Saturday, January 16, 2010

Serious Sheep is Serious


This is Aiden, he's a 2-yr-old "bummer lamb", an abandoned lamb. Generally, big range operations don't bother with caring for abandoned lambs and they are left to die from exposure. We have a lot of sheep farms near the sanctuary, so we get calls about bummer lambs a lot every spring. We agreed to take in the little 2-day-old lamb. It was nice seeing a sheep w/o a docked tail - most sheep breeds are born w/ tails. Anyway, after a severe battle with pneumonia, Aiden is a very healthy adult. He's also more dog than sheep - he knows his name and prefers human companionship over sheep. (All the sheep know their names, responding to them individually but few actually come running over).

The only dog he's ever liked is Mina who he will bestow with very gentle nose bops. Other dogs, he's highly aggressive towards. A few months ago, a neighbor's Border Collie came on the property, frightening the sheep. Aiden came charging out of nowhere and chased him off. He was quite ready to head butt that dog into the next century.


Pibble said...

He's beautiful. I didn't know that they would leave the poor abandoned animals to die. But then again, they'd lose money nurturing an abandoned animal wouldn't they? I'm sure there's a lot more I don't know about that goes on. It's wonderful to know there's a place for these lovely creatures to go to live a peaceful life. And chase dogs!

Daisy Dog said...

He is lovely! I don't get leaving animals to die. I am glad he was taken care of. And that he and Mina are pals :)

Retrieverman said...

Now, I must confess some ignorance here, but I thought sheep were docked for hygienic reasons. I don't remember reading of any alternatives to this, unless you are raising those British hill sheep that have tails or those from Scandinavia.

Are there any alternatives?

Sheep aren't that hardy. The old saying is that when a sheep is born it is looking for a place to die.

I would like it if an alternative existed, but I've not seen one.

Docking dairy cattle, though, is stupid.

Rinalia said...


Wool sheep, particularly Merinos, are tail-docked because they have been bred to have a long tail and folding skin. That skin and tail holds moisture from urine, attracting flies. Interestingly, the only fly-strike we've had at the sanctuary happened on a tail-docked Merino. Our other Merino, who was a bummer lamb from a wool farm, has never had problems and the farm actually does not perform tail docking. They practice good management, like we do, and are able to ensure all animals have healthy rear-ends.

Certainly on ranches where sheep only see humans 2 times a year, like on the pastures out here in northern California, it's far more difficult to practice good management.

There's a form of tail docking called ultra short tail docking that is frowned upon by many vets and is performed on "meat" sheep. It involves the complete removal of the tail above the vulva, which often leads to prolapses and other health problems.

The alternatives include proper monthly health checks, breeding for shorter tails and breeding for less folds. There's another sanctuary north of us with 120+ rescued feral sheep. I figure if they can manage to do monthly health checks and avoid fly strike, the average rancher w/ a couple ranch-hands and a good dog can do the same. But perhaps I'm being too unrealistic. :)