Stories of Scald

Scald, or strip, is where the bit between the two halves of the hoof of a sheep or goat starts to rot.  If left it can become footrot, and is caused by similar (or the same depending on the source) bacteria.  Generally when I’ve mentioned footrot I’ve really meant scald.

A couple of weeks ago we had three animals with quite bad scald.

  • Double H the Suffolk, who had scald on all four hooves, and in fact it was getting on towards footrot on the back two
  • Boris who had scald badly on one hoof
  • Moby who had bad scald on one foot

We recently bought some ‘Hoof Phast’ which is a foot bath for treating footrot and scald.  On the 29th November we made up a bucket of this stuff and then treated each of the three animals above.  The treatment consisted of getting a leg and submerging it in the bucket for either a minute or two minutes, depending on how bad the scald was (and how badly they smelt of rot).  Actually it was more struggling with the creature while it tried to lift its now wet and cold leg out of the bucket while we tried to keep it in and time it.  We managed to do all four of Double Hs hooves, and one hoof each on Moby and Boris – the one they were favouring at the time, and also Ishy and Howard because they came near us with slight limps and we felt they wanted the attention.

On the 2nd of December we followed up with an injection of antibiotic for Double H as she was better but still not entirely back to normal. In the last few days she has rejoined the flock and seems almost totally without scald.  Great success!

Sadly both Moby and Boris are now favouring hooves again, though I think they are different ones from before.  They’ve both become a little immobile in the last day or two, particularly Boris, so this morning I decided I needed to treat them.

I started with Moby who, after investigation, seemed to have only one bad foot, though it was really rather bad.  However she really made a racket when I tried to trim it and clean it out.  Eventually after some fuss I managed to clear it out of muck and spray it.

I then moved over to Boris.  Three of her hooves were bad, and one was actually fine.  Quite probably the one we’d bathed a few weeks ago.  I treated her, which involved me sitting with my legs on her to stop her struggling, with her lying upside down.  It looks odd from a distance, and it’s actually quite uncomfortable, but it’s the best way I’ve found to control the Angorans when I’m trimming their feet.

While I was in the process of trimming etc Howard decided to come and take a look.  He mooched about for a bit and then got bored, at which point he decided to have a pee.  All over Boris’ foot.  Nasty.  He then did some poo, but fortunately the little pellets missed her.  It also happened to be the one foot which wasn’t in trouble, though I’m not sure if that’s a sign.

Having trimmed and sprayed the offending hooves I then also injected both Moby and Boris with antibiotic, which they both took surprisingly calmly.  This should mean that they’re fighting the infection from both inside and out.  Hopefully in a couple of days they’ll both be back up and competing for their food just like the others.

September Census

When we only had a few animals it was easy to keep track of numbers.  In the last year or so as the quantity has both increased and fluctuated – births, deaths, holidays, sales – I’ve become less attentive to absolute numbers.  Today I decided to remedy that, so I counted them all.

The official roll call as at the end of September 2011 is:

  • 2 cows (Wrath and Avarice)
  • 2 Alpacas (Verdigris and Algy)
  • 5 goats: 2 Angora (Boris and Bertie), 2 pygmy (Ishy and Moby) and 1 other (Howard)
  • 20 pigs: 1 boar (Sir Humphrey), 4 sows (Bernard, Hacker, Snowball and Hacker) and 15 others ranging from 4 week old piglets, to some near adults who are soon to go on holiday
  • 67 sheep: 12 OAPs (though technically three of them are lambs), 6 Borerays (Haan, Duchess, Leelou, Leia and the two castrated boys), 1 Soay ram (Muga), 48 others (including White Face, Mouton, Lafite, Luke, Lamby and 35 of this years lambs)
  • 3 geese
  • 7 Cayuga ducks
  • 5 chickens

For a grand total of 111 farm animals!  We once peaked at 150 animals, so really we’re doing well on our reduction plan.  By the end of the year I think this should be down to around 80, which shouldn’t be too tough over the winter.

Further Sheep Duties

The last time we made a concerted effort to deal with the various sheep husbandry tasks we had waiting we were rained off about halfway through:

Yesterday we decided to try again and had a bit more luck.  Alex didn’t have much time as she was about to head off on a trip abroad, so we had to confine our ambitions, but we knew we definitely had to get to some of them given the limping we’d seen.

First up were the Soay ewes.  Two of them were limping badly – including, I think, Mouton.  Catching them was tricky, we managed to herd a number of the sheep into a temporary area of hurdles, but sadly not the Soay ewes.  Using the feed bucket we had managed to get them in the small area near the Animal Restaurant, and it really should have been easy to catch them.  The first one led us on a merry chase for about five minutes, at the end of which both Alex and I were exhausted, but an excellent dive by Alex secured the ewe.  The second one, who was probably Mouton (I didn’t check her ear tag), was much easier.  We got her into a corner, and I confused her using Grobbelaar style leg movements so she didn’t know which way to dive past me as I moved slowly forward until I got close enough to grab her.  Both of them had a little bit of footrot which we scrape and sprayed.  They also both had parts of their hooves where there are holes in the hard nail side of the hoof where the mud gets in and starts to create larger holes.  We did our best to trim those down.  Part of our problem is that our pasture is so soft it doesn’t wear their hooves down well – though if I can get a lot more concrete hard standing down that should certainly help a bit.

We could then move on to the sheep we had rounded up in the hurdles.  We had three of the ewes who we’d not caught before, one of the Suffolks, and two of the Mules, including my favourite sheep, White Face (this is an old picture of her with one of her lambs behind her):

White Face has been our most prolific mother, having had triplets in each of the last three years, and arriving with two lambs at feet.  She’s also the most intelligent of our white sheep, making sure she gets the most of any food – and also usually very good at avoiding capture.

Both White Face and the other Mule were a bit of a handful, but we eventually managed to get their feet trimmed, and a small amount of footrot scraped and sprayed.  We then moved on to the Suffolk.  They are such solid sheep that getting her into position was a bit of a chore, but eventually we had her sitting up against Alex’s legs and we could get to her hooves.  She clearly hadn’t been to the chiropodist for quite a while and there was lots of extra growth.  We trimmed her hooves and scraped the small patches of footrot before releasing her.  I decided that we’d use a triangle to mark all the animals we’d treated this round, so we now had five sheep with bright red triangles on them.

We had two boy Soays in with us as well, Luke and Muga.  Luke we gave a quick foot trim which was easy, but Muga had different ideas.  He is a very strong Ram, and though much smaller than the Suffolks he is much harder to handle.  However we really needed to get to his feet as he’s been limping a bit recently, and a limping ram is less likely to be able to perform his ramly duties!  Eventually after a bit of a struggle and some shouting (mostly at each other) Alex and I had him in position.  Trimming and scraping took a bit longer as he was wont to struggle, but eventually we were done.  Despite it being late in the season for flystrike I also took the opportunity to Clik the sheep we hadn’t caught before.

We released the sheep we had caught and went to look at the one last sheep we’d planned to catch.  This was the Suffolk ewe we’d had to treat when we got back from holiday (, and she was still having problems.  We caught her easily as she wasn’t interested in moving too far, and quickly had her in the sitting position.  She still had bad footrot affecting all her hooves.  She also had these strange sort of footrot growths between the two parts of the hoof, it’s the brown lump (which definitely isn’t poo) in front of the blood in this picture (notice also all the blue and purple on my finger and thumb!):

I need to find out more about this as it’s not on every hoof, and I’ve only seen it on a couple of the Suffolks before, never on the other breeds.

Once we were done with this Suffolk Alex had to head in, and I decided to check on Bertie.  He’s been limping a bit (as well), so it was definitely required.  One of the great things about the Angoran goats especially is that they are easy to handle, and turning them and trimming them on my own is not a problem.  I spread some straw on the floor of the Animal Restaurant, flipped Bertie on his back and dealt with his hooves in a  matter of minutes.  As usual he was fairly placid throughout the experience, kicking a bit when I was scraping his hoof, but as soon as I let him go he was quickly up and eating the straw quite happily.

I followed Alex back into the house feeling much better – the sheep might be limping, but at least we’d treated that and it should hopefully get better, especially if we have some dry weather.  I was also exhausted form the running and wrestling with sheep, and my left hand was bright blue from the spray but I felt that all in all, it had been a successful bit of maintenance!

Introducing Bertie

The first animals we started with were Angoran goats, and we still have two of them.  I’e already mentioned Boris, but our other Angoran is called Bertie.  He is a castrated male, and one of the most friendly animals we have, always following us around the field, even if we don’t have food (though I think he has hopes!).

Unfortunately Bertie had really bad footrot over the winter, and this meant he didn’t move very much, and when he did it wasn’t very far and he tended to rest on his front knees.  This caused his legs to seize up so he couldn’t properly straighten them.  The slight upside was that this meant we finally got rid of the footrot.  We tried massaging his legs and stretching them and this seemed to help a bit, but he was still limping badly.  So we called out the vet who advised us that we should cut the tendons at the back of the knees.  We asked him to go ahead, and it made very little difference.  I think he was expecting the legs to sort of spring back into shape, but sadly they didn’t.  Next step was to straighten the legs out and put them in casts, which we also did.  This seemed to help a lot, and while Bertie was walking stiffly, at least he was walking.  When we took the casts off he was almost back to normal.

He seems to be footrot free at the moment, but as a legacy of his travails he’s standing oddly on one of his front hooves and so it’s starting to grow awkwardly and twist.  We’ve tried to cut it flat, but it wasn’t totally successful, I think we’ll just have to keep at it.  Still he’s mostly back to his old ways, always trotting over to see us, and trying to work out what we’re doing.  One of his particular joys is when we bring out the straw for his bedding, not because he wants to luxuriate in it, but because he wants to eat it, and here he is:

Footrot in summer

Footrot is horrible.  It affects sheep (though not the Soays so far) and goats and is caused by bacteria which live in the pasture.  In wet and muddy conditions the bacteria breed in the cleft between the hooves and start to attack the skin which then rots, giving off a disgusting smell and causing great discomfort to the animal.  We’ve had footrot problems for several years, but generally things get much better in the summer as the drier weather reduces the mud build up, and we only really have to treat them once at the beginning of the summer and not worry again until October time.

This year with the weather being so wet during June and July we still have footrot problems now.  We treated some of the sheep for footrot a couple of weeks ago, and Boris, one of our Angoran goats yesterday.  She, yes Boris is a girl, was starting to limp quite badly and so we did the only thing we could – we flipped her on her back and took clippers to her hooves.  Next time I’ll take pictures of the footrot if I can, but I didnt manage to yesterday.  She had bad footrot on two of her hooves and the start of it on one.  The best way to deal with footrot is to scrape away at the rotten skin to open it up to oxygen, as the bacteria are anaerobic, and then spray with an anti-biotic.  The old farmers advice is to scrape till you get blood, which doesnt usually take much.  The animal obviously doesn’t like that at all and tends to wriggle, but if you dont get all of the foot rot then they’ll be limping again very quickly.  We seem to have done a good job as she was moving more quickly today.  Yet another thing to keep an eye out for…

Boris looking ready for some food:

You can tell we’ve recently been at her feet as you can see the blue between her hooves.  If it was purple it would mean we’d trimmed her hooves but not found any footrot – the purple ‘foot master’ spray is an anti-bacterial and it’s good practice to spray the newly cut hooves (it also helps you identify which ones you’ve done before you flip the poor goat over for a second time!):