Okay, I've kept you all on tenter hooks all week, sheep with wool on their horns, dancing hoggs....... The title ought to give the game away - ITCHY SHEEP - quite simple!
I saw this ewe almost as soon as I entered the field and wasn't too chuffed. The fence was a bit of a give away also.
It is this scratching on with the horns which causes wool to get wrapped around the horn, or hang off the horns which is the reason alarm bells rang when I first spotted the sheep with wool on her horns, it is a sure sign something is amiss. Sure enough something was amiss.
Sheep can get naturally itchy in the warmer months prior to being shorn, they get sweaty and uncomfortable under their heavy fleeces and can feel uncomfortable. This is not an excuse for them in the colder winter months.
When there are itchy sheep and many of them at that it means one thing - parasites, some creepy crawlies creepy crawling over the sheep's skins and causing discomfort, either due to the little blighters biting their host or a reaction to the parasite and whatever it discharges from it's body.
These sheep have got creepy crawlies. Left unattended the condition will worsen, their wool will fall out, their skin will get sore and their condition will melt (they will lose physical condition). The parasites themselves do not kill the sheep, it is the permanent discomfort, the never ending desire to scratch, bite, rub against something which drains the sheep physically and could probably eventually kill them. There is also the worry of infection from sore skin should the condition be left untreated.
How does this happen? Where do the creepy crawlies come from? Well, I don't have all the answers, some are able to live in the ears and around the eyes, others can lie dormant for a long time waiting for a host to trot along and pick them up. In this case I'm presuming that as there are no neighbouring sheep through the fence that the itch either came from a neighbours sheep which crept into the field and remained there for the duration of the snowy weather or else it has probably come from the hay which they are eating.
So what parasite have they got? Again I don't know, I would very much hope it isn't sheep scab and would tend to presume it is lice. There are many ways of treating the cause. The ideal solution would be to dip the sheep(submersing the sheep in a 'bath' of diluted sheep dip). Sheep dip would eradicate any of the external parasites which can affect sheep. There are also chemicals which can be poured along the sheeps back and their are injections available.
I intend to treat these sheep with a pour on, it is kind to the sheep and very effective against lice. Once I have them in the sheep pens I will check through their wool, lice are quite easy to spot and once I've got my eye on the little blighters I'll feel a lot happier as sheep scab is a greater problem, extremely smitten and can easily pass from flock to flock and takes a bit more dealing with.
The weather needs to fair up as the pour on has to be applied to fairly dry wool and preferably not be rained upon for a few hours. I will let you know how we got on at a later date.
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