Wednesday 8 December 2010

Injuries to tups

The saying goes that your tup (male entire sheep) is half the flock. How can one sheep be half your flock? Well, that one sheep is the sire of the next generation. He is as important if not more so than the females, especially when pure breeding.

That explains why shepherds and farmers alike go to such pains when choosing a tup, picking a beast which they deem will pass on the attributes they require for their flock. A good tup can set you back a fair bit of money, especially if others have their eyes on the same beast. Having said that you can also pick up a good tup for little money, it all depends on the luck of the draw.

Once you've acquired your tup your intention is to look after him and all the other tups too. They can fight, just like the wildlife programmes on the television there is always a male who wants to be dominant. When acquiring new tups it always pays to fetch your older tups in and pen all the tups up tight together so that they cannot move too much and damage one another. They are usually barred up tight like this for a good few hours, until the scent has passed over all of them and the new tups hopefully end up smelling similar to those which are already used to one another.

Unfortunately even tups which have lived together since last tup time can begin to push their weight around prior to tup time, they know it's the season and there is usually a bolshy chap who thinks he's the dominant one, if the others are wise they will be submissive. If not a humdinger of a fight can commence. Hill tups have horns, all tups have very hard heads and strong necks.

The tups use their heads to attack, commencing with pushing the others around a bit but should one of them decide to stand their ground against the domineering fella they will end up head butting one another, running backwards whilst facing their opposition they will then charge, resulting in a head on collision. It is not wise to stand between them, they are set on their purpose and won't stop because you're in the way, your best option is to attempt to distract them whilst keeping safely out of the contact zone..
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One tup will eventually back down but he may well be hurt in the process. It is not unheard of to have a tup 'set his neck' (break his neck), or end up appearing to have some sort of brain damage. The dominant tup may also ram the opposition up the backside or in the side of his body which can result in stifles or broken backs. Not an everyday scenario but it does happen. Tups can appear to be content in one an others company and the next time you see them they can either be fighting or one may appear injured. More often than not there is a little bit or argy bargy which comes to nothing. The above texel tup was dazed but fortunately there was no long term damage.

Once out to the ewes there is a less likely chance of fighting. Even two tups put out together will work their way through the ewes rather than fight, however, there is still a chance of a fight if there aren't plenty of ewes or if one tup is determined to steal off the other, but generally the dominant tup will get his way whilst the other heads off to find another ewe.

So if one tup is put to ewes nothing can really go wrong? If only.

Lameness is an issue, especially on a back foot/leg. Tups mount the ewes and so need to be sound on their back legs. They may go lame due to injury such as twisting a hip or leg or they may go lame with foot rot or scald. The latter can be dealt with quickly as soon as it is seen and hopefully prevent it getting worse or maybe even cure it but an injury to the leg is a bad look out and the tup will have to be changed for one which is sound.

The tups manhood may also get damaged. One reason why ewes get tailed (the wool taken off their tails)is to prevent injury to the tups penis, known generally as his peezel or pizel. The peezel is tucked away inside the tups body and only shows face when he is aroused. A sensitive and tender part of his anatomy.

Should his peezel be unfortunate enough to have to fight through hard bits of dried muck or frosty wool it may well get damaged. The first sign for the shepherd is traces of blood on the ewes tail/back end, these can be quite faint and not always obviously apparent. A fair bit of blood on the tail is not a good sign.

This is the problem that arose out bye the other day, a tup had bled himself and he won't be the only one this winter. The driving, blowing snow has been lying on the sheep's backs, they are well insulated and it doesn't melt that quickly, should a frosty night follow the wool finds it has frozen snow encrusted on it. To the tup and his privates this must be like pushing through razor blades and so causes damage.
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Although difficult to tell on the above photo if you look closely you'll notice that the sheep have a covering of frozen snow on their backs and tails. Even though they have been tailed there is still wool for the snow to adhere to and this is where the problem arises.

Should a tup bleed himself he has to be replaced and removed from the ewes, an investigation of his peezel will show how much damage has been done and generally given rest from sexual activity he will heel up and be ready to resume his duties. I have in the past rested a tup for a few days and he has gone back to the ewes and been no further trouble. However on a year such as this it would be unwise to return him to his duties as the cause of the problem is still there and you wouldn't want to risk damaging him beyond repair.

Another issue, which I have to admit I have never come across but have heard of it in both tups and bulls is to snap their peezel. There is only one route for the tup should this happen as he will never breed again.

So, the poor old sheep are battling with the weather and it has more hidden dangers than the obvious. Pretty lousy weather for tup time with dangerous consequences for the poor old tups. Nowts ever as simple as it seems! Observation is of paramount importance, even whilst battling with the weather.


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