they choose the best path. My good mate Bert once told me that to be a good shepherd, you have to be able to out-think sheep. I have found him to be exactly right. You have to be able to recognise the leader of the flock and somehow get her on your side. Just because they won’t do what you want them to do, doesn’t make them dumb at all.

After weaning my lambs, I turned them out onto good green pasture so they wouldn’t lose the condition they had put on while their diet was supplemented by milk. Even with weaning there’s some skill, because the ewe’s udder becomes uncomfortable and the lamb yearns for milk and the comfort of its mum, so they both want to get back together. They know where each are because they call to each other – sometimes constantly. As much space as possible apart is good and the fences need to be strong or else one or the other will poke through, becoming leaders and dragging the rest of the mob along with them. Oh yes, I’ve had some merry old chases!

Not long after weaning, I noticed some of the lambs had yellowish lines down their faces as if their eyes were watering, and some of them seemed to be squinting in bright sunlight. I decided to yard them to see what was going on. Many had inflamed eyes while others had an opaque film over them as if they were blind! It looked like conjunctivitis to me, I’d seen it in dogs and a couple of kids with it were taken out of the local school to prevent its spread. I called in old Tom. He told me it was pinkeye, and that I’d better get some powder from the vet.

Off I went to the vet who told me that pinkeye was conjunctivitis and very infectious. It’s caused by dust and pollen. Well there was plenty of pine pollen in the air and some of the grasses had pollen so I was confident that was the cause. The vet sold me some antibacterial powder and a puffer, telling me to puff some powder into all the eyes in my flock. I queried ‘into the eye’ and yes, hold the puffer and inch or two from the eye and puff the powder into it. It had to be done three times, each time a week apart. I wouldn’t like powder puffed into my eyes!

I yarded the lambs easily because they were getting the hang of being driven into the yards with the help of my dog, Bess, barking at them. They didn’t like the powder very much! It was new to them so they ran through the race well, I puffed the stuff into their eyes and they tried to shake it out! I turned them straight back out into the paddock. A week later, they obeyed Bess but weren’t too happy about going into the race and once in the yards, they kept their heads down to avoid the powder and it took some force for me to lift them up to treat their eyes. It was a hard day’s work for me. Bess was enjoying it because she sat at the back end of the yard and when I told her to speak up, she would bark loudly, scaring the lambs along towards me.

The third time I tried to yard the lambs, Bess or no Bess, they weren’t going to go in there! I tried packing them together and pushing them slowly towards the gate, but they refused to go through. One would make a run for it and then the rest just scattered. Bess could only head off a couple at a time, some took no notice of her and ran to the very end of the paddock. So I called in the family, and the extra numbers helped. Still it wasn’t easy, but we finally had them yarded. Bess’ barking wasn’t enough to make them run down the race, the family helped, but mostly I had to manhandle them! The next problem was that they closed their eyelids tightly at my approach! I had to forcibly open most of them to puff the powder in! I found it unpleasant but not as unpleasant as it was for them!

Later I noticed the same problems in my ewe flock, they were just as difficult to yard, not so inclined to jump, but more cunning in that they hid behind gorse bushes and tried to defeat the dog. But the old girls were stronger. Anyway…this method of treatment is no longer used and some farmers even allow the condition to run its course. I wish I had! But the experience taught me that sheep aren’t dumb, they tried their best to avoid that painful powder!  However after that treatment, the problem never occurred again, so it must have been good stuff!


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