Tuesday 16 August 2011

maggoty feet

Now Shep is a bit of a fussy eater, a meat and tatties (potatoes) person, I like to know what it is I'm eating and be sure it doesn't remind me of anything I'd sooner not be reminded of. So what could eating possibly have to do with a posting titled maggoty feet? Rice - y'know, that stuff that most people eat except for Shep that is, coz rice always reminds me of maggots although I don't suppose it tastes of maggots but then I wouldn't know, I know rice is bland I honestly don't want to know what maggots taste of - ugh!

The maggoty feet in the title are sheeps feet, not mine although people as well as animals can get infested with maggots, flies aren't bothered what they lay their eggs on, so long as their is a food source for the hatched larvae or maggot that is their only criteria in their desire to reproduce.

Healthy flesh is not the first choice of the fly, smelly, rancid flesh seems to be preferable. Such as rotten feet in sheep, dirty backsides in sheep and definitely anything dead be it rabbit, sheep, cow, human they don't care, dead flesh is fair game.

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An overgrown hoof can often be a sign of an infection in the foot. Sheep are cloven hooved, having two toes which grown hoof similar to our finger nails. It can naturally get overgrown just as our own nails can but sheep are prone to a number of foot problems which can eat away below the once healthy hoof causing it to become loose. Foot rot is a prime example, a bacteria which thrives whilst hiding under the hoof but which struggles once exposed to the air.

The above photo is of one such over grown foot. The maggots in the centre between the two cluts are just the tip of the iceberg, there is worse to be revealed.

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Even whilst surveying the foot the flies are landing, they're not checking on their offspring and having a parently crack they are hoping to lay more eggs, to produce more offspring. The foot obviously has the right smell, and believe you me foot rot does smell, it is aptly named. On the first photo it is pretty obvious that the hoof is not healthy, the left hand clut has obvious holes in it, it has grown away from the flesh of the foot due to infection below

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Once you start cutting this infected, loose hoof off it soon becomes apparent that there are more maggots hiding in there, the flies were actually burrowing themselves through this hole in the hoof to lay their eggs.

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Sure enough it was a hot day early in July and the flies were having a whale of a time, as the foot was pared down they couldn't resist sitting on the exposed 'healthy' foot trying to lay yet more eggs.

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As more hoof came off the extent of the maggot infestation became apparent, there aren't just the big fat healthy maggots, their are maggots of various stages, down to tiny little wee things that some folks might need to put their specs on to see. Stinking little blighters!

Strangely enough maggots in sheeps feet can be of an advantage to the shepherd and also the sheep, they can also be of a huge disadvantage. As in this case, hidden under the hoof the maggots have been munching away merrily, eating all the dead flesh, all the smelly, unhealthy, infected flesh of the foot itself. That is actually good, nature is cleaning out the foot herself.

Unfortunately life isn't quite so simple as the sheep will be lying down an awful lot because she has got a sore foot, the activity of the maggots causes a greasiness on the surface of the hoof which can easily be transferred onto the sheeps belly when she is lying, this in turn smells like a rotten foot and the flies then lay their eggs on this part of her body also, it is then that the problems really arise as maggots can spread quickly and forget about eating unhealthy meat in their desire to survive. As they spread across the body of the sheep they manage to cause the skin to go smelly and discoloured and so encouraging their feeding frenzy. Something of a vicious circle and one which unfortunately can ultimately end up in the death of the sheep. Only in the most severe cases though.

Generally, if noticed in plenty of time, maggots in a sheeps feet are a not a major issue although it is always preferable not to find yourself in that position. If not noticed quickly enough you could have a major health issue on your hands. Maggots have been used in human medicine, bred under laboratory conditions they have been used successfully to clean out gangrenous wounds in hopitalised patients, however, I suspect these are closely monitored and are removed from the wound once the desired affect has been reached. Exactly what the shepherd must do, remove the little blighters to prevent them from causing havoc.

Once all the dead hoof has been removed and the healthy flesh of the foot is exposed the whole foot can be immersed in a diluted dip solution. Either that or a small (and I mean small) amount of pour on can be applied to the foot. I love doing this and seeing the little blighters come writhing out of every nook and cranny, it's amazing how many of them can be hidden in a foot, as they wriggle over the top of one another it is amazing how they spread the pour on from one another causing them to drop of the foot and eventually die. (More care is needed if treating maggot infestation on the sheeps body, over use of pour on can ultimately kill the sheep through the stress of the chemical on her body, a shorn sheep may also suffer 'burning' to the exposed maggot infested skin - do be very careful and cautious when treating them)Once the foot has been cleared of maggots always check the sheeps body for signs of eggs attached to the wool.

Hot, humid conditions are ideal for fly strike, cold conditions will often cause maggots to die off, however the temperature under the hoof of the foot will enable maggots to survive longer than if they are on the body of the sheep. Ideally, feet ought to be dealt with when ever the sheep are in the pens in the hope of preventing fly strike should the conditions arise. Fly eggs hatch very quickly if the conditions are right and maggots can soon cause a major problem in just a number of days.


Caprifool said...

Isn't clipping practiced in Uk herds?

Tarset Shepherd said...

Hi Caprifool, yes you're quite right to ask that, and generally foot clipping is practised in flocks. Unfortunately occasionally one may slip the net, or in damp conditions as we have experienced this summer hooves can grow quicker due to the ground being softer and not wearing them down as quickly. Have to say, the posting does tend to make you think we don't bother with feet, but believe you me most farmers and shepherds do.

Caprifool said...

Ah, I see. Just qurious :-) I have done it in dairy goat herds here and thought it might be a "sheep thing". But sheep and goats both being a bit bouncy, I know all about the one slipping away. Well you know what they say. You learn something new every day. Thanks for sharing.

Tarset Shepherd said...

Only too pleased to share Caprifool. Sound question though. Thanks.